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by David C
Cast aside any previous knowledge you thought you had of Mariah Carey's "emotional and physical breakdown". It's been glossed over, exaggerated, mocked and fictionalised to such an extent that it's easy to just label pop's biggest female star "Mental Carey" and joke about her with your mates without really knowing the truth.
Preceding the much-anticpated comeback single, "Through The Rain", set to be released in a few weeks, let's step back in time to 2000 before pop music's Cinderella publicly broke down and took in her first breath of failure.
After the success of the nine million-selling "Rainbow" in 1999, Mariah Carey needed a break from the music industry. After all, this was the girl that had released eight albums, an EP and over 25 singles in just 10 years. A break though it may be, Mariah (a well-known workaholic) didn't stop working. Half way through 2000 she set to work on her feature-length film debut, entitled "All That Glitters". Not only was MC starring in the film, she was also serving as a producer, executive producer and star of the film's hyped soundtrack.
The film was close to being an autobiography of Carey's life (no matter how much she tries to tell people otherwise) - a little girl with a big voice grows up an aspiring singer who gets into the music industry via a music honcho-boyfriend. Sounds familiar? To make the movie a bit more interesting, the story is set in the disco-filled 1980's New York scene. Carey, who's only other acting experience was music videos and a cameo in the 1999 film "The Bachelor", was the only actor from the film taking after-hours acting lessons. Half-way through shooting the movie, the songbird signed on to star in an independent film called "Wisegirls" and she started filming straight after "All That Glitters" stopped shooting.
Bad news hit Mariah on New Years Eve 2000, when long-time boyfriend (and basis for the song "Thank God I Found You") Luis Miguel ended their romantic relationship. Shaken, Mariah threw herself back into work with "Wisegirls" and the recording of the "All That Glitters" soundtrack. According to friends, work was Mariah's stress-cure. Leaving Sony, Mariah was signed to Virgin Records for the biggest record deal in history - 5 albums for 80 million USD. Soon after, the film's title was shortened to "Glitter" and Mariah perfected and shot the video for the first single - "Loverboy" - a brainless pop/R&B track that borrowed music from Cameo's "Candy".
By July 2001, with the release date for the "Glitter" movie and corresponding album looming, Mariah was in overdrive with promotion. Strangely, although not entirely surprisingly, "Loverboy" wasn't doing too well on the Billboard Hot 100. Floundering around the No. 40 mark, the song didn't make any sort of chart impact until Virgin cut the record to just 49 cents, after which the single flew to No. 2 but tumbled quickly. Her first unexpected flop single added stress to the already high-strung Carey, who on Total Request Live took host Carson Daly, the studio audience and the millions of viewers by surprise by performing an impromptu striptease, rambling, mumbling and giggling profusely.
A week later at a CD signing, Mariah was again acting strange, looking confused... she'd also left a series of worrying messages on her website claiming "I don't know who to trust right now... I don't feel that I should be doing music right now". It was evident: Mariah Carey was about to crack. Cinderella had stayed too long at the proverbial ball, and the clock was soon to stike midnight. And we all know that when the clock strikes midnight, Cinderella's dream comes crashing down and everything turns to Hell.
On July 25th 2001, Carey checked herself into a rehabilitation center, her publicist Cindi Berger citing "an emotional and physical breakdown". Breakdown - an ironic reminder of the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony collaboration from the "Butterfly" album four years earlier. Our Cinderella had officially lost her glass slipper.
With the megastar recovering, the album and movie were delayed. Virgin announced that the album would be released on September 11th, 2001. Carey's hopsital stint prevented any real promotion of the album to be possible. And, in what became the most frightening day of the 21st century, the World Trade Center was deliberately struck by two planes overtaken by terrorists. This chaos rocked the world, and any news of Mariah's new album and film were surely forgotten. As a result, "Glitter" managed to only sell 2 million copies (compared with "Music Box"'s 20 million) and the movie, released 10 days later, fared even worse, grossing only 2.6 million USD in it's first week, missing the US Top 10 and becoming an immediate Box Office flop.
Virgin Records had lost a lot of money from Mariah's commercial duds and the other singles released from the album: the UK single "Never Too Far"/"Don't Stop" and the US "Never Too Far"/"Hero"/"There For Me" weren't promoted well and were eventuated into single flops.
