Mariah Carey E=MC2

After the unforgettable mess that was Glitter and the underwhelming Charmbracelet, Mariah miraculously bounced back with 2005’s mega The Emancipation of Mimi, bringing back the multi-pitch diva who ruled the charts in the ’90s. Looking to capitalise on her rebirth, Mimi returns with her 11th album, ready to bring more of that hip-hop-charged goodness. Knowing to stick with a good thing, Jermaine Dupri returns for the "Ragga & B” thumper "Cruise Control,” featuring Damien Marley, and two airy hip-hop ballads, but the ironically named E=MC2 works largely and surprisingly because of the production surplus capturing the singer’s many moods. C. Stewart’s stroke with the electric piano on the sexually-charged "Touch My Body” is subdued but masterfully executed, and Toomp’s "I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” brings some carefree Golden Age hip-hop into the mix to both proclaim her undying love for and light up the dance floor. Young Jeezy’s appearance on the Scott Storch banger "Side Effects” builds a strange paradigm for Mariah’s attempt to confront an abusive relationship. But, as a pop song, it works, unlike the nauseating gospel turn on album closer "I Wish You Well.” She may not be Einstein but Mariah’s theory is much more engaging, to say the least. At age 38, she’s more alive now than ever. (MVD)