Mariah Carey - Who Is Mimi?

Mariah Carey The Emancipation of Mimi
Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi. Courtesy Island


Who is "Mimi" in the title of Mariah Carey's album ?


Mariah Carey says that 'Mimi' is a nickname for herself. She says it is a name only her closest friends and family knew until the creation of the album. The music was intended to reveal a more intimate side of the artist. The emancipation theme represented freedom from the personal and artistic difficulties in the year's immediately preceding The Emancipation of Mimi. Consequently, much of the music is more dance-oriented and celebratory in style.

Recording of The Emancipation of Mimi

Mariah Carey's career reached a lowpoint in 2001 with the commercial failure of her movie Glitter and the accompanying soundtrack. The star ended up in the hospital due to an "emotional and physical breakdown." After Glitter failed, Virgin Records bought out Mariah Carey's $100 million contract paying her $50 million to extricate themselves from the agreement. After exiting the hospital, Mariah Carey flew to Capri, Italy to begin work on a new album.  She stayed there for five months and the result was the music for her album Charmbracelet, an improvement on Glitter, but still a commercial disappointment.

By late 2004, Mariah Carey revealed that she was working on her next studio album. She worked with such contemporary talent as The Neptunes production team including Pharrell Williams, rapper Nelly, and Jermaine Dupri. Among the list of producers was a young Kanye West who had just electrified the music industry with his debut album The College Dropout. Island Records executive L.A. Reid worked closely on oversight of the project. Mariah Carey recorded much of The Emancipation of Mimi live in the studio with a band which gave the project a more immediate sound. 

The Sound Of Mimi

Where Charmbracelet had seemed focused on regaining the approval of adult contemporary audiences, there was less restraint on The Emancipation Of Mimi. The new music drew inspiration from both contemporary R&B and hip hop. the album closes with the gospel influenced "Fly Like a Bird." The Emancipation Of Mimi is one of the most musically diverse of all of Mariah Carey's albums. 

Mariah Carey's Comeback and the Success of The Emancipation of Mimi

"It's Like That," the first single from The Emancipation of Mimi, was released in January 2005. It helped ignite interest in the upcoming album and climbed to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, Mariah Carey's highest charting single since 2001's "Loverboy." It was succeeded by "We Belong Together," released at the end of March, which became one of the biggest hit singles of Mariah Carey's career ultimately spending 14 weeks at #1. At the time, it was the second longest streak at #1 for any song behind only Mariah Carey's own "One Sweet Day" with Boyz II Men. 

The album The Emancipation of Mimi was released two weeks later. It debuted at #1 on the album chart selling over 400,000 copies in its first week. At that time it was the largest first week sales of any album in Mariah Carey's career. With sales nearing five million, it became the bestselling album of the year in 2005. The Emancipation of Mimi spent 31 consecutive weeks in the top 20 on the album chart. 

Two more singles from the album became major hits. "Shake It Off" climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 first reaching that position while "We Belong Together" was still at the top. To celebrate the deluxe re-release of the album, the single "Don't Forget About Us" appeared, and it reached #1.

Mariah Carey performed "Shake It Off" live at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards. She opened the 2005 American Music Awards singing "Don't Forget About Us," and she sang "We Belong Together" at the Grammy Awards in early 2006. 

In the course of two years Mariah Carey earned 10 Grammy Award nominations from The Emancipation of Mimi. In 2006 the original release of the album earned 8 nods including for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Mariah Carey took home the awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for "We Belong Together." The album The Emancipation of Mimi won Best Contemporary R&B Album. In 2007 "Don't Forget About Us" earned nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song.

Sixteen months after The Emancipation of Mimi was first released, Mariah Carey continued usage of the name Mimi by calling her first headlining tour in three years The Adventures Of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour. Between July and October 2006 it included forty concerts with stops in the US, Canada, Japan, and Africa.

Mariah Carey followed The Emancipation of Mimi with her eleventh studio album E=MC2 released in the spring of 2008. It included the single "Touch My Body" which reached #1 and became Mariah Carey's 18th #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 pushing her past Elvis Presley to rank first all time among solo artists.