In 1998, it would have been a cheap joke to say that Mariah Carey had no other kind of hits than ballads, but in the ensuing decade she steadily remade herself into an R&B diva, obscuring if not quite erasing the well-mannered adult contemporary singer of the '90s. The 2009 compilation The Ballads – released just before Valentines Day 2009 – attempts to turn back the clock by focusing just on those AC tunes – 18 of them, in fact, including such mammoth hits as "Hero," "One Sweet Day," "Vision of Love," "I'll Be There," "I Still Believe," "Dreamlover," and "Always Be My Baby." Of course, this concentration on middle of the road ballads is a side effect of label affiliation: The Ballads is a product of Sony, who had Mariah during the '90s, before the club R&B overshadowed these office-friendly hits, so it's easier for them to cobble together a comp of Carey at her most sentimental. And that's what The Ballads is: nothing but big love songs sung in a big voice. For fans who have missed this side of Mariah in the 2000s, this is a welcome reminder of what they used to love.
A strong follow-up to Mariah Carey's self-titled debut album, Emotions puts to rest any concern of a "sophomore slump." The same mix of dance/R&B/ballads that gave Carey's debut such tremendous auditory appeal can be found with equal strength on this release, indicating that placing firm belief in the notion of "Why fool with success?" may, in fact, have its merits. Most notably, the gospel influences of "If It's Over" (with music co-written by Carole King), the yearning cries for a lost love in "Can't Let Go," and the catchy, upbeat title track all serve to send the listener on a musical journey filled with varying emotions. However, the one emotion that prevails upon completion of the album is definitely a positive one: satisfaction.