Emancipation of mimi

The titular "Mimi" of The Emancipation of Mimi is, by all accounts, an alter-ego of Mariah, a persona that captures Carey's true feelings and emotions. In case you didn't know what "emancipation" means, Mariah helpfully provides a dictionary definition of the word in the opening pages of the liner notes for her eighth proper album: it means "to free from restraint, control, oppression, or the power of another" or "to free from any controlling influence" or "to free somebody from restrictions or conventions." So, on The Emancipation of Mimi, Mariah frees herself from the constraints of being herself, revealing herself to be -- well, somebody that looks startlingly like Beyonce, if the cover art is any indication.

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Love.angel. music.baby

Okay, I admit it: I was among the many critics sharpening their knives as I sat down to review Gwen Stefani’s debut solo album. I should have known better. As the pin-up frontwoman for No Doubt, Stefani's always been an entertaining presence on the pop charts, and she clearly had a strong hand in rescuing the band from post-ska irrelevance and reinventing them as the disco-trash mavens of "Hella Good." Sure enough, Love, Angel, Music, Baby completes her transformation from her post-punk diva into full-blown pop princess, offering up some of the most gloriously sly, tacky Top 40 fodder since Madonna was in her “Material Girl” heyday.

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How to dismantle an atomic bomb

You could argue that it's a weakness rather than a strength, but the fact remains that U2 is the only band in the world that's stayed together for over 25 years with no lineup changes, no discernible loss in popularity, and no significant evolution in their core sound (the Pop debacle aside). To ask them to do all that and equal or exceed the glory days of The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby is probably asking too much. Still, it's hard to listen to their latest effort without a mixture of nostalgia and disappointment.

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breakaway

Kelly Clarkson was the first American Idol winner and the first vocalist to achieve success, but her 2003 debut, Thankful, didn't completely define her outside of the parameters of the show. While the dance-pop and adult contemporary ballads on that record were fresher than the music on AmIdol, Clarkson still hadn't escaped the show's shadow entirely: since it was a hit so close to her time on TV, it was easy to pigeonhole her as simply a creation of television, not a popular singer in her own right.

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