The new M.C.

Saturday 9 June 2001

A few minutes before midnight Mariah Carey steps out of her black stretch limo. She moves briskly into the dark lobby of Manhattan's Tribeca Grand Hotel, a bodyguard in front, an assistant behind. She is carrying a bushel of roses. She moves across the lobby like a fighter plane: sleek, quick, shiny, and expensive. Her platinum-streaked hair is in a tight ponytail. She's wearing a stiff denim jacket and tight Sergio Velente jeans. Her shoes are open-toes and high-heeled, but they're not slowing her down. The words "time" and "money" come to mind. Her manager (also carrying roses) points me out and Mariah waves, makes a "just one minute" gesture, and disappears into the elevator. The whole episode is like the glint of a diamond bracelet.
"Let me give you a little warning," Carey says when I walk into her hotel room a few minutes later. Her voice is low and throaty, almost whispery. The room is filled with a quantity of roses not usually seen outside wholesale flower markets. "I'm tired," she says, though she doesn't look it. "And I want you to say when I should be concise, because that fact that I'm exhausted doesn't help in my ramblings."
"Have you eaten dinner?" I ask. "No. And I haven't eaten breakfast or lunch..." She half-sings the "or," stretches it way out; it's gigantic, hand-on-hips, wide-eyed, room-filling "or." But I do have the remainder of a protein bar," she sighs. "Isn't this glamorous of me?"
"How's your day been?" I ask. "My day?" she says. "My day has been going on for, like, three days!" She flops on the couch. Her face is made up, eyebrows plucked. There is glitter on her chest. Her shirt is black and sheer - Givenchy - she's got a black halter underneath. She has just returned from a meeting with executives from her new record label, Virgin, where she played them her new album, "Glitter," for the first time. Like many music fans, Virgin purchased Carey's record without knowing what was on it. Unlike many music fans, they're said to have laid out an estimated $23 million - the most ever paid for a single album - for the privilege. "I made this deal without anybody hearing one note of music," she says.
"Were they worried?" I ask. "Probably," she says, one eyebrow up, as if to say, Wouldn't you be? Carey does not look worried. At thirty-one, over a decade after her debut at age nineteen, she is the godmother of the G-string divas, the Britneys and Christinas and Destiny's Childs for whom self-empowerment and self-exposure are completely entwined and sugar-glossed with a multi-octave range. Mariah's voice, however, is a Howitzer compared to most other singers' water pistols, her not-at-all-secret weapon.
Virgin is taking a gamble, but it's not irrational: Carey has sold more than 140 million recordings since 1990's "Mariah Carey." She has had fifteen number-one singles, placing her third behind the Beatles (twenty) and Elvis Presley (seventeen or eighteen, depending on whether you count "Don't Be Cruel" b/w "Hound Dog" as one or two records). Her hits have spent more weeks (sixty) at the top than those of anyone else, including the Beatles (fifty-nine). She had a number-one song every year of the '90s, the only recording artist to do so.
The new record is the soundtrack to next month's "All That Glitters," in which she stars. It's the story of a mixed-race girl who has been abandoned by her white father, taken from her black mom, and raised by foster parents. As a teenager she hangs out in Manhattan clubs, circa 1982, gets discovered by a DJ, galls in love, and becomes and overnight sensation. The affair ends badly; she looks for her lost mother. Which is to say it's about someone with more than a passing resemblance to Carey. Besides doing the soundtrack and co-producing the film, M.C. worked with scriptwriter Kate Lanier, who wrote "What's Love got to do with it."
"I had this idea four years ago," Carey says. "And people said, ''80s? Nobody's ready for '80s.' I said 'I really feel strongly about the '80s, 'cause it's nostalgic.' Some of the executives were concerned that it was too soon, and people weren't ready to go there. And I said "Trust me, they are" According to director Vondie Curtis Hall, "It's a classic Cinderella paradigm, like "Funny Girl." M.C., the hip-hop Barbra Streisand.