Mariah had hoped to rekindle the flame between herself and Luis Miguel at the end of the year, by taking him on a holiday in a ski resort in Aspen, but Miguel couldn't handle the songbird's emotional state and Mariah's hopes were dashed again. Too make matters worse, Virgin Records bought Mariah out of her five album deal, only nine months after signing. Mariah received the golden handshake from the music giant for a nearly 50 million USD after just one LP.
Also in December 2001 Carey checked herself into another clinic... only, not of the mental sort. She was attending a "fat farm". Convinced she'd piled on the pounds since her breakdown, Carey was determined to lose weight so that she looked good on her performance of the US National Anthem at the 2002 Superbowl. Luckily, Carey pulled off the (restrained) performance exceptionally well, and she'd be glad to know that she looked damn good.
"Wisegirls", the film in which Mariah played a waitress in a restaurant owned by the Mob, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2002, to great reviews. Unfortunately the film didn't find a cinema distributor and Cable network HBO picked it up. Mariah's hopes of redeeming herself after the disaster that was "Glitter" were dashed yet again. But that didn't stop her from getting on with her next album. Despite no record company backing, Carey pressed ahead, recording songs on the Capri island with producers like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, DJ Quik and Damizza.
After a month of record label-shopping, Maz decided on a three album (and option for a fourth) deal with Island Def Jam Music Group - a sibling company to Universal Music. Guess she'd finally found the glass slipper that fit. But why did Mariah choose Universal?
"I called her on the day of her release from EMI and I said, I think you are an unbelievable artist and you should hold your head up high," said Lyon Cohen, chairman of Island Def Jam. "What I said stuck on her and she ended up signing with us.
"I said to her, what's your competitive advantage? A great voice, of course. And what else? You write every one of your songs - you're a great writer. So why did you stray from your competitive advantage? If you have this magnificent voice and you write such compelling songs, why are you dressing like that, why are you using all these collaborations [with other artists and other songwriters]? Why? It's like driving a Ferrari in first - you won't see what that Ferrari will do until you get into sixth gear."
Does he think that EMI did Carey an injustice? "Certainly I would have done things different. You know, "Glitter" was a soundtrack, tied to a certain release date. They signed the deal just a matter of weeks prior to bringing the album to market - it doesn't feel like enough time. The most important thing I would have done would have been to communicate that this was a soundtrack - soundtracks don't sell as much as studio albums. And that soundtrack was one of the biggest-selling soundtracks of last year, but it wasn't spun that way."
R&B/Hip-Hop producer extroadinnaire Irv Gotti (Ja Rule, Ashanti) was brought in to help shape Mariah's debut Universal record.
Another blow struck Mariah on July 4, 2002. While the rest of the United States were out celebrating their independence, Mariah was informed of her father Alfred's death. Her dad had been battling cancer and had been in hospital for some months before his passing - Mariah would often spend hours at his bedside in New York and then fly back to Capri for recording. The final few months Mariah spent with her father were extra special, as the pair had been estranged for quite some time, but Carey rushed to his side when Alfred got sick.
August 2002: It is announced that Mariah's ninth studio album, rumoured to be simply titled "Mariah", will drop December 10th 2002 - just in time for the Christmas rush, with a single out in September - just 2 weeks before the cut-off date for the Grammys. Ol' 5-Octaves also launched her own record label - MonarC - the first and last letters capitilised to emphasize Mariah's initials. With all the drama surrounding the once-troubled songbird for over 12 months, it was time for Mariah to make her way into the spotlight once again... this time making sure that the light was focused on her new record - not anything else.
The new album has had the music industry buzzing with great reviews by those lucky enough to have heard it, as the recording of the material has been surrounded by high security atmosphere, after the unfortunate leak prior to the release of "Glitter".
Producer Damizza has declared that the new record "is off tha HOOK!" and Carey has decided that it's some of her best yet. Re-energised, Carey is clearly more than ready to tackle any obstacle that should stand in her way.
After 12 years in the music industry already, could it be that Mariah is well passed her use-by date? Not likely. This is one woman who knows how to make good music that appeals to a large variety of people. Her longstanding fame, fortune and fanbase is more than enough evidence to proove this. The release of her upcoming single, "Through The Rain", has had such good hype surrounding it, it could possibly be Carey's third UK No. 1 and her 16th US chart-topper...
...Well, it'll go something along those lines.
How do I know?
Well you know how the story goes: once she fits the glass slipper, Cinderella lives happily ever after.