The story of the Pop-Cinderella

Wednesday 10 November 1999

Mariah Carey, the queen of the sweet stuff soul, presents a new album. After having survived her divorce she wants to emancipate musically also.

Is this a human voice? Or more a wailing synthesizer? "Ahhhhhhhh", comes out from the loudspeaker, swinging and in such high notes that bats could mistake them as suffering cries from one their fellows. But it's a woman's voice the same that can sing one octave lower on the choirs foreground "My love goes on and on", then it wins more volume and in a controlled salto grows to the height, gently reaches the depth and velvety-harsh fades away.
The volume of this voice is impressive, five octaves or even seven, although these high notes painfully reach the inner of the ear. "You're just making a fool of yourself and you'll ruin your voice", said Patricia Carey years ago, as she was practicing to reach higher and higher notes. But Mariah Carey (29) has not ruined her voice, but trained and reached a total control over it and is the most successful pop female of the 90s.
Within the past years Carey has sold more records than W. Houston or Celine Dion, the other American Divas: 115 Million all over the world, 7,5 Million of them in Germany. She placed 14 titles on top of the US charts, only the Beatles and Elvis have more. And one more record, but only a personal one: 271.000 copies of Heartbreaker have been sold on its first week at the beginning of September in the US, more than her other 13 hits. The album including this single has been released all over the world the past week. In Germany she has sold 185.000 copies within its first 4 days.
Pop, Rythm & Blues, Hip-Hop and soft ballads, adding artistically brilliant presented melodies, this is the success mixture of Carey's records. The ingredients have been always the same, but the relation of the mixture has changed clearly on "Rainbow": less "softy" ballads and more Hip Hop. "Nowadays I can do what I want," says Carey, "I only deliver the finished album to the company". That's why you can listen to hardcore rapper as Jay-Z, Snoop Doggy Dog, Missy Elliot on the album. Years ago the duet with the crazy O.D.B had been banned on a remix-record (single).

But that was years ago, 1997, and therefore before Carey's divorce from Sony's CEO Tommy Mottola, 49. He had discovered her in 1988 and signed a contract with her, and since then Carey was meant to be his product: a romantic lovely Pop angel with long blond curls, floating in Gucci and Armani outfits, blessed with a overnatural voice.
The fairy tale of this encounter is: Carey was 18 years old, she had just finished High School and had 500 hours of cosmetic school behind her and had just moved to New York. She did what she could as a miserable waitresss, working in the wardrobe and genial background singer for the soul singer Brenda K. Starr.
She was the one who wanted to carry Mariah one night to a party of the record industry. But initially Mariah couldn't find anything appropriate in her warderobe. Starr gave her mini (skirt), a Cheerleader coat, Mariah also combined it with some sport shoes. No wonder that she drove the attention of the party people to her, and Mottola, who was standing with two other music bosses, was waving to her. Carey took out her unlabelled tape and Mottola took it before one of his competitors could reach it.
Later, in the car, he listened to the tape, he immediately drove back to the party and searched for the unknown talent, but without success. Only a week later he could contact her. But the truth sound different than the Cinderella story with the prince, who was looking in New York for his princess.
Carey already had in 1988 a manager and co-songwriter, Ben Margulies, a friend of her older brother, he was sending Mariah's demos all over. At the beginning without success, but finally Warner wanted to buy a song for a movie song and offered Carey a solo album and a contract over 300 000 $. That's the reason why Brenda K Starr had to convince Mariah to go to the music bosses' party.
Mottola was desperately searching for a new Whitney Houston, saw and heard Carey and just offered 50 000 more then Warner. Carey signed with Sony and on Mottola's own management company. Carey's old manager has been 10 years percentile involved in Carey's earnings. "I could have easily escaped from that," says Carey. "But I didn't want to. I hope he has a beautiful life." This also sounds like a fairytale.
Carey's new boss and manager Mottola had tried a few years ago to become a pop star, but he failed due to a missing voice and talent. But then he earned more success planning his professional advancement in the record industry, although there were speculations of connections with the Mafia, which the Italo-American always denied.
He prudently planned Mariah's career: her first big public appearance was on the opening ceremony of the basketball final (1990) singing "America the beautiful". Sony invested 800.000 $ into her debut album for which Mottola chose successful soul producers. The costs of the video was 500 000 $ and Sony spent a million $ on its promotion.
More than 11 million copies of "Mariah Carey" have been sold until today, 4 singles of this album reached the US top charts, Carey won two Grammies. Sony paid Mottola a bonus of 3 million dollars. And since then Carey has released every year a new, extremely successful album.
Mariah Carey and Mottola had been seen kissing each other in New Yorker pubs. For a compensation valued in millions Lisa Mottola accepted the divorce. The prince prepared in 1993 a dreamlike wedding for his 20 years younger princess. Carey had - to fulfill her wedding wishes - inspired herself by watching the Diana Charles wedding on video tape. Mariah's trail was 8 meters long.
They paid half a million for this show, that looked much more as a coronation than a wedding, which included appearances of Robert de Niro and Barbara Streisand. Today Carey says, "Most of the people there were people he knew." The pair moved to Bedford Corners, in the north of New York. To a 6000 m villa: it included an inside and outside pool, a practice room for shooting, a music studio, 2 pizza ovens, 14 bathrooms and so many rooms that Carey never knew exactly how many they were. She put numbers on her clothes to overlook them.
To such a fairy tale it fits that Carey's was the third kid of an Opera singer from Illinois, who had never achieved the breakthrough on New York's stages and therefore had to fight with different jobs on Long Island. Her father was an aeronautic engineer. He drove, and that doesn't fit with the fairy tale story, a Porsche and earned very good as an officer. When Mariah was 3 years old he left the family. Carey's father was the son of a black woman and a Venezuelan, her mother is Irish-American. As a result of this mixture Carey never felt belonging to anywhere: not to the whites, not to the blacks, not to the Hispanics. "I didn't have a paragon," says Carey. "There was nobody looking like me."
She would have a "damaged childhood", and insinuates having experienced violence. She doesn't want to speak clearer "for legal reasons", as she explains. Only that racists had envenomed her older sisters dogs. Such a gloomy background permits the Cinderella fairytale to shine even brighter.
But Mariah's childhood couldn't have been that bad: her mother promoted her singing talent, since she once showed on an Oprah probe she could sing the notes better than her mother. "My mother was a bohemia type of person," says Carey. Patricia Carey founded a multicultural "Freedom Center", her friends were Jazz singers, gay couples, activists of human rights and often Mariah was the star of the night who was singing on the kitchens table. "I grew up with a lot of freedom and was so able to develop my personality."
At the age of 13 Carey was already earning money as a studio singer. With 16 she was writing and producing her own songs by the side of Ben Margulies. One of this songs - "Vision of love - became later a hit single and won a Grammy.
A sad canary bird in the platina cage - that was how her story about the marriage with Mottola was resorted. He would send Bodyguards behind her, prohibit short skirts and parties with the singers after their recording sessions. "A life in a shell," as she describes her life during her marriage. "I was not allowed to be myself."
At the beginning of 1997 they divorced. A short time before the magazine "Vanity Fair" had reported about Mottola's possible contact to the Mafia. "Now the whole world knew how unsatisfied I was," says Carey. She only had survived it that long because she already had had an authoritarian weekend father and the pattern had been repeated now. And secondly she had developed "an incredible tolerance for the dysfunctional". And third, she had thought not to have the right to ask for personal luck after all her professional success. Schluchz!