"Most megastars don't have this time or patience to get involved in developing a script," Lanier says. "But Mariah was hanging out in my hotel room, reading pages and giving me input. It blew me away." Lanier says M.C. wasn't at all the person she was expecting. "I was thinking pop. But she wanted to do something dark and edgy. I didn't think she would be that sophisticated or that smart, but she really is."
All of which suggests that maybe Mariah isn't the bubble-gum pop start with the diva voice, controlled by a behind-the-scenes mastermind, which, to be honest, is how I'd vaguely though of her. Today's pop culture is so heavily marketed, it's hard to imagine someone like M.C. without a Svengali pulling strings. And though she was launched by Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola, whom she famously married in 1993 and famously divorced in '97, she now seems to be the puppeteer of her own act, writing and producing records, starring in a movie that borrows from her life story. Her euphemism for the marriage is "the situation," and what that apparently entailed, besides a Cinderella story, was a Rapunzel story: M.C., trapped in her Bedford, New York, castle, longing to get out and take control her life.
Well, she got out. Sitting on the couch with a glass of white wine in hand, feet up, she has the issue of food. Twenty-three million dollars will buy you whatever dinner you desire. What M.C. desires this evening is macaroni and cheese. "It's not what I should be eating," she says, stabbing it was a fork. "But hey - I did have the protein bar." As she tells me about her endless day, her face takes on a bashful pride, as though I have walked in her house in the middle of renovations, but she'll show me around anyway, proud of the changes under way. It's all a work in progress.
Right away I notice the eyebrows and the eyes. They have this quality - hopeful, expectant, amazed, as though she still cannot believe her life. Everything else about her appearance gives of a vibe of being smart, though, of knowing what's going on. The meetings, agents, deals, the two shiny electronic devices - pager and cell phone - that sit on the couch. Her hair, her body, her manicure, it all says celebrity, businesswoman, diva. But her eyes, particularly her eyebrows say, "Holy shit! Can you believe this?"
"I was in Spain doing the vocals for the soundtrack," she explains. "I go out the country because this pager and this phone" - she points to them as if they were demanding pets - "will continue to go off. And so I'm out of range there."
In Malaga, she worked at a live-in studio, leaving only when her boyfriend, Luis Miguel, came to visit. He is a "huge Latin superstar," as she puts it. "We got mobbed because they all love him. Of course," she adds demurely, "I have a few fans in Spain, as well."
I ask if they discuss their pasts. "A lot of men don't like to tell their stories," she says. "Maybe it's a power thing? Usually, I'm the one who's open. I mean, I've had intense stuff happen to me, but I haven't been through the wringer with lots of men. I could count on less than one hand the men I've been with in my life. I really hate the though of being intimate with somebody, and then it's over." She snaps her fingers. So was she a prude in high school?
"Well, no. As a kid, I would walk around with the tight ensembles on, and the makeup... But it wasn't like I had boyfriend that were serious or that I was having, like, intercourse with. I knew I wasn't going to get married..." She rolls her eyes, gives a loopy grin. "Well, I did get married, but I knew I wasn't going to be doing the housewife thing."

M.C.'s father left when she was a toddler. She moved thirteen times while growing up on Long Island with an older brother and sister and her mom, Patricia, a Midwestern Irish America whose family never quite forgave her for marrying a man who was half black, half Venezuelan. When her parents met, Alfred Roy Carey was "a swinging aeronautical engineer," as M.C. says, she explains that now he is no way swinging, with-it or hip.
"He thinks I've had one album," she says as if this were the funniest thing. "Honestly, he doesn't know any of my songs!" "I bet he's a connoisseur of your accomplishments," I say. "Connoisseur?" she says. "He don't know any..."
A few minutes later, M.C. is on the floor giggling, and her mother, a former opera singer - now ensconced in an upstate New York house that M.C. bought for her - is on the speakerphone, confirming that yes, "he thinks she only made one album."
