Mariah's back fresh, focused and full of hits

Saturday 28 September 2002

If you want to know what Mariah Carey did on her summer vacation, the answer is work. Yes, she did get in some playtime - after all, she recorded in Capri, Italy - but Carey has been focused on doing what she does best: making hits. With over 140 million albums and singles sold worldwide and 12 songs that have reached No. 1 in the United States, she is a superstar in a league of her own. While it's no secret that Carey has been through a lot personally and professionally this past year - the lukewarm reception for Glitter, a bout with exhaustion - nothing came close to the devastating loss of her father. Carey explains that he died not long after they had reuinited and become close. "It was very hard for me," she says. "A lot of that emotion is on this album. There's a song that I wrote for him on it."
If you want to know where Carey is coming from on this new record, listen to her words. "The experience of recording this album is almost like the experience of my life - going through it, dealing with things and trying to be hopeful," she says. "It's not an album filled with woe and misery. There are some songs that will give you that melancholy feeling, but I try to always go to the uplifting, even in a situation that seems like it could break you. I always try to turn to the positive rather than to drown in the negative."
Carey also changed record labels this year, finding a new home with Doug Morris and Lyor Cohen at Vivendi/Universal's Island Def Jam Music Group. When I asked IDJMG Chairman/CEO Cohen about Carey, he told me "All Mariah needed was a big hug and a company that truly loves artists and understands the difficulty of being an artist. Mariah is a gift to all of us. Her voice and songwriting have given so many people so much joy. I believe she has written a song that will become a great classic."
The song Cohen is referring to is Carey's new single, "Through the Rain," which is already airing at Pop, Rhythmic, Urban and AC on heavyweight stations like WHTZ (Z100)/New York and WHYI(Y100)/Miami before the official add date of Sept. 30th. When I ask Carey if "Through the Rain" was her choice for the first single, she responds, "It's almost like the single chose itself. Everyone who heard it felt so passionately about it immediately."
So, Carey has a new album and a clean slate. She has a new label, MonarC, as part of her deal with IDJMG. She wrote every song on her new record except for one remake. She worked with heavyweights like Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and promises a few other surprises. With her great looks, unmistakable voice and incredible talent, Carey is back - fresh, focused and full of hits.

R&R: Your new label with the Island Def Jam Music Group is MonarC. How did you come up with the name?
MC: Jerry Blair, the President of MonarC and I went back and forth with a bunch of different names, and MonarC was my first choice. As a lot of people know, the butterfly has kind of become my own personal symbol. Monarch butterflies, in my opinon, are the most beautiful, so we left off the H and the M and the C gave it a personal touch for me. Every time we mentioned the name to somebody they liked it, so we stuck by it. It seemed fitting and right.

R&R: You had your own label once before, Crave. What made you want to do it again?
MC: Well, Crave wasn't really my idea. At the time that I was involved with that project I was in a different situation corporately and as an artist. I sort of fell into it instead of choosing to do it on my own. MonarC will truly represent me, as opposed to somebody else imposing an idea on me to do a label.

R&R: Do you have any plans yet for MonarC?
MC: I tried to give the label a broad spectrum, in terms of the imaging and imprint, so artists wouldn't feel that it was too closely associated with me or had to be only the musical genres that I've worked in. We're really open. Jerry Blair has been scouting a lot of different talent, and I have an artist I'm really excited about, a 13 year old girl who's really great. We've already begun recording with her, and there are a whole lot of other things on the agenda.

R&R: After leaving Virgin Records, you could have gone with a number of labels. Why did you choose Island Def Jam Music Group?
MC: From Day One after that whole situation exploded with Doug Morris and Lyror Cohen were so supportive and in my corner. They were such believers in me. Even though I met with a lot of other people, I felt that their passion was so strong that I almost didn't want to meet with anybody else. I knew and felt in my heart that it was the right place to be. Before I signed with Virgin, I was going to sign with them. After living through that experience, I understand you can't do things just for the money. It's not about that; you have to be with people who are driven, passionate and young-spirited. I really believe that they helped reinvent pop music.

