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Pop - Released November 1, 1994 | Columbia

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Ambient/New Age - Released November 1, 2019 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released August 4, 1993 | Columbia

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Mariah Carey has been stung by critical charges that she's all vocal bombast and no subtlety, soul, or shading. Her solution was to make an album in which her celebrated octave-leaping voice would be downplayed and she could demonstrate her ability to sing softly and coolly. Well, she was partly successful; she trimmed the volume on Music Box. Unfortunately, she also cut the energy level; Carey sounds detached on several selections. She scored a couple of huge hits, "Hero" and "Dreamlover," where she did inject some personality and intensity into the leads. Most other times, Carey blended into the background and let the tracks guide her, instead of pushing and exploding through them. It was wise for Carey to display other elements of her approach, but sometimes excessive spirit is preferable to an absence of passion. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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R&B - Released June 12, 1990 | Columbia

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This extremely impressive debut is replete with smooth-sounding ballads and uplifting dance/R&B cuts. Carey convincingly seizes many opportunities to display her incredible vocal range on such memorable tracks as the popular "Vision of Love" (featured during her television debut on The Arsenio Hall Show, an appearance noted by many as her formal introduction to stardom), the energetic "Someday," and the moody sounds of the hidden treasure "Vanishing." With this collection of songs acting as a springboard for future successes, Carey establishes a strong standard of comparison for other breakthrough artists of this genre. © Ashley S. Battel /TiVo
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R&B - Released September 26, 1995 | Columbia

Mariah Carey certainly knows how to construct an album. Positioning herself directly between urban R&B with tracks like "Fantasy," and adult contemporary with songs like "One Sweet Day," a duet with Boyz II Men, Carey appeals to both audiences equally because of the sheer amount of craft and hard work she puts into her albums. Daydream is her best record to date, featuring a consistently strong selection of songs and a remarkably impassioned performance by Carey. A few of the songs are second-rate -- particularly the cover of Journey's "Open Arms" -- but Daydream demonstrates that Carey continues to perfect her craft and that she has earned her status as an R&B/pop diva. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released November 16, 2018 | Epic

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R&B/Soul - Released September 3, 1997 | Columbia

Upon its release, Butterfly was interpreted as Mariah Carey's declaration of independence from her ex-husband (and label president) Tommy Mottola, and to a certain extent, that's true. Butterfly is peppered with allusions to her troubled marriage and her newfound freedom, and the music is supposed to be in tune with contemporary urban sounds instead of adult contemporary radio. Nevertheless, it feels like a Mariah Carey album, which means that it's a collection of hit singles surrounded by classy filler. What is surprising about Butterfly is the lack of up-tempo dance-pop. Apart from the Puffy Combs-produced "Honey," Butterfly is devoted to ballads, and while they are all well-crafted, many of them blend together upon initial listening. Subsequent plays reveal that Carey's vocals are sultrier and more controlled than ever, and that helps "Butterfly," "Break Down," "Babydoll," and the Prince cover, "The Beautiful Ones," rank among her best; also, the ballads do have a stronger urban feel than before. Even though Butterfly doesn't have as many strong singles as Daydream, it's one of her best records, illustrating that Carey is continuing to improve and refine her music, which makes her a rarity among her '90s peers. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2010 | Def Jam Recordings

Merry Christmas was released in 1994, and 16 years later Mariah Carey delivers a sequel, appropriately titled Merry Christmas II You and also featuring the diva in a sexy little Santa suit. The similarities don’t end there, either: Mariah revives her original seasonal tune “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and often touches upon the classy, clean updated traditional vibe of her readings from the 1994 set. Underneath this surface, Merry Christmas II You has a different vibe than its predecessor, derived in large part from the numerous originals here. Five of the 12 full songs bear a Carey writing credit (including that revival of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”) and these new tunes sometimes give Merry Christmas II You a lively modern feel, particularly the jumping Jermaine Dupri/Bryan-Michael Cox co-written opener “Oh Santa!” and the slow groove of “When Christmas Comes,” highlights that balance the too saccharine sentiment of “Christmas Time Is in the Air Again” and “One Child.” The range of these originals indicates the scope of the record as a whole, how it touches on a little of everything to please every kind of audience, mixing up “Auld Lang Syne” and a medley of Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas with traditional religious carols and secular favorites like “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Apart from that pair of stiff originals, the whole thing is cheerful and engaging, a worthy sequel to its predecessor. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released December 4, 2001 | Columbia