"And what do we call it?" asks M.C. They say together: "The Album." M.C. is in hysterics. "We can't diss him," she gasps. "He's just not into music." Considering she hardly knows him, she's talking with real warmth, as though he were an eccentric neighbor.
The subject of M.C.'s father makes "Glitter" seem all the more personal: a Poor Girl Making It story entwined with a Love story and a Lost Parent story, and, finally, a Mixed Race story. "There are a lot of mixed-race girls and young women who hold Mariah up as a hero," says Lanier. "She's proud of that. For a long time she was encouraged to play up her white side. Since she's been allowed creative freedom, she has related more to black culture."
When I tell M.C. that her mixed-race background seems visually, pretty subtle, her face softens. "Well, that's part of it," she says. "A lot of people say things that they wouldn't say if they thought that somebody, you know, black was in the room. Or vice versa. Or somebody Latin. I'm a mixture of a lot of things. Because of that, I didn't really feel like I had one person that I identified with."
It was around the time her marriage to Mottola dissolved that M.C. began working with acting Coach Sheila Gray. She'd acted as a kid, but in her "other situation." She was encouraged to focus on her music. "Sheila was one of the catalysts for helping me out of that situation," she says. "I was so blocked, emotionally. I sat on her floor and did relaxation exercises, and immediately started crying, 'cause she said to me, 'Name a place where you feel safe.' And I was, like; 'I don't have one.' I own, contrary to popular belief, half of everything in that mansion" - that she shared with Mottola - "and paid for half of everything, down to the electric bills. So I didn't have one space to think of. And she said 'Well, use something from your childhood'" The one scaldingly awful thing I know about M.C.'s childhood, which I don't bring up from this otherwise festive occasion with white wine and macaroni and cheese, is that, in a newspaper article, her sister talked about having been a prostitute and drug addict.
"So," she continues, "it was this burst of emotion, and I was just like, Whoa! It helped me realize that, like, this is not right. [Sheila] used to always say, 'Relax your shoulders,' because I walked around like I had to fight, constantly. I grew up with such a free rein. And suddenly, it was this enclosed situation. I wouldn't be the person that I am if I hadn't gone back into that and gotten in touch with myself. Not to sound New Agey or corny..."
A lot of these themes play out in "All That Glitters." "I think people will be blown away by her acting," Lanier says. "She is able to carry off a lot of pain and show a lot of soul," Soul, however, does not interfere with business.
"I personally met with everybody," M.C. says of her label negotiations. "I grew up with some of the smartest and most shred businessmen." Before she signed with Virgin, Carey got advice from Lenny Kravitz, who knew her when she was seventeen, sleeping on friends' couches waiting for a break, and from Prince, of whom she is a huge fan. "I learned a lot. It's not like somebody can lie to me and say, 'We're gonna do this and this,' and have me not go, 'Wait, who's your distributor in Taiwan?'"

"I don't give a fuck!" The $23 million voice booms from the Elle studio dressing room. The controlled frenzy of the photo shoot has been compounded by news that M.C. has to fly to LA tonight to score her movie. Cell phones chirp, assistants swarm, and a guy in a suit stands near a briefcase guarding diamonds from Harry Winston.
"She's pulling it all together," says Carey's publicist. "There's the record, the single, the radio promos, the videos, the movie, the next movie..." The trades have announced that M.C. will star with Mira Sorvino in "Wise Girls," basically "Wise Guys" for women. The logistics of it all are an enormously complex algebra equation, a hurricane.
Then the eye of the storm emerges, in pigtails, loose Levi's, a green cardigan with buttons straining across her chest. She is teetering on pink marabou slippers, a glass of champagne in one hand; in her other, the diamonds, dripping and dazzling. Last night was business. This is M.C. unbound, feeling it. She offers a big "H!" followed by "I'm having the biggest fucking spiral of my life!"
