In 2001, Mariah Carey suffered a series of career setbacks. She had a well-publicized breakdown. Her movie, Glitter, bombed and the accompanying soundtrack went down with it. Plus, she was dropped by her record label after just being signed. It was a bleak period. She tried to bounce back the next year with a new album, but that failed to take off as well. People in the music industry wrote her off and said she’d never recover. They were wrong. In 2005, Mariah released The Emancipation of Mimi and everything turned around. It sold 10 million records and won three Grammys. For the album’s 15th anniversary, we’re celebrating this momentous (Mariah loves a moment) album by raking its fourteen tracks.
14. To the Floor
There’s not really a bad song on Mimi, but To the Floor comes close. It doesn’t make me want to rush to the dance floor and Nelly’s weak rap is forgettable.
13. Mine Again
The problem with Mine Again is that it’s very shouty. I like when Mariah sings in full voice, but it sounds likes she’s trying to project across a football stadium here. Dial it back, sister.
12. One and Only
A sluggish sleepy track. The best thing about it is Twista. He kicks things up a notch with his crazy fast flow.
11. Joy Ride
She hits a fantastic extended note at the end of the song that is a joy ride in itself.
10. Stay the Night
Mariah worked with Kanye West (back when he was tolerable) for the first time with this track. Her voice and his production style are a nice match.
9. How I Wish You Only Knew
This could have appeared on a Diana Ross album in the 70s. The live band, background vocals, and spoken word mid-song are very much of that era.
8. Your Girl
Another one that sounds like a throwback, this time to girl groups of the 60s. But it’s modern at the same time.
7. Say Somethin’
Mariah and The Neptunes are a good combo. Throw in Snoop Dogg and you have a party. It feels like a fresh evolution of her sound.
6. Fly Like a Bird
I always enjoy when Mariah goes gospel. Here she sings an inspirational ballad with a full choir and an appearance from her minister. She brought the whole church to the studio.
5. Get Your Number
After years apart Mariah reunited with Jermaine Dupri, her longtime friend and collaborator, on this album. The results were great songs like Get Your Number. It’s a fun and flirty track that makes good use of an 80s sample from the British group, Imagination. Oh, damn.
4. It’s Like That
Mariah announced her return with this cool party single, moving away from the stress and drama of the last few years. There’s also a great shady line, “Them chickens is ash and I’m lotion”. Who wouldn’t want to be lotion?
A beautifully written song about trying to move on after a breakup while still feeling crushed. From the opening verse, “Ever since you left me, I’ve been trying to hide the pain. Painting on a smile with lipstick, putting on a big charade,” you’re caught up in the sadness with her.
2. Shake It Off
Mariah sings about shaking off her cheating boyfriend here. She’s packing up her Louis Vuitton and moving on. It makes you wanna bounce and not just because Jermaine tells you to in the opening.
1. We Belong Together
This is one of her best. Period. A lush midtempo song that never ages. It cemented her comeback by going to #1 (her sweet 16th) and staying there for 14 weeks. Billboard named it the Song of the Decade and the naysayers learned you should never count Mariah out.
After the initial success of Mimi, the record label re-released it with a couple of new songs and remixes. The standout being Don’t Forget About Us. It was similar to WBT, but amazing in its own right. So much so, that it went to number one on the charts (her 17th if you’re keeping track).