Mariah protested loud and often when her first hits collection, #1's, was released that the album was not a hits collection: "I haven't been recording long enough for that!" Nothing will age your catalog like leaving your record label, however, so when she flew the Columbia coop for Virgin in 2000, her old label assembled Greatest Hits for release a couple months after the monumental disaster of Glitter, her Virgin debut. Now, this move was surely designed to further wound the ailing Mariah, but this kind of collection was essentially inevitable, and it's about as good as it could be, containing all of her big hits (including songs that did not make it to the top of the charts) over the course of 28 tracks. This is certainly helpful, since it rounds up everything, but its double-disc running time is a bit of a detriment, since it simply is too much. By the end of the second disc, the collection feels a little padded, and her music simply sounds better in the more concentrated collection of #1's, since it runs smoother and has all the really big hits (with the notable exception of the original version of her best single, "Fantasy"). But if you want more simply for archival reasons, this will suit the bill (even though the packaging is unbearably skimpy: no notes, just publishing information and thumbnails of the single covers, which is like having no packaging at all). © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released September 17, 1991 | Columbia

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A strong follow-up to Mariah Carey's self-titled debut album, Emotions puts to rest any concern of a "sophomore slump." The same mix of dance/R&B/ballads that gave Carey's debut such tremendous auditory appeal can be found with equal strength on this release, indicating that placing firm belief in the notion of "Why fool with success?" may, in fact, have its merits. Most notably, the gospel influences of "If It's Over" (with music co-written by Carole King), the yearning cries for a lost love in "Can't Let Go," and the catchy, upbeat title track all serve to send the listener on a musical journey filled with varying emotions. However, the one emotion that prevails upon completion of the album is definitely a positive one: satisfaction. © Ashley S. Battel /TiVo
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R&B - Released April 27, 1992 | Columbia

This live performance is the perfect peek into the life of rising pop/soul vocal sensation Mariah Carey at a youthful and innocent age in an intimate, acoustic setting. Throughout this performance, recorded live for MTV's Unplugged, Carey is quite electric and charismatic within her vocal presence and succeeds in enlightening the already engaged audience from the get-go. The audience certainly feels the warmth and sincerity of Carey's lyrical messages of longing, loss, friendships, and love. Carey's supporting cast of gifted group musicians back her up with soulful melodiousness, spontaneity, and enriching percussion. Gradually, the power and esteem of these tales lift to new heights and remain at a peak with the breathtaking, moment-making performance of "I'll Be There," a charming song first cut by the Jackson 5. All and all, this is an inspiring event, though still simple enough for the listener to catch those musical places that need to be polished. "Can't Let Go," Carey's radio single for the album, makes it as the seventh and final track, though the cameras are shut off for the Unplugged episode. Certainly, this is a record of hope, virtue, and the possibilities of newfound love. © Shawn M. Haney /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2005 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

