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April 17, 2008|By McClatchy Newspapers

Mariah Carey, 'E=MC2'

After bizarre meltdowns and questionable career choices early in this decade, Mariah Carey came back with a bang in 2005 with her album "The Emancipation of Mimi," which gave us the hits "Shake It Off," "Don't Forget About Us" and "We Belong Together." Now, the songbird proves her comeback was no fluke with "E=MC2."

Carey has toned down her five-octave range a bit, but purists need not worry -- her voice has lost none of its power.

The album starts off poorly, with the monotone "Migrate" offering wannabe hip-hop lines such as "From the car into the club we migrate/From the bar to VIP we migrate/From the party to the afterparty migrate/After-party to hotel -- migrate" and a stunted, hesitant rap by T-Pain. But the first single, the slinky slow jam "Touch My Body," unleashes Mariah's inner vamp.

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On "Cruise Control," Mariah teams up with new-school reggae royalty Damian Marley, who contributes a short but rhythmic rap. The song is more than a bit silly -- it spells out C-R-U-I-S-E control, for some reason, and Mariah tries to pull off a Jamaican accent but it's pleasing and flows nicely. "I'm That Chick" cops the slick, cool funk of "Forget Me Nots" -- its cleverly minimalist bass line somehow uses exactly one note, but perfectly anchors the groove.

But the album's high point finds Mariah softly and sweetly lamenting the loss of any kind of loved one on the truly touching "Bye Bye": "This is for my peoples who just lost somebody/Your best friend, your baby, your man or your lady/Put your hand way up high/We will never say bye." Thankfully, it looks like we won't be saying "bye" to Mariah for a long time.

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