The Emancipation of Mariah

Saturday 2 April 2005

Back in 1999, I first approached B96/Chicago Program and Music Director Erik Bradley about interviewing Mariah Carey for our special Q Beat issue. It wasn't just the fact that I had known Erik personally for over 15 years, and knew he had been a close friend of Mariah's from day one. It was simply another way for FMQB to continue its commitment of interactivity with radio. Sure, I could have requested the interview and been part of a press line asking those never-ending questions that every artist just can't wait to answer. But I thought it would be a whole lot cooler if Mariah could sit and chat with one of her longtime friends and one of radio's most respected programmers.
The fact is that both Erik and myself have been longtime fans of the Number One female singer in the world. Her signature vocal changed the musical landscape while inspiring many other artists along the way. There's no doubt that Mariah's had her share of ups and downs, but still she continues to record music even when the odds may not have been in her favor.
Mariah Carey's career is truly the stuff of legend. Beginning her recording career at the age of 20, Mariah has since become the best-selling female performer of all time, with an incredible 15 Number One singles and multiple Grammy awards. Along the way she became the only artist to top the charts in each year of the 1990s, and with "Heartbreaker", she pushed ahead of the Beatles as the artist with the most cumulative weeks spent atop Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.
Mariah's new CD, "The Emancipation of Mimi", features Mariah writing and co-producing alongside some of the top names in the business, including the Neptunes, Kanye West, and R. Kelly among others. The album, which is lyrically very personal, showcases Mariah's stunning voice, songwriting and incredible versatility.
While her list of accomplishments is remarkable, Mariah continues to work on the road promoting her music the way many new artists now do. And isn't it funny that some 15 years after her critically acclaimed debut was released, the same people who said that Mariah's time at the turn of the century might have been over are the same ones who are now buzzing about her forthcoming CD? For the first time in a long time, Mariah is back in a happy place feeling very blessed. It's Mariah on Music, Movies and Mimi. Take it away, Erik.

Your song "It's Like That" from your new CD was an immediate favorite of radio programmers in multiple formats. What was your reaction to learning that it was off to the races as soon as it surfaced?
Obviously, I was very excited and thankful for the fact that I didn't have to be the one to make the decision about which single was gonna come out first (laughs). It was definitely a blessing.

You've writing some of the biggest hits of all time as well as some of your most personal feelings ever on record. Which type of song is most difficult to write and which of both are your all-time favorites?
Wow! Hrmmmm (sigh), actually, the personal songs like "Petals" usually come to me quicker because I'm just being so truthful and talking about my innermost feelings, letting stuff out that otherwise would stay bottled up inside, so I feel that's the reason the real fans relate to those songs. Then you have a song like "It's Like That" or "Fantasy", that the melody and the beat makes you feel a certain way, whether it's a free type of feeling or that feeling of letting go and having a good time, like a party record so to speak. I love those records and right now, obviously I'm loving "It's Like That" and the positive reaction to it. But when I look at all of my up-tempo songs that have been singles, the two that would be my favorites are "Fantasy", the remix with ODB, and the "Heartbreaker" remix.

What makes The Emancipation of Mimi stand out from Charmbracelet or other previous releases? And what is the story behind the title?
The story really isn't as deep as everyone made it out to be. They were like, "Oooh, is she changing her name?" or "We all must call her Mimi now!" and I'm like, "No, it's not that big of a deal, it's just a nickname!" Part of the reason I decided to title the album The Emancipation of Mimi is because Mimi (spelling Mimi, not Me-Me, which is what some were thinking) is just a nickname that the people who know me the best and really care about me, and love me, use for me. So this record was really to showcase the spirit of who I am at heart as opposed to the quote unquote "Mariah Carey" image and what that would be looked at as. The difference between this album and Charmbracelet is, there were some really good songs on Charmbracelet, but as an album I don't think it comes anywhere close to The Emancipation of Mimi because I completed it much quicker than I did the new record. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes not so good. The selection of singles were just not necessarily dead on because everyone felt so compelled to go with "Through The Rain" since it was a story with an "I Will Survive" type of message, which really helped a lot of people. For me, I'm all about putting out the fun party record first and let it be fine, and then let people go off of that. There was just so much drama that had to be addressed that it became annoying, so calling this album The Emancipation of Mimi was me not worrying about what other people think I need to write or sing about, or what type of records I need to put out so they can categorize me, and put me in their little box of where they think I belong. It's all about having a good time and making music I enjoy.

