Forget Adele’s 30. Back in 1997, the woman whom Ms. Adkins argued should be in the Bible became the first powerhouse balladeer to send a divorce album all the way to the top of the charts.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this month (Sept. 16), Butterfly was, of course, largely recorded during Mariah Carey’s acrimonious break-up with Tommy Mottola, the music mogul husband who’d reportedly also spent the previous seven years micro-managing her career to stifling effect.
Although it topped the Billboard 200, Carey’s sixth studio LP might not have set America on fire like its predecessors: its 3.8 million sales were dwarfed by those of Music Box (7.3m) and Daydream (7.7m), while record label disputes sadly hampered its impressive run of singles. But with its gradual shift from adult contemporary to head-nodding R&B, Mimi’s attempt to assert more career control still undoubtedly paid off: not only did Butterfly take her tally of Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits to a record-breaking 13 and pick up three Grammy nods but it also essentially paved the way for the genre-blurring hip-hop/pop sound that would become so ubiquitous from the turn of the century onward.
For many of her adoring Lambs — and as revealed in the liner notes of 2009 semi-sequel Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel, for Carey herself — its alternative display of girl power remains the star’s magnum opus. From epic power ballads and sensual slow jams to sleek funk covers and even the odd surprise foray into house music, here’s our ranking of its 12 tracks.