Mariah interview on MTV Overdrive

Tuesday 21 February 2006

Mariah sat down with VJ Sway and talked about "The Emancipation of Mimi" album and her collaborations with Jermaine Dupri for a pre-Grammy interview on MTV Overdrive. Mariah also talked about the "Butterfly" album and described it as "ahead of its time", her songs "Breakdown", "The Beautiful Ones" and "Babydoll" as some of her "favorite little gems" and "Underneath The Stars" as one of her best writings both lyrically and melodically.

Sway: First and foremost, congratulations on your Grammy nominations, including album of the year.
Mariah: Thank you.

Sway: I know "The Emancipation of Mimi" - this has to be very gratifying for you.
Mariah: It's incredibly gratifying and I think we've spoken a couple times throughout this project and it's just been one incredible blessing after another. So it's amazing.

Sway: You and Jermaine Dupri - this is like an award winning tandem, the two of you. Every time you guys come together, you always produce hits. At what point did you decide to work with Jermaine on this album?
Mariah: I always want to work with Jermaine. I've worked with Jermaine on every actual album that I've done, but this time around he was really busy with Usher in the beginning of the recording process of the word. It wasn't that I called and he was like, "Oh I'm busy with Usher." No, he was just out winning awards with Usher and I was just like, "Let me do other things" and whatever. Then I saw him in Mexico, played him some of what I had. He had certain favorites, one of which didn't even make it onto the album. We were planning on working together, and finally I was fifteen songs deep into the record and both L.A. Reid and Benny Medina were like, "Why haven't you and JD gotten together yet?" I was just like, "I don't know. Maybe he's busy". I called him and he's like, "Come down tomorrow." So I came down there, my usual two or three in the morning arrival. They were like, "Thanks", because typically they're going out to the club at that time. So we worked until six or seven in the morning and I think the first one we did - we did "It's Like That" and "Shake It Off".
Jermaine: I wasn't even part of her record at first. It was just something that L.A. was determined to do. He's like, "Yo, you just gotta go." He tells me one of his favorite records is one of the records that I did which was "Always Be My Baby" a long time ago. That's one of his favorites and he was like, "One of the biggest records you ever made was with Jermaine and he's not on this record." So he sent her to Atlanta and we got in the studio. The first record we made was "Shake It Off". I think that was the first record we made. Then the second record we made was "Get Your Number". That was the second record. Then she went back home and played those songs and L.A. was like, "Y'all seem like y'all got something."
Mariah: Nobody could tell me that "Shake It Off" wasn't going to be my first single and my favorite song. All my friends were like, "You've got to put that song out first," just from the demo. I was like, "I know. I love it. I don't know what to do." So then L.A. was like, "You guys should go back down there. Go back to Atlanta and do one more just to see what happens because you make magic together."
Jermaine: When I went in the studio that was my whole thing just like, "Mariah let's make records that remind me of the records that I used to hear before I even worked with you." I had to give her a piece of me and at the same time she gave me a piece of her and we collaborated together. It became something that's unbreakable at this point. We belong together.

Sway: Okay, let's talk about "It's Like That". I want to understand where you come up with some of these lyrics because they're some of the catchiest lyrics and when you listen to them you go, "Wait a minute. What made her think of 'them girls are ash and I'm lotion'"?
Mariah: It actually says, "them chickens is ash and I'm lotion". We were sitting around basically having jokes. I put so much time and effort into my lyrics usually and usually I'm alone on a beach just writing and scribbling things out and going over and over, but when I do get with people that I like to work with and collaborate lyrically with it's cool particularly when it's from the school of people that do rap music as well because obviously I'm a big hip-hop fan. Also it's a different perspective and a different take on things. So I was sitting there and we're just joking around and Johnta Austin who also worked on the song with us - I think everybody else had passed out at that point - and we were sitting there on the beanbag chairs because Jermaine has these beanbag chairs in the studio. We're like making up stupid stuff just to entertain ourselves at this point. Then Jermaine came back in the room and we're all sitting there going something about ash and lotion. I don't even know how it happened, but it was like, okay here's the rational. We're not calling somebody ashy. We're actually saying, "You are ash and we're lotion." So basically, you are the antithesis of us. Basically I'm talking to the guy like, "Them chickens is ash and I'm lotion. You need to get rid of them and I'm the antidote." It's just to make the girls going out to the club that night feel good. I look at it as a feel good lyric, like you're getting ready to go out, you're in the mirror. You don't know about this because you're not a girl. Guys just get dressed and go. Girls, we take time. We put on the music we want to listen to. We get the make-up together. We're in the mirror like, "Them chickens is ash and I'm lotion" getting ready to go out. I was like, "We need to inspire the girls." You know what? Never did I think after all these years of writing songs and being like, "No, I can't say that. No. No," that "Them chickens is ash and I'm lotion" is going to be the Grammy nominated song.