Did the initial buzz from of all people, the print media, come as a shock to you?
I really wasn't thinking about it, but when I saw it happening I though, "Wow, this is a nice change of pace." And of course when you put a lot of work into something and you feel that validation, it's great! I feel really proud of this record and I'm so excited about the way it's being received.

Which producers do you mesh the best with? Your greatest work has been dome with some fairly diverse personalities. Who do you feel brings the best out of you?
There are different types of producers and collaborators because I'm not your standard "here's the song, go in the studio and sing it" type of artist. I usually kick the producer/co-producer out of the room and/or leave the country and sing the vocals by myself. It's a rare occasion that I'll be in the room actually working with someone at the same time after we've already written the initial idea for the song. Overall, I've worked with so many great people and have been fortunate to work with so many legends, and many who became legends. Sometimes going back to basics, like working with Jermaine Dupri again, even though we've worked together over the years, this time around it seemed like a very fresh moment because he's on such a great page creatively and that's where I feel I am as well. So, us getting together and going our thing was a definite magical moment!

When you were coming up (prior to signing with Columbia Records), would you have considered American Idol if it were an option?
Would I have gone on American Idol? I don't know, those types of things always freaked me out. I started out as a back-up singer, a studio session singer, someone behind the scenes, and a songwriter even as a young kid, so I don't know if that would've been my bag. If somebody would've been that critical, I don't know how I would have handled it. I'm just glad I didn't have to do it! Even though it was probably harder to be broke, running around New York City as 17-year-old, it couldn't be worse than having your first experience in the limelight on a "make it or break it" type of show.

Give us some good Randy Jackson dirt!
Randy Jackson is the best. I love Randy and have nothing negative to say about him at all! He's exactly like he seems on TV. He's just a funny, regular guy who also happens to be a great musician. I don't know if people realize what an incredible musician he actually is. They really lucked out when they found somebody like him to be on the show.

On one of the new songs, "Shake It Off", you reference the "Calgon, take me away" commercial. Did Calgon cut you a check?
That's funny! They need to be aware of that! When JD and I were writing that, Jermaine came up with that concept. Originally, it was "I gotta get away." I thought we could come up with something better than "get away", so we put our heads together to get "Shake It Off". When he said, "it's like the Calgon commercial", I was like "what did they say in the Calgon commercial?" I did not remember it. We were all debating back and forth, so we asked Bow Wow because he was in the studio and he knew about it, contrary to my belief that anyone young would know what that meant! Even though Bow Wow knew it from a Snoop rap and he thought Snoop was saying, "Calvin got a gun!" So, it was pretty funny, but it's cool because it's like the Calgon commercial, "I really get outta here, go somewhere" - and the song turned out amazing! And yes, we do need a nice check from them so we can promote the Calgon bubbles in the next video!

Which Mean Girls character is your favorite? If it were filmed in your high school, which role would you have portrayed?
(Laughs!) I'm like the combination of all of them, but my absolute favorite is Regina George. The way Rachel McAdams played that role was so genius, every little detail, every reaction, I just love that movie so much. I could watch it over and over (and I do!). There are elements of each character that I relate to, unfortunately and fortunately!

What is the biggest press-generated misconception about you that you would like to dispel?
Oh my goodness! There are so many press-generated misconceptions about me. The main thing that I would like people to know (I don't know if they care or not - laughs), and it's the truth, I'm just like everybody else. I'm a human being, I have a good heart, I'm a loyal person and have a sense of humor. Many people will see stuff on TV and be like, "Why did she run on that treadmill on Cribs and why did she do this and that?" My reaction is, "Don't you have a sense of humor?" It's jokes! If I were to take Cribs that seriously (no offense to the show), but I mean, it's Cribs! I'm not gonna be on there saying, "Look at my fabulous place, aren't I the best?" I had to make a joke out of it because it's that way. What I have now is incredible compared to what I was born with, so in a way it was me making it a lighthearted moment. A lot of people didn't see me on MTV interviewing myself (Bianca vs. Mariah - from the "Heartbreaker" video) or having a food fight on MTV or the other silly, crazy stuff I did on MTV before. It's about having a good time - we're not on 20/20 people! Cribs was just a funny moment and a way to run around the house and change outfits. It's not that deep!

