We can call her Mimi


April 12, 2005


Some divas age amazingly well (witness Madonna or Cher), and some age very poorly indeed (hello, Whitney Houston). The jury is still out on Mariah Carey.

The pop/R&B butterfly today delivers a long-awaited gift to her faithful "lambs" by releasing her much-hyped comeback album, her first since the 2002 stiff "Charmbracelet." It comes complete with an oh-so-pretentious title: "Mimi" of the CD's title, "The Emancipation of Mimi," is the star's nickname for her indomitable "spirit," while the "emancipation" presumably refers not only to her split from Virgin Records (or Columbia and former husband Tommy Mottola before that) but from the troubles of recent years, including an embarrassing public meltdown.






Carey always has had a one-in-a-million voice -- one she's never been shy about showing off with frequently annoying octave-spanning trills -- and her instrument seems to be intact; witness the display of bravado on "Fly Like a Bird." But she would have been well-advised at age 35 to stop acting like a coquettish party girl. She tries so hard to turn us on with repetitive slow jams such as "We Belong Together" and "Stay the Night" that she seems to parody a late-night TV commercial for a phone sex line.

Inspirational come-on, from "It's Like That": I came to have a party / Open up that Bacardi / Feeling so hot tamale. Somebody get that girl some water, fast.

The diva has long attempted to find a middle ground between the streets and the easy-listening world of "Lite-FM," and the force behind this comeback, L.A. Reid, pairs her with an impressive list of producers, including the Neptunes, the Legendary Traxster, Jermaine Dupri and Chicago's Kanye West, as well as the obligatory roster of hip-hop guests, among them Nelly, Snoop Dogg and Chicago's Twista. But none of these talents delivers anything close to their best work.

Carey hopes to compete with new-generation divas Beyonce and Alicia Keys, but that's an uphill battle. Her influence is indeed ubiquitous -- nine out of 10 female contestants (and some of the men, too) seem to imitate her on "American Idol" -- but she was never convincingly "street" or cutting-edge, and she certainly isn't now. She'd have been better off recording a collection of Broadway standards -- they love trilling in that genre.



March, 27, 1970: Mariah is born in Huntington, N.Y. She was named after the Kingston Trio hit, "They Call the Wind Mariah"

1990: Releases her first record, the self-titled "Mariah Carey." It sells 18 million copies worldwide.

1990: Single "Vision of Love" reaches No. 1.

1993: Her biggest record to date, "Music Box" sells 28 million copies worldwide.

1993: She marries Sony Music head Tommy Mottola.

1994: Makes obligatory Christmas record, "Merry Christmas." Single, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" goes to No. 2.

1995: She releases "Daydream" and becomes the first female solo artist ever to have an album debut at No. 1.

1997: She releases "Butterfly." It's her last album to go to No. 1.

1998: Appears on the infamous "Divas Live" concert on VH1 with fellow screamers Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and Gloria Estefan. She was accused of holding the show up and acting like, well, a diva.

1998: Divorces Mottola.

2001: Her "Greatest Hits" record fails to make a splash. It peaks at No. 52 and sells a paltry 4 million copies

2001: She leaves Columbia Records and inks a deal with EMI's Virgin Records for a reported $100 million.

2001: She appears on MTV's "TRL" scantily clad and acting all crazy -- and not in a good way. She's hospitalized for exhaustion and begins receiving psychiatric treatment.

2001: She begins dating Eminem. He dumps her, saying she's high-maintenance. She responds by including a song called "Clown" on the "Charmbracelet" CD. (See 2003 for the aftermath.)

2001: Takes on Jennifer Lopez in an interview. After finding out J. Lo sleeps eight hours a night, Mariah says, "If I had the luxury of not actually having to sing my own songs, I'd do that, too."

2001: Her semi-autobiographical movie "Glitter" is released. Critics pan it.

2003: Eminem threatens to sample some of Mariah's voicemails that she left on his machine. He calls them "slushy."



Comparing Mariah Carey to J. Lo has been done -- and honestly, unless it's a catfight does anyone really care. So in honor of the start of baseball season, we've decided to see how diva Mariah matches up against our famous Caray -- Harry, that is.

GLASSES Sometimes as many different styles as Elton John. Are you kidding? Clown glasses are smaller than those thick lenses, Harry’s trademark. EDGE: Harry
MOVIE CAREER Critics hated “Glitter,” and so did moviegoers — it was a box-office bomb. Better suited for radio. But his voice is part of one of Chicago’s greatest movies, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” When Ferris and pals hit Wrigley for a Cubs game, it’s Harry’s voice we hear. EDGE: Harry
ANIMAL MAGNETISM It’s all about the butterfly for Mariah — from her tattoo to jewelry to CD name. Any impression of Harry includes the line, “Holy Cow!” EDGE: Tie
SINGING CAREER She’s the best-selling female recording artist of all time and the only female to have a No. 1 single in every year of the 1990s. When he could remember the words, he’d sing out “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Crowd favorite? You bet. On key? Never. EDGE: Mariah