Mariah Carey's 11th Studio Album - Critical Reception

Critical Reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (63/100)
Review scores
Source Rating
Billboard (Favorable)
Entertainment Weekly A−
The Guardian
Houston Chronicle
Los Angeles Times
The New York Times (Mixed)
PopMatters (4/10)
Rolling Stone
Slant Magazine

One of the major challenges of this album was a need for it to be of a consistent quality with her previous release, a record that brought Carey back to the top of pop music following her career decline in 2001. E=MC² was the signer's best-received album in years. It received a 64/100 (indicating "generally positive reviews") on the website Metacritic, which averages professional reviews into a numerical score. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, senior editor of Allmusic, rated the album three out of five stars, and wrote "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." Billboard's Gary Trust felt that on the album, Carey was in "pristine form", stating, "She's proclaimed emancipation before, but Mariah Carey's never sounded as free as she does on her 10th album. Carey's made a pop album with equal parts levity and gravity." Writing fir Entertainment Weekly, Margeaux Watson graded E=MC² an 'A-', and described how the album's goal was to prove "her comeback was no fluke". She continued complimenting the album's several collaborations, and wrote "the result is a largely enjoyable mix of flirtatious club jams, midtempo love songs, and emotional ballads anchored by hip-hop beats that handsomely showcase the singer's powerful vocal chops." Though Carey's voice had been criticized since her 2002 release, Charmbracelet, for not being able to deliver the "gravity defying vocals" from the 1990s, Roger Friedman from Fox News wrote "Her infamous eight-octave range has suffered a little wear and tear over the years, but Carey still can flutter from great highs to mellow lows like no one else." Alex Macpherson from The Guardian gave the album four out of five stars, heavily describing the singer's vocal state throughout the album: "Carey's voice has been mocked, bizarrely, as being a triumph of technique over soul - an argument that fails to comprehend that technique and soul are intertwined, that technique primarily exists as a means to convey emotion - but she is on fine vocal form throughout 'E=MC²', whether belting out massive ballads, or layering her voice into a swooning bank of a hundred Mariahs." Macpherson concluded his review with, "When she sings elsewhere, "Them other regularities, they can't compare with MC," "it is hard not to agree", referencing a lyric on "For The Record".

The Houston Chronicle's Joey Guerra felt all of the album's tracks were strong, and wrote "Every track plays like a potential hit single, and that's exactly what fans will love about 'E=MC²'. Expect it to soundtrack much of the summer and beyond." Los Angeles Times staff writer, Richard Cromelin, gave the album two out of four stars, noting its "alternatives to the glass-shattering flamboyance of her early '90s youth." He concluded in his mixed review of the album, "Of course, consistency isn't so important when an album is assembled as a series of singles rather than a cohesive work. Fortunately for Carey, the tabloid-tailored real-life back story on one side and the producer's craft on the other matter more than the art of singing in this particular fairy tale." Ben Ratliff of The New York Times felt the album didn't level up to par with Carey's previous release, writing "Much of the record sounds like urban-radio imitations, without the peculiarities and effective hooks of 'Mimi'. Maybe emancipation isn’t a continuing procedure; maybe it only comes once." Writing for PopMatters, Evan Sawdey rated E=MC² four out of ten stars, describing it as a "shallow imitation of its predecessor". Sawdey concluded his review on a mixed note, stating " the second act of Mariah’s comeback doesn’t wisely expand her sound: it instead succumbs to the blueprint so carefully laid out by its predecessor, a pointless remake that exists only because it has to. If you ever had a doubt as to its formulaic nature, you need to look no further than its title. Long live the Diva." Caryn Ganz from Rolling Stone questioned why she limited her vocal abilities throughout the record, "nearly every song confines Carey to four-note verses, offering little room for her glorious range." Journalist Eric Henderson, writing for Slant Magazine, graded the album three out of five stars, and concluding with, "Such are the rewards of an album like 'E=MC²', in which one does reach a solution, but not before Mariah bends over backward to show her work." The album finished in the top-ten of several "best of 2008" lists, ending at number four on an official poll held by Billboard, eight by the The Detroit News, and number ten by The San Diego Union-Tribune. Robert Christgau picked out one song from the album, "Touch My Body", as a "choice cut" .

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