This is too beautiful - sad to be true. And there are in fact contradictions to the version of the poor, oppressed star, who had to do what the Boss-Father-Husband said. It is said that Carey had already started to have an affair with the baseball player Derek Jeter, from the New York Yankees, before the divorce.
Carey has co-produced and written most of her pieces in contrast to her competitor W. Houston with whom she sang a duet in 1998. She's is known for unpredictable displacements of the night-day rhythm and terrorizes with it her environment. She'd rather comes late and she let even Prince Albert dof Monaco wait for her at a Gala dinner. And then there are little scandals that moves over the fairytale image: She is said to have insulted W. Afanasieff, because he was working on the career of her beautiful girlfriend Samantha Cole. On an other occasion she's said to have thrown ice cubes in Samantha's direction. In the deep night of the New Yorker restaurant Blue Ribbon she would ask Cameron Diaz for explanations about an interview with her about the pop diva.
Carey wanted and wants to become an Hollywood star and at the latest this ruined her marriage. Mottola was against such plans, not without reasons: there's hardly no pop star that could successfully change into acting, Madonna's fail is exemplary. Carey insisted on her acting plans, took acting lessons, and her debut can be seen in the US in "The bachelor", although she only plays a little role. But next year she will play and sing the main role in "All that glitters" a music film in the 80's.
Acting lessons had been a kind of psychotherapy for her. "I've learned to my block my feelings." That sounds like a advertisement brochure for an acting school: find the true person in you! Find the way to your feelings! Whatever they are.
Anyway, nowadays Mariah presents herself as provocative as Mottola apparently never had permitted: extremely short skirts, metallic tops, Capri trousers. The magazine "People" included her on the list of the worst dressed women, but Carey insists that pop stars owe their public to look sexy. In the "Heartbreaker" video she wears jeans and shows big breasts with a little top. She has straight long hair and kicks her opponent with karate kicks.
Carey doesn't want to be Cinderella anymore, but the heroine of a modern fairy tale: Lara Croft.

(Der Spiegel)

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