Beverly Hills, California - Mariah Carey looked like a blonde-streaked tornado in hot pants.
You could almost see the flames clicking off the back of her high heels as she burst through
the door and twirled into her specially prepared bedroom in an exclusive bungalow at the chi-chi
Beverly Hills Hotel in early May. After a full day of schmoozing all her new friends at her new
label, Virgin Records, Mariah was getting ready to do six hours of interviews and then hit the
studio for additional recording sessions for her album, Glitter. She'd been up most of the night
before working on the video for the record's first single, "Loverboy".
Her cast of half a dozen minders and makeup folks spent an hour changing her look before Mariah
sat for the first interview. Used to the constant tugs, pulls and primps, Mariah seemed oblivious
as she sent and received dozens of two-way pages. Six hours and two wardrobe and makeup changes
later, she poured herself into a limo to rush to the 1 a.m. recording session. In between, she
patiently answered the same questions three and four times and insisted to her manager that she
needed a specific type of portable studio for her trailer on the next morning's continuing
"Loverboy" shoot. She also obsessed over her role in the indie drama "Wisegirls", the final
mixes of the Glitter album and the promotional duties for her first big-screen starring role in
the "Glitter" movie.
There's burning the candle at both ends then there's taking a blowtorch to it. By the time
she bounded out of the limo to enter the studio, Mariah admitted to being pretty burnt out.
"I'm honestly really, really delirious and stressed out and overworked and doing too much,"
Carey said two months before she was checked into a New York hospital after suffering what her
publicist termed an "emotional and physical breakdown".
Mariah told Gil Kaufman and Matt Anderson that while making "Glitter" was more work than she
ever imagined, these are some of the best times of her life. But even as she enthused about her
movies and her new music, it was clear behind her pained smile that the pressure was mounting.
"I haven't slept in, like, two weeks, and that's an important detail for you to know," she said,
grabbing the tape recorder and talking directly to her fans. "I want them to know that this is
a freaking complete clown fest," she said, adding that if she wasn't running so hard she'd "be
crying on the floor, OK?"
MTV: Is this a good time in your life? Are you happy?
Mariah: I'm honestly, really, really delirious and stressed out and overworked and doing
too much. I come from having absolutely nothing. I don't have an understanding or grasp on money.
So you have to understand that when people see these figures [from my Virgin Records contract]
next to my name, you don't understand that. What happened to me was I got really screwed
over, and it can happen to anybody. You hear these stories [about] people throughout music
history that that's happened to, and you never really think it's happening to you until it does.
I had a point and I really wanted to make it, but I forgot it. I always felt like the rug was
going to be pulled out from under me. I finally have my first apartment. I haven't even had my
own apartment before! The point was that this whole thing with the money and stuff, it's really
a strange concept to me. ["Loverboy" video director] David LaChapelle saw how much stuff I was
doing, and he goes, "Virgin got a bargain with you, honey!" Not that I think that that's a
bargain, but I do do a lot more than people would expect.
MTV: Can you talk about this new contract you have? It's been widely reported that this
is a very, very big deal.
Mariah: It's an insane time in my life. Everything is going on really fast. Everyone,
from my manager to everybody that's with me, we're all a bunch of freaks right now because we're
trying really hard to make this deadline and get everything together. And now, being on this
other movie with Mira Sorvino, "Wisegirls", that we're shooting in less than a week. Trying to
get this soundtrack, this movie, everything handed in for this movie just everything that I'm
doing is a crazy bunch of stuff going on. But it's also an amazing time in my life, because it's
a fresh, new, happy situation. I ain't gonna say it ain't about the money, too, 'cause I was
almost the "Behind the Music" poster child. But that's beside the point. The money aspect of it
is good, but it's also great to have people who really feel excited about something new.
MTV: When I heard about your deal with Virgin, it took me back to your days of trolling
the New York streets with your demo tape hoping that someone would listen to it. Did you think
about that when you were signing the contract?