The titular "Mimi" of The Emancipation of Mimi is, by all accounts, an alter ego of Mariah, a persona that captures Carey's true feelings and emotions. In case you didn't know what "emancipation" means, Mariah helpfully provides a dictionary definition of the word in the opening pages of the liner notes for her eighth proper album: it means "to free from restraint, control, oppression, or the power of another" or "to free from any controlling influence" or "to free somebody from restrictions or conventions." So, on The Emancipation of Mimi, Mariah frees herself from the constraints of being herself, revealing herself to be -- well, somebody that looks startlingly like Beyoncé, if the cover art is any indication. Mimi, or at least the sound of her emancipation, sounds remarkably like Beyoncé, too, working a similarly sultry, low-key, polished club groove. And that's the main story of The Emancipation of Mimi: since the reserved, tasteful adult contemporary pop of 2002's Charmbracelet failed to revive her career, she's done a 180 and returned to R&B, in hopes that maybe this will create some excitement. It's not a bad idea, particularly because Mariah could use any change at this point, and it's not executed all that badly either, as all 14 tracks -- heavy on mid-tempo cuts and big ballads, with a few harder dance tunes featuring big-name guest rappers scattered along the way -- all follow the same deliberately smoky, late-night template. While the Neptunes provide the best dance cut here with "Say Somethin'" (featuring a cameo by Snoop Dogg), especially welcome are some nice old-school '70s smooth soul flourishes, best heard on James Poyser's deliciously sleek "Mine Again" and such "Big Jim" Wright productions as "I Wish You Knew" and "Fly Like a Bird." As good as those Wright-helmed cuts are, they are also the times that the mixes slip and don't hide the flaws in Mariah's voice, and it sounds as airy, thin, and damaged as it did on Charmbracelet, where her ragged vocals dealt a fatal blow to an already weak album. Here, apart from those Wright tracks, the producers camouflage her voice in a number of ways, usually involving putting the groove and the sound of the production in front of the vocals. While the tunes aren't always memorable, it does make for a consistent album, one that's head and shoulders above the other LPs she's released in the 2000s, even if it doesn't compare with her glory days of the '90s. Ironically enough, a big reason why The Emancipation of Mimi doesn't sound as good as those '90s albums is that Mariah never sounds like herself on this record. When she's not sounding like Beyoncé, she sounds desperate to be part of the waning bling era, dropping product placements for Bacardi, Calgon, and Louis Vuitton, or bragging about her house in Capri and her own G4, all of which sounds a little tired and awkward coming from a 35-year-old woman in her 15th year of superstardom. Disregarding these two rather sizeable problems, The Emancipation of Mimi still works, at least as a slick, highly crafted piece of dance-pop -- it might not be as hip as it thinks it is, nor is it as catchy as it should be, but it's smooth and listenable, which is enough to have it qualify as a relative comeback for "Mimi" Carey. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released October 29, 1999 | Columbia

Mariah Carey claims Rainbow, her first album since divorcing Tommy Mottola, "chronicles my emotional roller coaster ride of the past year," but less subjective listeners could be forgiven for viewing it as simply another Mariah Carey album. After all, all the elements are in place -- the crossover dance hits, the ballads, the cameos, the hip producers, the weird cover choice from the early '80s. But dig a little deeper, and her words ring true. Rainbow is the first Carey album where she's written personal lyrics, and allusions to her separation from Mottola are evident throughout the album, even if it doesn't really amount to the "story" she mentions in the liner notes. As appropriate for any introspective album, it's a bit ballad-heavy, which makes Rainbow seem a little samey. Yet that's not the only reason the record has a weird sense of déjà vu, since this follows the same formula as its two predecessors, distinguished primarily by her newfound fondness for flashing flesh. That repetition isn't necessarily a problem, since she does formula very well, managing to appeal to both housewives as well as b-boys. Rainbow proves that she can still pull off that difficult balancing act, but it's hard not to be a little disappointed that she'd didn't shake the music up a little bit more -- after all, it would have been a more effective album if the heartbreak, sorrow, and joy that bubbles underneath the music were brought to the surface. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2014 | Def Jam Recordings

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Pop - Released October 14, 2003 | Columbia

