The album revealed a more personal and intimate side of the singer, as seen in its declarative theme of emancipation from her personal and professional setbacks. Although it shared similar vocal production to her previous works and an inclination towards her signature pop and R&B ballads, the album encompassed a variety of dance-oriented and uptempo styles that were in keeping with its celebratory aesthetics. Critics noted the album's pervading theme of independence and lack of restraint, and dubbed it a "party record". A number of artists had pivotal roles in the album's writing and production, including Jermaine Dupri, Snoop Dogg, Twista, Nelly, and Pharrell Williams. These artists also appear as featured guests on various tracks.
The Emancipation of Mimi received a generally positive reception, with some critics calling it Carey's return to vocal form. Several reviewers had questioned Carey's vocal abilities in Charmbracelet, in which they found her voice to be airy, thin, and damaged. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, with opening week sales of 404,000 copies, the highest first-week sales of Carey's career at the time. It opened inside the top five on the albums chart in Argentina, Canada, Denmark, France, and Japan, as well as on the European chart. The album finished as the best-selling album of 2005 in the United States, and the second-best seller around the world. To date, The Emancipation of Mimi has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.
Carey had international success with the first two singles commissioned from the album. "It's like That" became one of Carey's highest-charting songs in years, reaching the top twenty in several countries. "We Belong Together", the album's second single, topped the singles chart in the United States, where it accumulated 14 weeks in total at number one, Australia and New Zealand; it achieved top-five places in several European countries and was later named "song of the decade" by Billboard. To promote the album, Carey made high-profile appearances at the 48th annual Grammy Awards and the 33rd American Music Awards, and embarked on her sixth concert tour, the extensive The Adventures of Mimi (2006).