She has a cell phone against her head, and she's talking about Busta Rhymes, from the sound of it, he may be in her next video. She notices me scribbling and, laughing says "You are seeing me at my host..." Eyes bulging, she trails off. Most what? Most perfectionist? Most confident? Most psyched? Most pissed off? All of the above? She's got a million words at her disposal; they come bubbling out like a fountain. She asks if I'd like a glass of champagne, sees hers, almost empty, and belts, "Will someone get me a glass of champagne!" Then, in a whisper, "They're probably trying to keep it away from me, thinking I'm going to get drunk."
The shoot comments and I ask an assistant, Jill, if Carey's world is usually this intense. "This is the most intense day in a long time," Jill says. "M.C. is the hardest-working girl in show business. She has a hand in everything." Right now, she has a hand between her breasts. She's mugging for the camera, rapping along to the boom box, using the flaunted glass, as an improvised mike. "Hate to sound sleazy, but tease me."
During the next break, she pulls me aside. "Listen, that stuff I was saying about my father. I don't want it to sound - I just really want to build a relationship with him." I assure her that it was cool, warm even. Her eyes get all soft. What an operator! I think. Not that she's insincere. She just moves fast, shifts gears, and moves on. She turns, and her fistful of diamonds sparkles.
"I need to talk to Busta!" she says to no one in particular, but everyone hears her, because everyone is listening.


Many thanks to Will from MCWNO.

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

Mariah's 8th Australian gold single
In its fifth week on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles chart, "I Know What You Want" by Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey scores a gold certification. This week the single drops one spot to No.4.
(Tuesday 15 July 2003)
Mariah a joke?
The last couple of days a discussion took place on this website's message board on how Mariah influenced other artists and Estelle commented: "Mariah isn't that important, and she is not an influence. She sadly stopped just short of that status."
(Monday 14 July 2003)
Backstage Pass Week
Mariah will be featured on MTV's Backstage Pass Week, a program that takes viewers backstage and behind the scenes of the hottest concerts and tours of the summer. Be sure to tune in everyday this week to MTV's Total Request Live.
(Monday 14 July 2003)
DJ Meme does "I only wanted" remix
Which Mariah fan has never heard of the famous Brazilian Butterfly promo single with remixes from DJ Meme? DJ Meme's name is Marcello Mansur, a famous Brazilian DJ and recently we got to know he has remixed another Mariah Carey track.
(Sunday 13 July 2003)
Chicago fan bracelet book
The Chicago Fan Bracelet Book will have the theme of "MC in the windy city" and our cover will feature the Chicago skyline and some of the most prominent symbols of our beloved city. We encourage anybody in the world to submit.
(Sunday 13 July 2003)
Mariah Carey: The exclusive interview
Be sure to have a look at this month's Urban Essentials Magazine for an exclusive, three-page interview with Mariah. You can find this free publication availiable at most independent music stores within the United Kingdom. Here is the full article.
(Friday 11 July 2003)
"Liar, liar," says a fan
On a recent "expose" on Mariah entitled "Mariah Hits the What?", the author claimed that Mariah never hit the note she is reported to have hit by the Guiness Book of World Records. This particular member went to great lengths to discredit Mariah.
(Friday 11 July 2003)
Mariah hits the what?
The publisher of Guinness Book of Music World Records has been forced to republish their "03" issue of the music records. One reason being that upon verification of such records, Mariah Carey is mentioned to have recorded the highest note.
(Thursday 10 July 2003)
Carey "Clown"-ing around
Last night, Australia's No.1 radio program showed Mariah more love and support than they have in a long time. In Eminem's current single, "Superman", he disses Mariah and it has been a massive hit on the countdown.
(Thursday 10 July 2003)
Ashanti pulls out of Mariah tour
Scheduling conflicts have forced Ashanti to drop out of touring with Mariah Carey. The singer was due to open for her idol on Carey's Charmbracelet tour but when Mariah downscaled her dates and rejigged the American trek, Ashanti had to pull out.