R&R: Did you enjoy working with Cohen on this album?
MC: What I like best is the collaborative way we all work together. I wrote "Through the Rain" before I signed my new deal. I began writing and recording before the deal as well. Lyor was really cool, because even when he didn't know if I was going to end up signing there, he was talking to me about different co-producers and different ideas without ever being confining. He came out to Capri, and it was very nice. One of the nicest moments was when we were listening to the album on this beautiful boat in Capri, and Lyor jumped in the water so we could have a champagne toast inside the Blue Grotto when the seas were raging. I don't know too many executives who would do something of that nature while holding a bottle of Cristal!

R&R: Two words: "Glitter" and "Why"?
MC: It was a project that started out one way and, because of the political situation I was in and the incestuous nature of what was going on at the time, became a watered down version of what it was intended to be. I'm not going to apologize for it. It came out on Sept. 11, 2001, after one of the worst tragedies in history.

R&R: Do you believe that the fate of Glitter would have been different had you promoted it as aggressively as you had all of your previous projects?
MC: Yes, but I was also promoting it aggressively before it was even finished, and that contributed to my exhaustion. I was doing too much and didn't have a true support system in a lot of ways. All I can say is that it's now in the past.

R&R: Did you make a conscious effort on this album to return to the formula that has worked so well for you on past albums?
MC: Actually, I've never left that formula. Honestly, I haven't released a ballad as my first single since my first single. Every other first single has been uptempo and urban-leaning because they are more immediate records. This single pretty much chose itself. My thought was to go with an uptempo single first, but the moment I played "Through the Rain" for everybody, there was no doubt in their minds that it would be the first single. I say, OK, cool, because the song means a lot to me. It's just that people weren't looking at everything I was doing under a microscope until the bizarre blowing out of proportion of last year's events.

R&R: Why did you decide to record this album in Capri?
MC: I worked on the Rainbow album in Capri. I've been going there for about three years, and there's a recording studio there that I really love. I stay in a little apartment on top of the studio, and my cell phones don't ring and my pagers don't go off. I can really focus on what I'm doing musically and creatively; I can write and be on my own, and people can come in and visit me. Jay-Z was there for a minute, and we had fun, Lyor and the whole family came in. I had a lot of visitors, but I still was able to focus on my work.

R&R: Discuss your experience recording this album.
MC: I started recording it before I did the Super Bowl. I never stopped writing. I was feeling very prolific. I have 21 songs for this record, and that is more than I can use. I'm trying to decide which tracks to use, which to save, and which to maybe give out to my fans as bonus tracks and those kinds of things. I'm not really sure. Writing this album was, in a lot of ways, a very cathartic experience. I've been through a lot personally and professionally. I actually lost my father this year, after we had reunited and become close. It was very hard for me, and a lot of that emotion is on this album. There's a song that I wrote for him on it. The experience of recording this album is almost like the experience of my life - going through it dealing with things and trying to be hopeful. It's not an album filled with woe and misery. There are some songs that will give you that melancholy feeling, but I try to always go to the uplifting even in a situation that seems that it could break you. I try to always turn to the positive rather than drown in the negative.

R&R: What songs have been the most fun?
MC: There have been a couple of different ones that were a lot of fun, but until I put the album out, I don't want to say what they are, because I don't want to give away the surprise.

R&R: What was your greatest challenge making this album?
MC: None, really. I just wrote and sang from my heart as I've always done, but this time the comments that I've been getting are like "You can really feel you a lot more on this album. It doesn't seem like you're trying to be as perfect as before; it's more like straight from the heart." The truth is, I kept a lot of the first vocals I sang, because they have the emotion. Even if I was like, "Ehhh, maybe that's not perfect," it was more of an emotional release.

