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Released: 4th April 2005.

Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi"The Emancipation Of Mimi" arrives after months of hype, speculation and cynicism. With its original late 2004 release date being pushed back, as Exec Producer LA Ried deemed the record un-releasable, you get the sense this is make-or-break time for the fallen diva.

Her problem of late has been blandness. The 2002 attempt at a "comeback" album, "Charmbraclet", while by no means bad, was anything but memorable, with the singer whispering or wailing like a strangled cat. Fortunately, on "Emancipation", Carey actually bothers to sing the way she used to on her very first few records.

It's the album's ballads which reveal the real treat. "We Belong Together", "Mine Again" and the self-penned gem, "Circles", heavily borrow from the diva's heritage.

The upbeat tracks are also highly successful, despite a couple of fillers. Carey sounds bored out of her mind on "Shake It Off", while there's clearly something missing on the Neptunes-produced "Say Something".

There's no "Fantasy" or "Honey" on here, however "Get Your Number" and "It's Like That" come close to creating some of the magic present in the old hits.

Yet, "Emancipation" is one of the best R&B releases of late, and possibly Carey's most well-rounded album so far.

* * * * (Dan Hughes)

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