On new album E = MC2, Mariah Carey once again demonstrates a knack for radio-friendly fare, though the * * * (out of four) follow-up to her Grammy-winning The Emancipation of Mimi falls short of genius. With the help of the usual A-list of urban producer/songwriters, she loads up on catchy melodies that don't always stick with you when the song is done. Still, the formula is sure to keep her on the charts for months to come. Carey largely avoids unnecessary vocal gymnastics, and she shines best when producers give her breathing room. She makes minimal but effective use of guest stars T-Pain, Damian Marley and Young Jeezy.
Sincere songs about the lasting impact of an abusive marriage (Side Effects) and the loss of her father (Bye Bye) give the album some emotional wallop, and they balance the lighter tales of nights out on the town. Mimi restored her pop footing three years ago. E = MC2 puts a little glide in her stride.