Mariah: The difference between when I was first trying to get a record deal as a teenage
vagrant wandering the streets of New York and now? Well, I still only eat one bagel a day, but
only because I'm too tired to eat. That was a money issue; now the thing is I didn't have to
play anybody any music. That was nice. Before I had to try to get people to listen to the music
and this time I just said, "Well, you like this." [Laughs] No, I didn't say that. I met with
so many different record company people, and I have to say that there are people out there that
are complete geniuses that I really revere and hold in the highest regard because they spent
their time with me. Then I'd ask a question like, "OK, who's the distributor in Taipei?" Or
something abstract like that, and they were like, "What? How do you even know about that?" That's
because that's the business side of me that people would never think that I know about. I honestly
wouldn't have known about that unless I had to get into it and do it myself.
MTV: After all these years, after all the success that you've had, why are you still so
driven to work so hard? Haven't you had enough 18-hour days?
Mariah: I'm driven because I don't think that I'm famous. [Laughs] Seriously. I don't talk
about my past a lot. I guess I'm Cinderella in a weird way, but I saw things before the age of
12 that most people may never see in their lives. It was really intense stuff, which is why people
can say, "Oh, isn't she trying to be down now with the rappers and the hard- partying rap posse?"
But the truth is, I want to relate to people who had a similar life experience. I think one of
the reasons I stay grounded and stay hungry is because I didn't get to experience my fame when
it first happened, as a young kid starting out.
It was like, "Don't trust the press. Don't talk to this one. Don't be like that." I didn't trust
enough to be myself, because I was scared. I feel like people played on those fears and
insecurities. The truth of the matter is, they didn't give me my voice, nor did they write my
songs. I was shrouded and hidden away therefore, I'm just experiencing this mess for the first
MTV: How much of your character in "Glitter" is autobiographical?
Mariah: It's really not autobiographical. There are certain elements that are similar.
My character's father is white - we don't really know him very well. The mother is black and
she's a singer. It's kind of the opposite scenario of what my life is. Also, I'm very close with
my mom. This character's main arc is about finding out why her mother abandoned her. [She feels]
like she's got to find the answer to that through her relationship with the male lead and through
her desire for fame. She's motivated by feeling rejected from her mother. That's completely the
opposite of me.
MTV: Since movies have longer lead times than records, were you worried about using
samples that might get lifted by someone else before the album came out?
Mariah: Most of the remakes are party records. The whole thing was a total fest of me
saying, "OK, how can this not get ripped off by somebody? Let me come up with a fake title for
this song and not put my voice on this." Today, everything gets downloaded in two seconds and
then you're foiled. Now that the real music is laid in, the music really enhances the movie
and vice versa. A lot of people will say, "Oh, she's playing a singer for the first time",
which is another reason why I wanted to do this new movie, "Wisegirls". Because I'm really
playing a character. She's not a singer, it's totally out there. As you may have noticed there's
some part of my personality that needs to express anger. [Laughs]
MTV: Tell me about your first single, "Loverboy", which samples Cameo's "Candy"?
Mariah: It was always one of my favorite songs growing up, but I know I say that about
every loop that I use. But this seriously was. I had the idea for the chorus and it fit perfectly
over the [sample] and I got the guys from Cameo to come in and re-sing their part. Whenever you
hear their voices, it's us singing together and DJ Clark Kent looped it On the pop version I
go into the original "Candy" and I'm singing it with Cameo, which is totally a childhood dream.
I felt like such an idiot sitting there telling them, "Can you do this like you sang it on the
remix?" They might have done it a little bit differently. I was like, "No, but on the remix,
you went 'yes I do.' " I was a fan sitting there obsessing about it.
MTV: How does this song relate to the movie?
Mariah: It's prominently featured in the movie. My character's name is Billie, and it's
Billie's first crossover record. Because it's set in the '80s, it works with the loop. For me
as the artist, [I wondered], "How do you take a loop from the '80s, do a new song over it, or do
a remake and also have it appeal to the kids today that may or may not know the song?"
MTV: Can you talk about what people can expect from the album? Can they expect this whole
album to sound like the '80s, or...
Mariah: There are songs that are definitely going to take people back and make them go,
"Oh, man, this song from the '80s - I loved it growing up." Or people who never heard the songs
before might be like, "This is cool." When you see the movie, you're gonna see the uptempo songs
and the songs that are remakes in there as they would have sounded in the '80s. But the album is
the way that I would make the record now, and the ballads can stand on their own as songs from
a Mariah Carey album.
MTV: What's Billie's story?