Columbia Records cannot be accused of stinting on the two-CD Remixes set, which has a running time over two hours and 20 minutes. Mariah Carey's former label, before she moved to Virgin and then Island Def Jam (where she recorded under her own MonarC imprint), has made a point of licensing extra tracks from those subsequent corporate associations, as well as borrowing a track from J Records in compiling a survey of the various remixes of Carey's recordings. This means that the collection stretches as far back as 1991 for the "12' Club Mix" of "Emotions" and all the way up to 2003 for the "So So Def Remix" of "The One." The result is a kind of history of remixes over that 12-year period. Of course, the term "remix" is, as usual, an excessively modest one to describe what has been done to the original recordings. A variety of remix producers have not only manipulated the original tracks, but also added various elements of their own to the point that, in many cases, the songs as initially heard are virtually unrecognizable. Every now and then, one hears a snatch of lyric or a familiar musical excerpt, but for the most part these are dance-oriented musical productions with only a nodding resemblance to Carey's records. Of course, Carey herself is always in the thick of the reinvention. The first disc contains more danceable material, while the second is given over to tracks reconstructed from a rap perspective and is filled with guest appearances that include Snoop Dogg, O.D.B., Da Brat, Missy Elliott, and, in the album-closing duet, "I Know What You Want," Busta Rhymes, who is actually billed in front of Carey. A large part of Carey's massive success of the 1990s came from her relationship to the dancefloor, and this compilation shows what her music sounded like there. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

Two weeks prior to the April 2008 release of E=MC2 -- Mariah Carey's tenth album and the sequel to her big 2005 comeback, The Emancipation of Mimi -- the diva broke Elvis Presley's record of being the solo artist with the most number one singles on the Billboard charts. Lots of publicity surrounded "Touch My Body" reaching number one, as well it should: busting an Elvis record is always news, but this particular record served team Mariah well, as it paints Carey as being a diva who's bigger and better than the rest. An unintentional side effect of this very record is that it also tacitly pointed out that Mariah has been around a long, long time: 18 years, to be exact, roughly two years shy of the two decades that it took Elvis to establish his record. Unlike Elvis -- or any other major artist who's been around for two decades, for that matter -- Carey seems determined not to look back, to exist in some kind of eternal now, never acknowledging that she has a past, unless she's wielding her divorce from her ex-husband/ex-record label chief Tommy Mottola for some kind of sympathy, something she does once again here via vague allusions to naïveté and "violent times" on "Side Effects." Mariah refers to that separation so often that it's hard not to think of it as something recent but it happened a long, long time ago -- well over a decade prior to the release of E=MC2, to be precise -- but as the separation was the pivot point for Carey's career, it's easy to see why she keeps returning to it, even if the emotional heft of her singing about the pain has long since diminished. After that separation, Carey restyled herself as a relentlessly modern R&B diva, chasing every passing trend in a given year, a move that often kept her on the top of the charts -- apart from the post-millennial stumble of Glitter, of course -- but had the side effect of making Mariah a musician who became progressively less mature with each passing year, culminating in the hazy soft-porn fantasies of "Touch My Body," the single that broke Elvis' longstanding record and will likely only be remembered for that achievement. Like so much of Emancipation and E=MC2, which is a virtual replica of its predecessor in almost every way, "Touch My Body" is all about sound, rhythm, and texture and not so much about song, something that helps sustain Mariah Carey's run at the top the charts, but something that also pushes melodic hooks, and in the process singing, into the background. As Carey's multi-octave voice has always been her calling card, the one thing that even her biggest critics have grudgingly acknowledged as her unassailable strength, this is a little odd -- especially on the T-Pain duet "Migrate," where she succumbs to auto-tune -- but it not only makes Mariah modern, it also camouflages her slightly diminishing range, so it does have a dual purpose. Sometimes all this production is good and occasionally it's married to a full-fledged, hooky song, as on the excellent "I'm That Chick," a sleek slice of Off the Wall disco that's nearly giddy in its energy and melody, and perhaps on "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time," which also has a lightness that so much of E=MC2 lacks. Everything else pushes the rhythm and bass to the forefront and mixes Mariah into the middle, so it becomes a wash of sound -- sound that is designed to be fashionable, but like so much fashion, it's tied to the time and dates quickly. Which is why it's misleading to judge Mariah based on her new record of possessing the most number one singles, as she's not about longevity, she's about being permanently transient, a characteristic E=MC2 captures all too well. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 15, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