(Wednesday 9 July 2003)
Lorraine to Mariah: "Get real"
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly says there's nothing worse than having to interview a celebrity who "really hasn't got much to say" such as Harrison Ford. "So many of the actors I meet are just so boring, they really have nothing to say."
(Wednesday 9 July 2003)
Carey On
Out now: number 23 (July 2003) of the Carey On, the fanzine of the Dutch Mariah Carey Association. With an article about "Making of Bringin' on the heartbreak", the latest news, merchandise, and some great pictures.
(Tuesday 8 July 2003)
Mariah calls in from Japan
Calling everybody from Tokyo, just wanna say "hello" if you caught the first show here, we had quite a nice time. And, all the fans, we just wanna let you know that the showcase we've been talkin' about on stage is in Japanese.
(Tuesday 8 July 2003)
Urban Essentials
Urban Essentials, a free magazine from the UK, contains a 3-page interview with Mariah. The magazine itseld can be found in all good Independant Record Stores. The article has great quotes and questions.
(Tuesday 8 July 2003)
"Jersey-style" mini-skirt goes commercial
Young women are embracing a version of the minidress modeled after pro basketball jerseys, and often featuring team logos from the 1970's and 80's. The style received it's final needed endorsement when Mariah Carey wore a Michael Jordan jersey.
(Tuesday 8 July 2003)
Mottola's new deal could upset Mariah
I told you several weeks ago, months ago even, that Tommy Mottola had a new deal at Universal Music Group. Today, Morris announced that Mottola will run a revived version of the old Casablanca Records for him.
(Tuesday 8 July 2003)
Four weeks at No.3 for Busta and Mariah
For the fourth week in a row Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey remain at No.3 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles chart. Having debuted in that position on June 16th, "I Know What You Want" has remained steadfast.
(Monday 7 July 2003)
Small venues just won't do
Ashanti has stepped off the upcoming Mariah Carey "Charmbracelet" tour. The Glen Cove singer's camp says , the new routing caused too many schedule conflicts for Ashanti's own publicity tour.
(Sunday 6 July 2003)
Mariah arrives in Tokyo
On July 4, Mariah arrived in Tokyo and Ayako met her at the airport, here's her short report: "I went to go see Mariah today at the airport. She used the international terminal which was closed today so there were only us fans."
(Saturday 5 July 2003)
Mariah around the world
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to accompany an international pop diva around the globe on a promotional tour? Well this special takes an inside look at the hectic, sleep-deprived world of Mariah Carey to find out exactly how it feels.
(Saturday 5 July 2003)
Female trouble
Mariah Carey even brings her diva-dom to her gynecologist's office. Whenever Carey has an appointment at Dr. Janice Marks' East 72nd Street digs, she insists that all other appointments during that time be canceled.
(Friday 4 July 2003)
The Remixes
Chan Kakin tells me he received three copies of the Japanese release of The Remixes album and was so kind to send me the front and back cover. Strangely, they don't have OBI strips. The catalogue number is SICP 400-401.
(Thursday 3 July 2003)
Mariah Carey: The show must go on
International diva Mariah Carey faced an agonising decision after the son of a close friend was found dead earlier last month - would she carry on with her concert or stay and console her grieving pal?
(Thursday 3 July 2003)
Mariah receives key to the city of Osaka, Japan
Mariah Carey visited Universal Studios Japan in Osaka and announced her charity project "Mariah Dream Kids" inviting 1,250 underprivileged children from 16 institutions in Osaka. Mariah was greeted by 3 children representing the institutions.
(Wednesday 2 July 2003)
Mariah Carey says she loves Def Leppard cover
For the latest single from her 2002 album Charmbracelet, Mariah Carey decided to rock the pop world with her version of Def Leppard's "Bringin' On The Heartache". Carey tells Launch that a chance encounter with the song led to the decision to record it.
(Tuesday 1 July 2003)
1 ... 482 483 484 485 486 487 488 489 490 ... 605

© The Mariah Carey Archives 1998 - 2019