Mariah Carey’s Sorely Underrated ‘E=MC²’ Album Turns 12
Mariah Carey was back on top of the music world in 2008. The 5-Octave Angel was basking in the glow of the success of The Emancipation Of Mimi, which sold 10 million copies worldwide and garnered 10 Grammy nominations. (It won two, but was robbed of Album Of The Year because we can’t have nice things). For the followup, Mariah came up with the actually very clever idea of making a sequel — or continuation. E=MC² would pick up where Emancipation left off, using many of the same songwriters and producers.
Unfortunately, lightning didn’t strike twice. While Mimi’s 11th LP was still a commercial success (it reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 2.5 million copies around the world), it couldn’t quite stack up against The Emancipation Of Mimi. Which is infuriating, because I think it’s a better album. Let me explain. The Emancipation Of Mimi is jam-packed with classic hits, but there are still a few tracks that I would happily trim off for a sleeker listening experience. That doesn’t apply — with a couple of exceptions — to E=MC².
My only problem with the underrated opus is the choice of singles. “Touch My Body” is iconic and made sense as the lead. It was current, more than a little sexy and boasts one of the legendary diva’s most playful videos. The tone was set for another edgy, contemporary R&B era… but then Island Records rolled out “Bye Bye” as the second single. I get it. When a Mariah Carey ballad takes off, music history is made. But this perfectly pleasant retread of “One Sweet Day” was not what the fans or top 40 radio wanted.
Particularly, when there was so much good stuff to choose from. “Migrate” stands out as one of Mimi’s all-time best club bangers (Rae-Rae, Shawntae and Mae-Mae agree) and would have been a no-brainer hit. The same applies to the feisty, fan-championed “I’m That Chick,” which added a little disco to the mix. If team MC was set on a ballad, there were also better options. 12 years later and I spin “Thanx 4 Nothin'” when I’m feeling some type of way, while “I Stay In Love” is a vocal moment. And don’t get me started on the genius of “Side Effects.”
In retrospect, Mariah might have stuck with The Emancipation Of Mimi blueprint a little too closely. But you can’t blame an iconic legend for trying to give fans a second serving of a classic. On this semi-religious day (the anniversary of E=MC²), why not spend some time rediscovering it. A couple of tracks have lost a bit of luster production-wise, but, as a whole, it holds up remarkably well. You could also revisit the glamorous videos from the era below. Points were made in all of them.