[17 April 2008]
Get ready for Mariah mania.
In case you’ve missed Mariah Carey on MTV’s premiere party for “The Hills” or on the “American Idol” charity event “Idol Gives Back” or “Saturday Night Live” or on the new heavy-rotation Macy’s ad, the singer would like you to know she has a new album, “E=MC2” (Island Def Jam), in stores on Tuesday. She’ll be on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Monday and back on “Idol” Wednesday to remind you, in case the countless airings of her new No. 1 single, “Touch My Body,” on radio and the video channels somehow doesn’t.
|MARIAH’S NO. 2 AT HITTING NO. 1 With her current single, “Touch My Body,” topping the charts, Mariah Carey notches her 18th No. 1 single, putting her in second place among all artists in the rock era, only two behind The Beatles. How many of these do you remember? (We offer some handy five-word summaries if you don’t.) “Vision of Love” (1990, four weeks at No. 1): Big ballad. Realize the duh-ream. “Love Takes Time” (1990, three weeks): Big ballad. Not Whitney, OK? “Someday” (1991, two weeks): Dancey, sorta. Ooh, ooh someday. “I Don’t Wanna Cry” (1991, two weeks): Big ballad. Acoustic guitar plinking. “Emotions” (1991, three weeks): Funky, sorta. Dog whistle scream. “I’ll Be There” (1992, two weeks): Michael Jackson remake. Cute, unplugged. “Dreamlover” (1993, eight weeks): Midtempo. Dreamlover, come rescue me. “Hero” (1993, four weeks): Big ballad. See the tuh-ruth. “Fantasy” (1995, eight weeks): Dancey. Poppy. “Genius of Love.” “One Sweet Day” (1995, 16 weeks): Sorry, I never told you ... “Always Be My Baby” (1996, four weeks): Do doo do doodoo down. “Honey” (1997, two weeks): Hip-hoppish. Diddy. Mariah, on fiah. “My All” (1998, one week): Big ballad. Remix was better. “Heartbreaker” (1999, two weeks): “Fantasy”- like. Only with more Jigga. “Thank God I Found You” (2000, one week): Big ballad. With 98 Degrees. “We Belong Together” (2005, 14 weeks): Oh babybaby, we belong together. “Don’t Forget About Us” (2005, two weeks): Smooth R&B. Speaking from experi-uh-ooh-unce.|
What a difference a hit makes.
When Carey rolled out “The Emancipation of Mimi” in 2005 after a run of underperforming albums, everyone was far more cautious, with high-profile gatekeepers all taking a wait-and-see attitude. That album became a multiplatinum smash, though, and now it seems everyone is jumping on the Mimi bandwagon faster than you can say “We Belong Together.”
It’s the kind of launch that hasn’t been seen in the music industry in years, one that makes the recent campaign for Carey’s labelmate Janet Jackson or for Madonna’s upcoming “Hard Candy” album later this month seem tiny by comparison.
“She is saying, `No, really, I am back,’ that `Mimi’ was no fluke,” says Ann Donahue, the Billboard senior editor who interviewed Carey for the trade magazine’s current cover story. “`Mimi’ was the biggest-selling album of the year when it came out, and she and her people anticipate that this album could be in the running for this year. They’re willing to do whatever it takes.”
Island Def Jam Music Group chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid says Carey is driven by her “will to be the greatest.”
“I love her commitment to her career,” Reid says. “She really works hard - day and night. She writes and records songs day in and day out. I really love that about Mariah.”
It’s a whole lot of serious business for an album that the Long Island native says is about having a good time.
“This is a fun record, probably the most fun record I’ve ever had, and that’s tough to say after `The Emancipation of Mimi,’” Carey says, with a smile, “but in my opinion, it really is.”
It’s a vibe that definitely comes across on the lighthearted video for “Touch My Body,” which features Jack McBrayer from “30 Rock” as a geeky, fantasizing cable-modem repairman. Carey says she worked with numerous co-writers, performers and producers - from the Dirty South’s T-Pain (“Migrate”) to reggae royalty Damian Marley (“Cruise Control”) to her longtime pal Da Brat (“O.O.C.”) - to make sure the album reflected her life.
“This is such an extension of me,” Carey says. “I put so much into it.”
The results have been well-received so far.
“This is her doing what she does best, her fitting into fashion,” says Bill Crandall, AOL Music editor-vice president. “She has always been able to get on the latest pop trend and do it capably.”
“Touch My Body” hit No. 1 after less than two months on radio and one week of availability in Internet stores, setting a record for most download sales in a week. That success moved Carey into second place in music history for the most No. 1 singles with 18, passing Elvis Presley and putting her within striking distance of The Beatles.
It’s a record that has left many casual music fans scratching their heads, though even Carey takes it in stride. “I really can never put myself in the category of people who have not only revolutionized music, but also changed the world,” Carey told the Associated Press. “That’s a completely different era and time. ... I’m just feeling really happy and grateful.”
AOL’s Crandall says longevity may be what puts Carey, still only 38 after 17 years in the business, in such rarefied company and what may ultimately get her the record. “It is hard to put her in the same category with the Beatles and Elvis,” he says. “She never defined a generation. Mariah has not had that impact on the culture. You can’t necessarily run off a bunch of her songs. Does she have a great voice? Yes.”
Crandall says music’s all-time records are a bit like baseball’s Hall of Fame, where players who have long careers get in alongside players who dominated the game for a short time. “The Beatles are Sandy Koufax, they were the best musical entity on the face of the Earth at their time,” Crandall says. “Carey is 20 times the singer of most people on the charts, but she is not a cultural force. Don’t mix up greatness with longevity.”
However, for many, it is Carey’s longevity - not necessarily her current career resurgence - and her ability to battle adversity that has made her so inspiring. “She’s incredible,” says singer Leona Lewis, a chart-topper herself who is being described by many as the next Mariah Carey. “I listened to a lot of her stuff when I was younger. She’s such a great artist. I think it’s so great that she’s still successful and had such a long-standing career.”
Billboard’s Donahue says neither Carey nor Island Def Jam execs spoke about the looming Beatles record, but that “E=MC2” could offer a serious challenge.
“You hear it and you’re like, `This is a single, oh, that’s a single, too,’” Donahue says. “They may not say they’re going for the Beatles’ record with this album, but it sounds like they’re going for it.”
And this time out, they will have plenty of help.