Mariah: We start the movie and we see little Billie and her mom singing, and we realize
there's a dysfunction going on and her mom's unstable. She gets taken away from her mother and
ends up in a foster home. Then, we meet her two friends, Louise and Roxanne, who are played by
Da Brat and Tia Texada. They're her extended family. It's Billie's journey to understand why
she feels abandoned by her mother. That's what drives her to want to sing. She connects with
this [DJ] character. His name is Dice. He's sort of like what the mother is in terms of
MTV: But it's not a musical, right?
Mariah: It's not a musical. I don't walk up and go, [singing] "Why are you acting this
way?" out of the blue for no reason. I always hated that when people just, like, burst into song.
MTV: What kind of details did you offer the script's writer, Kate Lanier?
Mariah: I spent a lot of time with Kate she was observing the music business thing. But
it takes place in '82, so the music business was different then. We were rewriting a lot on the
set. A lot of things came from improvisation. Obviously, the girl is a singer, but again it's
completely not my life. It kinda couldn't be further from my life. Even the guy that she's with
is so not like anybody I've ever been with. Not that I've been with that many people in my life.
MTV: Did making videos prepare you for being in front of the camera?
Mariah: I don't have issues with being in front of the camera. I've been a freakin' ham
since I was three years old. The problem is when you are coming from another entertainment world,
people really wanna hate on you. And they really wanna say, "Oh, well I don't know, she's going
take us out of the movie and we don't want that la da da da ta."
MTV: Are you worried about being typecast as a singer?
Mariah: No. That's why I'm doing an independent movie that's completely the opposite of
me. In "Wisegirls", my character talks like this [thick Brooklyn accent], "You know what, I don't
even wanna take your crap right now. You know what I'm saying?" We're talking about a complete
MTV: Do you think you get the credit that you deserve for writing, producing and being
so hands-on about your music?
Mariah: I think that my real fans know what I do and that's what matters to me. When I
was little, I didn't know that the people who sang usually didn't write the song. That's why
I started writing, because I was like, "I could write this song." I just started writing, not
even realizing it. I used to make demos for people when I was 14, and I'd be like, "Fine, if
you want me to sing this, but couldn't it go like that?" I learned from listening to the radio
rather than anything else. I'm not bitter about the fact that people don't know how hands-on
I am, because they couldn't know unless you are with me. Even my own family could never know
every little detail that I do. I do it because I wanna do it.
MTV: Did you want to work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis this time around to get that
authentic '80s sound they pioneered?
Mariah: Yeah. And the sick thing is, that they gave me actual tracks from back in the
day that they had. You don't get any more authentic than the people who wrote all those songs
and have those sounds. There's certain things that you can't duplicate.
MTV: Janet Jackson has been identified with working with Jam and Lewis for so long.
Now that you two are on the same label, is there any concern?
Mariah: I think that Janet does what she does and she does a great job. I don't have
any feelings of being competitive with her. Control is one of my favorite albums of all time.
MTV: Whose idea was it to cover of "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life"?
Mariah: It was my idea. Growing up in New York I listened to WBLS and KISS-FM. Those
songs were ingrained in my mind, just like [Tom Tom Club's] "Genius of Love". The "Last Night
a DJ Saved My Life" idea came because the character's love interest is a DJ. After all the
misery that we go through with the ballads there's a lot of ballads on this record. After the
emotional experience that the movie takes you through, I wanted people to leave the theater
and be able to feel like they can go to a party, too.
MTV: How did you hook up with Rick James?
Mariah: I asked him to collaborate with me. I wanted to do something new, but like Mary
Jane Girls-esque. He's like, "I have a different idea. You can change whatever you want." I
would never have come up with a line like, "You and only you can do the freaky thing you do."
It was so Rick James that I just said, "I don't need to change this." He wrote it and it's
authentic to the period of time. It's called "All My Life". My character is sort of ghost
[singing] for this really pretty girl that doesn't really sing. That's how my character gets
MTV: Are you going to tour for this record?
Mariah: No. I don't think so. I'm gonna be all over the world [promoting it] but I'm
hoping that instead of the standard, "OK, let's release two singles and call it quits" - I have
so many strong radio records - I would hope that with Virgin we can release more singles. That's
something that always kind of bothered me. I need to take some time and go swim in the water
with my dog and my cat, Willie D.
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