Sway: That's great though. However you can get it.
Mariah: You know what? It's fun though because it's like the real me having a good time and that's what's really cool about it.

Sway: The Calgon lyric. What is it?
Mariah: JD. It's, "just like the Calgon commercial." He was saying, "I gotta get away" and I was like, "I like that, but I think maybe we could come up with something a little more specific. So we went back and forth and came up with "I gotta shake it off" and so many people are telling me that's their favorite song because they can apply it to a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a life situation, a job, whatever. You've got to just shake everything off. So when was saying, "I gotta get away", I guess that probably inspired the Calgon "take me away" thought to come into his mind. Bow Wow was in the other room. I was like, "JD, people don't know Calgon 'take me away'. That's from like 1901. Don't nobody know that anymore." He was like, "Yes they do. We goin' bring it back" and I was like, "Alright, we'll see." So I went in the other room and I'm like, "Bow Wow, do you know something called Calgon 'take me away'?" He was like, "I know it from Snoop" because Snoop used it in a song. So I was like, "Alright, Bow Wow knows it. Okay."

Sway: He knew what it was? Bow Wow knew what it was?
Mariah: He didn't know what it actually was. He just knew that Snoop used it.
Jermaine: "Shake It Off" was called something else. I can't remember what the song was when we first started making the record, but it wasn't "Shake It Off". It was something else and it had something to do with, "I gotta get away from this situation." Even though that's what "Shake It Off" means, "I gotta let it go. Get away from me." It was something closer to meaning "get away". The only thing I could think of with the "get away" type of thing at that point was Calgon "take me away". I thought it explained best "to get away", but I think when I said it I was showing my age too because the Calgon commercial ain't been on in the last ten years or something. So she was like, "Calgon? Nah!" She wasn't with the Calgon line. Then she was like, "It's too old. Don't nobody say Calgon no more." Maybe it was vintage, but I think it was a vintage line that became something where people were like, "What is Calgon?" Bow Wow didn't know what Calgon was. She asked him. He said he thought Snoop said something about it before, but I think he was thinking about Calvin. The younger generation, they ain't understand what Calgon was.

Sway: So finally, in your opinion, in comparison to your previous albums, what separates The Emancipation of Mimi from those and why do you feel like it resonated so well with radio and the audience and now the Grammy's?
Mariah: I feel like timing is really everything in a lot of ways. I do feel like I had to go through some struggles and learn some lessons and be publicly stepped on to be embraced in a lot of ways because that's just human nature. If I had to rate my own stuff, I definitely still love Butterfly as an album. I think not to be like, "Whoa! I'm so ahead of my time" but perhaps it was a little ahead of it's time because songs like "Breakdown" and songs even like, I did a duet with Dru Hill on that record of a remake "The Beautiful Ones", and "Babydoll" is still one of my favorites. I was playing it the other day when I was getting ready and Tasha who was doing my hair said, "Oh is this something new? Are you putting this out?" I'm like, "No. This is from Butterfly, but they never released it." A lot of those songs that are my favorite little gems never got put out. Even on an album as big as Daydream, I was still under the control of a huge conglomerate that didn't want me to go to urban. So even after three huge hits, "Fantasy" which the pop people were only allowed to know it was a pop song. They didn't know the O.D.B. version. Now everybody knows that because...

Sway: That was the version!
Mariah: Right, but to the suits that wasn't the version. Then "One Sweet Day" and "Always Be My Baby" - still they made me put out a real straightforward ballad and I wrote it. I know how to do that, but I wanted a song called "Underneath The Stars" which to me is some of my best writing lyrically, melodically, and in every way, and it was never released. So I think that this time around, the great thing is the songs that I love were allowed to be released. The people that I'm dealing with - everybody at the label - is so supportive of me being me and I think the fact that L.A. Reid came was really a godsend because he didn't try to put me in a box that I don't belong in. He didn't try to say, "Let's try to capitalize on what - people think this or people think that." He was just like, "You make great records and I love what you do" and I was like, "Hi. I love what you do and you've inspired me to be the writer and artist that I am." It was such a blessing to have someone there who understands and gets it. So for the first time it was like, "Let's just do you."

Sway: All the ducks were lined up and here we are.
Mariah: Here we are and it's a blessing. Truthfully I believe that it's about faith. Above and beyond everything, it's about never losing sight of the fact that God put you through everything you go through for a reason and if you don't lose faith through all that, you make it through and all your blessings will be even more abundant than ever before.

Sway: Thank you very much.
Mariah: Thank you.

Sway: Alright. Good luck at the Grammy's. See you there.
Mariah: Thank you. Okay. Alright dahhhling.

Sway: Very well. Glad we did this.
Mariah: Yes I am. I'm sorry it was such a drama with the clothes.

(Mariah Daily)

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