More people should remember that more often. Those of us who know you know that the words you used to describe yourself (good hearted, loyal, fun) are all very true characteristics of yours. Many of today's newcomers name you as one of their major inspirations. Who were the artists that turned you out while you were growing up?
We all looked up to Michael Jackson musically and artistically - revolutionizing MTV and making the video into an "event", opening doors for other R&B artists. There are just so many people who were on radio and MTV then, like Prince. He's so incredibly talented as a musician and a writer, I love his music. Some incredible vocalists inspired me. Chaka Kahn, Aretha Franklin and Minnie Ripperton. We all love Whitney Houston and with that voice she was a big influence. There are many great Gospel singers that I love too. Stevie Wonder is definitely an all-time favorite. There's way too many more to mention!

What is your dream collaboration?
I've done so many collaborations that it's kind of hard to say. From here, who would be my dream collabo? I don't wanna tell anyone else the idea because sometimes people bite those ideas - we don't like that!

Who are you favorite artists these days? Anyone just knockin' you out?
My favorite new artist (even though she's not really "brand" new) is Karen Clarke's daughter, Kiki. Karen Clarke is an amazing Gospel artist - Kiki is her daughter and I've been following her since I first heard her sing when she was 12. I'm really excited for her now that she has her own album out (and I love it!).

What song comes on the radio that you just can't turn off no matter what?
(Thinking out loud...) Hrmmmm, is there one? I'm such a radio fanatic that I guess I get fickle once a song gets played and I'm on to the next. There were a lot of really hot records out in '04 - all of the Kanye tracks, Usher, Snoop, Jay-Z - any of their hits, chances are I loved it!

The second single from your new album is called "We Belong Together". What is the story about inspiration behind that song? How did that come about?
I was working with Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta, we already wrote "Shake It Off" and "Get Your Number". L.A. Reid [Island Def Jam Records CEO] asked us to get back in the studio again because he was loving what we were doing... with the goal of trying to top what we had already done, which we didn't think would ever happen. Once we started working again, going back and forth, coming up with concepts and melody lines - it was mostly fine turning lyrically where we felt it should be and emotionally where we were coming from. Basically, it's about someone you used to be with and you're not with them anymore for whatever reason, but you know in your heart that is the right person for you.

Is there a song from one of your previous albums that you most embrace?
There are the songs that were the hits that I love and there were some songs that were never released that many people may not necessarily know like "Underneath The Stars", "Crybaby" (with Snoop), "The Roof" from the Butterfly album, "Babydoll" was another favorite, "Vanishing" from my first album is one that I still love. It's hard to narrow it down because they all represent something different for me - the more personal ones represent a certain era in my life and the fun songs represent, well, you know... fun!

What songs did you want to include in previous tours that you weren't able to work in and perhaps we'll hear it on the forthcoming tour?
I'm not sure what I'm gonna do about the tour because I feel compelled to do the this and sometimes I can't always do all of the songs that I would love to do. With this album, I believe there are many songs that once the fans hear them, they're gonna want to hear them live, so I may have to see if I can figure out a new way to do this touring thing this time around then do the "Hits" tour like everyone else does! Everyone else with a brain does it like that - I just don't want people to be disappointed. I want to do what the fans want to hear. We as artists owe that to them - but we do owe it to ourselves to be true to what we're into at the moment and what we're feeling and try to get that across to the fans. I just have to see how I can make it right and make it work.

You are definitely one of the most radio friendly artists in the game. How important are your relationships and the input from your industry friends when it comes to making your music?
The input from people whose opinions I respect is very important to me. Many of those people happen to be in the business. You can get a point of view from another artist, someone who is in radio, a journalist, everyone can give you a different perspective. Not that you want to have 50 million opinions, but it does help - it's been invaluable to me!