Coordinated with her May and July 2015 residency at Las Vegas' Caesar's Palace, #1 to Infinity features all 18 of Mariah Carey's number one pop hits, the basis of those celebratory performances. The anthology presents the songs in chronological order, from "Vision of Love" (1990) through "Touch My Body" (2008), and is therefore the first compilation to combine Carey's Columbia and Island material. Additionally, there's a new breakup song, the first three-and-a-half minutes of which are an elaborate and mystifying set-up for a display of Carey's whistle range. Given the timing, #1 to Infinity is undoubtedly opportunistic, but it updates and improves upon #1's, a 1998 anthology filled out with four previously unreleased songs that, obviously, were not number ones. Many of Carey's lower-performing but just as significant career highlights, such as "Make It Happen" and "I Still Believe," can be found on earlier anthologies like Greatest Hits and The Essential Mariah Carey. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 21, 1998 | Columbia

This maxi-single was the first of two released for Mariah Carey's chart-topper "My All" (the other featured a drastically altered hip-hop version titled "My All/Stay Awhile"). This single is more of an EP, featuring two versions of "My All" and remixes of three tracks from her album Butterfly. The first track is the original album version of "My All," which is a ballad. That is followed by the "Classic Club Mix" of "My All," in which the song is turned into a nine-minute dance track, complete with Spanish-styled acoustic guitars. Thankfully, "My All" is one of those ballads that, unlike many others of its time, lends itself surprisingly well to dance-remix treatment. The other three remixes aren't drastically different from the album versions, but to collectors that probably does not matter. The version of "Breakdown" included here, an R&B track that became an urban radio hit, features Bone Thugs-N-Harmony a little more prominently than the album version. There's also the Mobb Deep remix of "The Roof," which, save for the new rap, again sounds just like the original. Finally, there's an extended house mix of the dance track "Fly Away (Butterfly Reprise)," which extends the almost too-short album version of the reprise into a full-blown, almost-ten minute house jam. This single almost plays like a Butterfly part two, featuring slightly altered versions (except for the "My All" dance mix) of album tracks, which, unless one is a diehard fan, is probably of little interest. © Jose Promis /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Def Jam Recordings

Like many big-budget albums of the last years of the 2000s, Mariah Carey's Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel faced shifting release dates, all as the final product was tweaked in light of disappointing reactions to early singles, particularly the Eminem-baiting "Obsessed." Unlike many of those big-budget albums, including several made by Mariah herself, Memoirs isn't the product of a stable of producers and collaborators; it is almost entirely the work of The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, the team best known for their tracks for Rihanna. Certainly, there are echoes of "Umbrella" to be heard on Memoirs, just as there are elements of the gauzy "Touch My Body," The-Dream and Tricky Stewart's previous single for Mariah, although working with mainly one set of producers does give Memoirs a cohesion that can sometimes lapse into sameness, but not in an unpleasant fashion. Even if it doesn't smack of the confessional autobiography of the title, there's no denying that Memoirs is an album, not a collection of tracks, possessing its own flow and mood, which gives it a personality the slightly desperate E=MC2 lacked, even if it never manages to kick out a song that is all that distinctive on its own terms. Nevertheless, what it also lacks is the pandering, heavy-handed sexuality Mariah has relied upon too heavily this decade -- and in doing so, it feels age appropriate in a way she hasn't in a long time, despite a collection of silly, jumbled lyrics. All Memoirs needs to push it over the edge is a great pair of singles, and their absence does hurt the album a bit, but not enough to prevent it from being her most interesting album in a decade. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 15, 1998 | Columbia