Mariah Carey has her own Emancipation proclamation for 2005: She’s back — in a big way. The evidence? A career-best No. 1 debut in April for her Emancipation of Mimi CD (404,000 copies sold its first week out), and a No. 2 single, ”We Belong Together,” poised to become the 35-year-old superstar’s 16th chart-topper. That’s a long way from the near career implosion that was 2001’s Glitter, which prompted EMI to pay the diva a reported $28 million just to sever their ties. And while her first comeback, 2002’s Charmbracelet, sold a respectable 1.1 million copies for Island Def Jam, her new disc has outsold her previous two in just five weeks. ”I wish I could take credit,” says IDJ chairman L.A. Reid. ”I absolutely gave guidance to her, but I didn’t write the songs.”
Jermaine Dupri, who co-produced Mimi’s first two singles, believes Carey is hot again because she’s adjusted her business and creative priorities. ”The last two records, she had to worry about too much as an artist, making managerial decisions,” he says. With Benny Medina (the man who transformed J. Lo into a pop superpower) in her corner, Carey can ”focus on her talent.”
Ah yes, the Voice, the return of which was pluckily promoted in the marketing campaign. ”[On ‘We Belong Together’] I wanted her to sing the song in full voice,” says Dupri. ”I wanted people to feel the old essence.” The strategy worked: According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album’s 1.37 million sales pace is 410,000 copies ahead of the six-week total of Beyoncé’s 2003 solo disc. ”I’ve worked with some very hardworking artists before,” says Reid. ”Now Usher has to share the top of that list with Mariah because she works hard.” Usher, you have been warned.