Mariah Carey's Long-Delayed Album Has Been Cooking 'Like a Honey-Baked Ham'

In the last two years, Mariah Carey has cycled through three managers, two album release dates and four new tracks-will her fifth be the charm? On Feb. 12, Carey unveiled the latest single from her long-delayed new album. The finger-snapping ballad "You're Mine (Eternal)" is her fifth new song since 2009's Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, none of which has risen higher than No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. With Carey's 14th album now slated for May 6, a lot is riding on the fate of "You're Mine" for both Carey and her label, Island Def Jam.

How's it doing? The track garnered a modest 245 all-format plays in its first day at radio, according to Nielsen BDS, though the IDJ strategy is to let it develop organically before a radio push begins Feb. 24. And sources at radio say the straight-ahead ballad may be the kind of return to form Carey needs. The hope is that after almost four years of work, Carey's next record is back on track.

Mariah Can't Live Without Your Love in 'You're Mine (Eternal)' Video

Songwriter/producer Bryan-Michael Cox says that work on the project began before the summer of 2010. "We started on this before Mariah got pregnant," he says. But her difficult pregnancy and the birth of her twins in April 2011 delayed work, as did her season as a judge on "American Idol" last year, and, finally, a shoulder injury while filming the video for her single with Miguel, "#Beautiful," last July. "Life happens, and that added to the organic process of making this album," Cox says. "Over the past couple of years we've added songs, scratched songs, slow-baking this record like a honey-baked ham. And when you take a bite of that ham-people will be extremely and pleasantly surprised."

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IDJ certainly hopes so. The label's 2013 market share of albums plus track-equivalent albums was 4.0%, according to Nielsen SoundScan, ranking it eighth among the major mainstream labels, or second-to-last ahead of Epic. Carey's album was originally slated for release last March, then July. With IDJ's top performing albums in 2013 coming from Kanye West (625,000 units), Fall Out Boy (598,000) and Rihanna (592,000), another release from an artist of Carey's caliber would have boosted the label's bottom line.

In an interview with Billboard last year, Carey hinted the album would feature a "lot more raw ballads than people might expect." And in reuniting with producers Jermaine Dupri (who succeeded Randy Jackson and then Red Light as her manager last October) and Cox-as well as collaborating with Hit-Boy, The-Dream, Rodney Jerkins and Mike Will Made It-she said it was about "making sure I have tons of good music."

Cox describes the album as a "mashup of what's new, a mélange of R&B, hip-hop and pop plus the classic melodies and lyrics we know her for." A major-market R&B/hip-hop programmer says Carey and IDJ will enjoy a "solid measure of success" if the singer returns to her roots: great midtempos and ballads. "'Sonically, her last album wasn't bad," the programmer says. "But it depended too much on samples and guest appearances. There's no sample on this new single, but again the buy-in factor to a younger, hipper audience is that she's paired on a remix with Trey Songz to help co-sign how relative she is to new consumers who may not be aware of her previous track record of success. I'm not sure if they're going to opt in."

Revving up for her return, Carey and MTV teamed for the global video premiere of "You're Mine" on Feb. 12. A day later, she was scheduled to flip the switch to light New York's Empire State Building in red and pink for Valentine's Day, then appeared on BET's "106 & Park" for the network premiere of the remix video with Songz. Carey will also perform the new single on "BET Honors," airing Feb. 24.