Picks and Pans Main: Music

updated 04/21/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/21/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mariah Carey

E=MC 2 |

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R&B-POP

Pop goddess Mariah Carey scaled Olympian heights with her last album, 2005's Grammy-winning, 6-million-selling The Emancipation of Mimi. Certainly, E=MC2 doesn't equal its predecessor. Still, this is a satisfying follow-up, heavy on hip-hop-flavored midtempo jams (like the irresistible No. 1 hit "Touch My Body") and beat-driven ballads (best is the pretty, piano-laced "I Stay in Love"). The disc occasionally strays from that formula on cuts like the churchy closer "I Wish You Well." But the highlight is "Side Effects," the CD's darkest and most personal track, which seems to allude to Carey's failed marriage to music exec Tommy Mottola: "Sleeping with the enemy/ Aware that he was smothering every last part of me." Vaguely menacing, it shows that even pop goddesses have their demons.

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