Wednesday 6 April 2005

Touch magazine interview: "Meeting Mimi"

Please no introductions. Mimi aka Mariah Carey has emerged from her breakdown both happy and "normal." Or so it seems...? Touch is on a flight to Los Angeles and we're coming over all Heat reader already. Minnie Driver is in First Class and Paul Blackhorne (24's handsome villain Stephen Saunders) paces the aisles throughout the 11-hour flight. Either he's trying to be star-spotted or has an over-active fear of thrombosis - but either way, with the Golden Globes taking place this weekend, the City of Angels is sure to be frothing with celebrities. That's not why we're making the trip, however; instead we've been invited to meet Mariah Carey, who's in town on business having recently completed her 10th studio album "The Emancipation of Mimi".

After a night dodging A Listers at some Hollywood's hippest hotel bars (Clive Owens at The Standard, Denzel Washington at Chateaux Marmont - the list goes on and on), we head to Def Jam's HQ for an album playback. And surprise - there isn't a sickly sweet ballad in sight. Instead we're treated to Mariah's hip hop side as she gets diggety with guest vocalists Snoop Dogg, Nelly and Twista. There's still a heavy smattering of love songs for sure, not to mention plenty displays of Mariah's signature octave-defying vocal range but most tracks are directed as much at the clubs as they are the hot tub.

Next it's over the Peninsular and an hour or so's wait to meet her, during which time we try not to stare as Tim Robbins, Sharon Osbourne and LL Cool J all pass through reception. Two pots of tea and an encounter with Mariah's yapping dog Jack later, we're warmly welcomed into her suite. Or should we say Mimi's. "It's just a nickname my family uses," she explains. "Not even my friends knew about it so once everyone heard the album title, they thought I was changing my name because that's normal in today's entertainment world. It's fine though, it's endearing."

Then there's "The Emancipation" part, which refers to her newfound sense of freedom the album embraces. The previous LP "Charmbracelet" came after her much-publicised breakdown and as such was awash with soul-searching emotions. Not this installment. "I was called Mimi as a kid so the feeling of the album embodies that part of my spirit. With Charmbracelet everyone wanted to hear the stories of my trials and tribulations. It was a healing experience - expressing things that had gone on and my father had just passed away. Now I'm like, okay, we've done that, this record is about having some fun."

It's true - today Mariah comes across as disappointingly normal, healthy and perky, her wise-cracking New York nature not tallying with all those endless rumours such as she has a food-taster or that she doesn't 'do' stairs. She's having too many laughs hanging out with tasty rappers to be blue, thank you very much, the first fruits of which, is the insanely catchy single It's Like That. With Jermaine Dupri's bare beats coursing underneath a refrain by Fatman Scoop and Mariah's self-penned chorus ("It's my life, no stress, no fights, I'm leaving it all behind/No tears, no time to cry 'cos I'm making the most of life"), it's clear where Mariah's head is at right now.

Her cuts with Pharrell and co. - "To The Floor" featuring Nelly and "Say Somethin'" with Snoop - are equally party hardy. "It was a great moment because the Neptunes were working on "Drop It Like It's Hot" down the corridor and Nelly was next door and I walked in the room and we just started riffing. I don't usually do that with someone who's a contemporary so it was great. It's one of those songs that might require a lot of listens for everyone to get it, but I love it."

Then there's the Jackson 5-inspired "When I Feel It" with young producer Mahogany, "Your Girl" with Scram Jones and the Denise Williams meets Patti LaBelle ballad "Mine Again" made with James Poyser. But it's "Get Your Number" that really gets pulses racing. There aren't many suitors who can boast to possess her digits, though. "I can't remember the last person who asked for my number," she sighs, lying back on the sofa and kicking her Louis Vuittons onto a cushion. "The people who do ask are the ones you don't know screaming 'Give me your number!' at you from behind a barricade. Or it's someone who's like, 'Let me be cool and not try to come on to her so she thinks I'm after her'. My thing with guys is I like to be friends first because then it won't be a weird sexual tension thing."

Dodging the obvious question as to whether she has a boyfriend right now ("Kinda yes, kinda no.") we progress to discussing her worst date ever. It takes some beating. "This guy who has a lot of money and who should know better took me to TGI Friday's. That was not a piv moment. Yeah." No burger, fries and malt shake for this classy chick. A bigger budget is certainly required. "One boyfriend, who was also in the entertainment industry (hmm, Latin singer Luis Miguel, perhaps?) took me in a private place to Morocco once. He hired camels, fire-eaters, snake charmers, belly dancers, all this mad stuff. It was a fabulous moment in my dating life."

Although Carey has a taste for fancy dress having previously worn cavewoman, mermaid, nurse, kitten and lamb outfits to her infamous annual Halloween parties, she has always strongly denied gossip of romances with bad boys Eminem and 50 Cent, claims to have been a virgin when she met her now ex-husband Tommy Mottola and has had only two lovers since her divorce in 1998. If true, this is verging on criminal neglect. "I'm a cornball in that I've never done random dating or had a one-night stand. I'm not passing judgement on anybody, it's just the way I grew up with people getting pregnant really young and other stuff, it was not me. I was like 'Let's just Mary Poppins it on out for a minute,' you know?"

Looking a little like a schoolgirl today in her short grey skirt and long locks, we'll have to take her word for it because when it comes to fashion, Mariah is not so conservative. Right now she hasn't been home for a few weeks and is travelling with 40 cases of luggage. "Is that a lot?" she flutters mock diva surprise. "I have been going through different climates and have just come from Aspen where it's tradition to roll around in the snow then get in the jacuzzi. It's tingly and hot! So I've got to have my bathing suits, which is two big bags. I ended up having to unpack my own closets here in LA and it took me a long time doing it by colour and category but I did a good job."

It's not just clothes she covets. Her biggest indulgences was buying Marilyn Monroe's piano, although Internet reports that Mariah said Marilyn's spirit was writing songs through the instrument are false. "You can't even play that piano. It's from 1937 and I don't want to get it tuned because the strings could break," she sniffs. "I just bought it because Marilyn had gone to such great lengths to find her mother's piano and there's a chapter in her biography called 'How I rescued a white piano'. It's in my will that the piano will go to a museum where it belongs one day."

Indeed Mariah has no time to collaborate with dead people - she's got a bumper 2005 lined up with an up-coming tour, a Broadway show based on her Christmas album to plan, a jewellery line to design and a Children's book aimed at mixed-race kids to co-write. So much for the delicate flower who can't handle a little stress. In fact, she's only come to town with four people and is more bothered about the whereabouts of her dog than her bodyguard. "Jack has two websites devoted to him already - one in Japan, one in America," she beams.

But when Mariah does have free time, her idea of a crazy time is as pedestrian as it gets - she stays in. Having felt trapped with Mottola for so many years in an upstate country mansion, she's just bought her first Manhattan apartment. "I'm so used to people coming in and taking what's mine that this place is all about me - my master suite, my huge bathroom. There's one guest room but you can't get too comfortable because it's full of stuff from the fans. Then the room I hang out with people is the Moroccan room and Jack has his space in the kitchen with a cushion that matches the chaise long. I do go out but it's smoky and it takes me a while to get the voice together afterwards so the new thing for 2005 is my apartment being the hang out spot. It's fun, I've never done that before." So what's cookin', good lookin'? "I make linguine with clams and I make a good red sauce. It's Tommy's recipe and one of the only good memories I've got of him!"

(Touch magazine)

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