Do you have any regrets?
Oh yes, I have millions of regrets, but you can't live in the regrets, you have to live in the solution. You have to live in the new - not be a new-agey whatever - but seriously, you have to live in the moment, darrrr-ling! And what's what I'm doing. That, for me, is the best thing I can do for myself - enjoy the moments as they are happening because I didn't get to do that a lot in the beginning of my career.

While many people and/or critics might point to Glitter as a sign that films might not be your bag, others point (and deservedly so) to Wisegirls, a movie in which your performance was critically acclaimed. How many fun was it to do that role?
Wisegirls was so much fun. I wish it had come out before Glitter because not many people got a chance to see it, due to it being an independent film. Working with an Academy Award winner (Mira Sorvino) was incredible. I got to play a very well-written character Rachel (or "freakin' Rachel", as I like to call her) and having a chance to do something different and stretch artistically. With Glitter, it was the big machine and they wanted to do this homogenized effort, it was released on 9/11 and that whole experience was tough. As an actress, Wisegirls was a great experience from start to finish working with director David Anspaugh, Mira, Melora Walters, and the other actors from the movie. I hope people that didn't see it will check it out. Yes, it was an independent movie, but it was also a wonderful vehicle for me to showcase that side of what I do. I definitely have planning to do more independent and grittier roles!

Would you rather have a Grammy or an Oscar? Which is more important to you?
I already have a Grammy and technically I did sing on an Oscar-winning song ("When You Believe" with Whitney Houston). The awards that come from the people are most important to me because they really represent what the public is feeling. It's great to have accolades from your peers, but you can't base anything on that.

So, a diamond album would be the next best award for you?
Yes! Honestly though, I don't wanna sound like, "yeah, right, that's the canned/corny answer" but it's true. When someone comes up to me and says this song saved my life, that is the best award there is.

Is there anything else you'd like to say to radio people who are reading this?
Just, if you guys are hiring, I'm available for a shift!

No, you're only going to work for one station!
I'm only going on one station and we know which one that is! For real, thank you much! And for everybody who's been out there supporting "It's Like That" and supporting me for years, I really, really appreciate you and I know how important it is to have you in my corner and I thank you so much!

(FMQB Magazine)

