It's a tad disconcerting to hear Mariah Carey's once-unrestrained voice squeezed through producer T-Pain's trademark auto-tune warble machine. "Migrate" kicks off E=MC², Carey's 11th album, and you could call it a symbolic moment: the final taming of Carey's vocal excesses in service to a song. Carey's triumphant comeback has been less about the Emancipation of Mimi than the continued Devolution of R&B, where multi-producer consortiums fuss over ringtone-sized melodies tailored for non-singers. In such an environment, the five-octave gifts that Carey once freely bestowed are no longer necessary. That's not to say E=MC² — helmed by Jermaine Dupri, Stargate, "Tricky" Stewart, and the usual cast of thousands — doesn't have its charms. On one hand, it's slick and summery — "I'm That Chick" is loopily irresistible disco; on the other, it's as dark and confessional as anything Carey has released. But it's hard not to get a little nostalgic for the old Mariah when listening to the gospel-glimpses in the closing "I Wish You Well." Critics once decried Carey's vocal acrobatics, and we got American Idol in return. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.