R&R: "Through the Rain" struck me as vintage Mariah Carey. Can you describe the overall sound of the new album?
MC: "Through the Rain" is vintage me, but this album has a lot of things that are vintage me. If you walk into a club and they play "Fantasy" remix with Ol' Dirty Bastard, that's vintage me, so that's old school. I think that the whole album represents things that are vintage me.

R&R: What is your goal musically with this project?
MC: The goal was to express myself. I don't have a secret recipe; I just do what I like and what I feel. When I come up with new concepts, sometimes there are things that are reflections of things going on in my life, sometimes I just make up stuff, and other times I may think of things from, like, eighth grade, and put them into a song.

R&R: Did you have the time you needed to make this album the way that you wanted to?
MC: Yes. I feel like I had the necessary time, because I took it upon myself to begin recording before I signed a record deal. I know that I don't need A&R people to steer me one way or the other. They're great, but it's not something that I felt that I needed in the past. A lot of people in the press wrote that I need someone to fly in and whisk me off my feet and save me. That has never been the case. Sicne my first album, I have been writing and producing all the songs. I was put with producers on my first album, but as a teenager, I was the co-producer of those demos.

R&R: Who are some of the people you worked with on the album?
MC: Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and a lot of other amazing surprises.

R&R: Do you have a favorite song on the album yet?
MC: It's really hard, because they are so personal and so diverse in nature. It depends on what mood I'm in.

R&R: Did you write the entire album?
MC: I wrote everything except one remake. A lot of the songs were inspired by personal situations over the past year and over the course of my life, and some are just made-up stories.

R&R: Some of your biggest hits have been ballads, similar to "Through the Rain". When you released some hip-hop and more street sounding records to radio, do you feel that you may have polarized some of your core fan base?
MC: No. I think that people chose to use that type of rhetoric to pigeonhole me. I've had just as many rhythmic records that were massive hits for me as I have ballads. I've been working with hip-hop producers since Music Box. Look at collaborations like "Fantasy" with O.D. B. or "Heartbreaker" with Da Brat and Missy Elliott and Jay-Z. Look at the work I've done with Jermaine Dupri over the years, or Puffy, even before he was a famous rapper. I will always sing ballads, but I will not be afraid to continue to do collaborations in hip-hop or whatever other musical genres I choose. That's my right as an artist. Anything else would be boring as hell.

R&R: Are you satisfied with the outcome of this project?
MC: I'm very satisfied. It's the closest I've felt to a project since Butterfly which has always been my favorite.

R&R: Do you have a personal goal with this new album?
MC: It's a goal I've already realized. Just making the album provided a great creative and emotional outlet for me.

R&R: Are there any plans in the works to tour in support of the album?
MC: Yes, but it's still in the early stages.

R&R: The release of your new single and album means facing a barrage of press. What are you doing to prepare for the forthcoming media blitz?
MC: Sleeping and taking care of myself like a normal person, as opposed to a working machine.

R&R: Why do you think the American media blew your personal life so much out of proportion?
MC: Because it sells magazines.

R&R: What message would you like to send to radio programmers?
MC: I appreciate your support over the years, and I know how much you have helped me in my career. "Through the Rain" and the remix of "Through the Rain" are very special records to me. I hope you like them.

R&R: What would you like to say to your fans?
MC: Thank you for your constant support. You keep me going, and I love you.

R&R: If you had one wish for this holiday season, what would it be?
MC: World peace. This world has become an increasingly dismal place, and I just wish we could end the tragic circumstances of today.

R&R: Are you personally happy and at a good place in your life?
MC: Yes, I'm very happy. The events of last year were so dramatized. It's ridiculous. I've been happy for quite some time.

R&R: Has Mariah Carey made it "Through the Rain", and what was your umbrella?
MC: My faith has always been my saving grace, or "umbrella" if you want to call it that. Yes, I do beleive I've made it through the rain, and we all an as long as we put God first.

Many thanks to Mariah Mania.

There are not yet comments to this article.
add comment login create account edit account

© The Mariah Carey Archives 1998 - 2019