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Boost or bust
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(Monday 6 February 2006)
Honoring the reinvention of Mariah, Gwen & Kelly
If you'd told any pop-music maven three years ago that Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson would be three of the biggest contenders at this year's Grammys, they would have laughed. Carey had all but been written off.
(Sunday 5 February 2006)
Carey, on
When Mariah Carey performs at the Grammy Awards, she'll be accompanied by Brooklyn's Love Fellowship Tabernacle Choir. Yes indeed, Carey will be singing praise to the Lord: for her eight nominations and for the 5 million albums she sold last year.
(Sunday 5 February 2006)
Tuned to Carey
She has broken our hearts before. The "she" in that sentence is Mariah Carey, and the "our" refers to music critics in general. The year was 1996. Virtually all of us felt that Carey would be the big winner at that year's Grammy Awards show.
(Sunday 5 February 2006)
U2, Carey are Grammy faves
On Wednesday night, The Music Industry hands out heavy little statues to its own for making music and selling it to people. Last year, the voters showered 10 nominations and three awards on rapper/producer Kanye West's debut, The College Dropout.
(Sunday 5 February 2006)
Does Grammy love Mariah?
Mariah Carey stands in the middle of Manhattan's Gotham Hall practically motionless. A whirlwind of makeup artists, stylists, publicists and assistants orbit her, touching up her eye shadow, hydrating her throat and prepping her for her next interview.
(Saturday 4 February 2006)
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(Friday 3 February 2006)
Mariah falls out of the top ten
This week Mariah loses momentum on several fronts as "Don't Forget About Us" falls out of the top ten of the Hot 100, "We Belong Together" completely falls off the chart, and "The Emancipation Of Mimi" falls out of the top ten of the Billboard 200.
(Friday 3 February 2006)
Supporters unsurprised by Carey's successful return
Don't call it a comeback, Mariah Carey's been here all along. Sure, it probably doesn't seem that way. After all, it's been nearly five years since Carey suffered a series of frustrating setbacks, both personally and professionally.
(Thursday 2 February 2006)
Talks continue to bring Mariah Carey fragrance
Benny Medina spoke with OK! magazine about reports that Mariah Carey was lining up Karl Lagerfield to design a dress for the singer's launch of a perfume line later this year. "We're in discussions with several major fragrance and cosmetics houses."
(Thursday 2 February 2006)
R. Kelly earns three Soul Train music award nominations
R&B crooner R. Kelly collected a leading three nominations for the 20th annual Soul Train Music Awards. R. Kelly's song Trapped in the Closet (Chapter 1 of 5) garnered nominations for best male R&B-soul single and best R&B-soul or rap music video.
(Thursday 2 February 2006)
5th Australian single confirmed
Universal Australia confirmed today that the fifth single from "The Emanciation Of Mimi" is indeed "Get Your Number", according to Mariah Connection. They however do not have a scheduled release date for the commerical single.
(Wednesday 1 February 2006)
Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson join together for duet
Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson are being lined up to record a duet. Record producer Jermaine Dupri, boyfriend of Jackson and producer of Carey's hit comeback album, The Emanicipation of Mimi, wants to record the two divas together.
(Tuesday 31 January 2006)
Album of the year: Who will win?
Music's most coveted prize, an anointing of artistic merit that can also reignite sales, brings five diverse candidates into a tight race decided by a notoriously illogical voting body. The results will be revealed during the Grammy Awards.
(Tuesday 31 January 2006)
More than a black and white issue
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(Tuesday 31 January 2006)
The story behind Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together"
Sessions that produced "We Belong Together" - Mariah's 16th #1 single - almost didn't happen. Mariah needed a miracle. In November 2004 she was still mired in a deep slump that was on the verge of killing her career ("Glitter," anyone?).
(Monday 30 January 2006)
Mariah Carey: "The queen of pop"
2005 was the year of Mariah Carey. On December 31, 2004, if anyone had written the previous statement, they would have been ridiculed. Mariah had been placed in the "career over" section of the music industry alongside the likes of Whitney and Lauryn Hill.
(Monday 30 January 2006)
Jermaine Dupri says Usher's "getting the bug again"
Busy churning out hits for the likes of Mariah, Janet, Usher and many more, and with a horde of up-and-comers waiting in the wings, Jermaine Dupri seems to be finding little time for himself these days. "I'm not makin' no more records."
(Monday 30 January 2006)
Top nominees
One of music's most dominant forces, Mariah Carey continues to sell (and break) records. In December 2005, the singer tied Elvis Presley for second place among artists with the most Billboard Hot 100 topping singles in the rock era.
(Sunday 29 January 2006)
Brand names are hot to drop in pop culture
These days, advertisers are giving entertainers lots to rap about, from Cadillac and Cristal to Mercedes and Moet. Hip-hopper Ludacris declared, "It's the knick-knack-patty-whack still riding Cadillacs" in "Get Back".
(Sunday 29 January 2006)
Mariah on the Dutch show "Idols"
Martijn Krabbé from the Dutch show "Idols" met Mariah in England on December 4, 2005 (the day of the "Mimi" CD signing at HMV) for an interview. The interview was aired as part of the "Idols" show on December 31, 2005.
(Sunday 29 January 2006)
Don't forget about us
Go to Universal Music Germany and listen to 4 different versions of Don't Forget About Us (Radio Edit, Ralphi & Craig J. Anthomic Vocal Mix, Tony Moran Radio Edit, and Remix feat. Juelz Santana & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony).
(Saturday 28 January 2006)
Mariah wins six Groovevolt Music and Fashion Awards
In what will come as a surprise to few, Mariah Carey dominated the third annual Groovevolt Music and Fashion Awards, taking home victories in all six categories in which she was nominated. Carey's record haul includes honors for Album of the Year.
(Friday 27 January 2006)
Dear Fred. The No. 38 debut of Gavin DeGraw's "We Belong Together" got me thinking. What is the shortest amount of time between two songs with the same title (not cover versions, but different songs) hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100?
(Friday 27 January 2006)
Mariah's Grammy Awards performance
An official press release made by The Recording Academy states the following: "Hezekiah Walker & Love Fellowship Choir will sing to the rafters with previously announced performer - and current eight-time Grammy nominee - Mariah Carey."
(Thursday 26 January 2006)
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