Mariah Carey, whose new recording contract and new album, "Charmbracelet," are the beginning in a campaign to rebuild her career. Is there a vacuum waiting to be filled? Or have people lost interest?
New York Times
The Mariah Carey Story Isn't Over
By KELEFA SANNEH
HOW do you turn a pop star into a movie star? Here is one formula: create a movie loosely based on the star's life. Let's say the hero is a poor kid blessed with virtuosic vocal abilities and chasing a dream of fame and fortune. The hero has problems with Mom — that's a good way to inject dramatic tension. To establish the importance of talent, there is a nightclub scene where the hero is handed a microphone and asked to improvise. And the movie ends on an ambivalent note: after a triumphant performance, the hero seems to walk away from the music industry, at least for the moment.
Last month, this formula seemed foolproof: "8 Mile," starring Eminem, helped turn a controversial rapper into a mainstream celebrity. But last year, the exact same formula derailed one of this era's most successful music careers. The movie was "Glitter," and it was meant to be a star vehicle for Mariah Carey. Instead, the film and the accompanying album flopped, and the twin failures — accompanied by lurid reports about the singer's personal life — turned Ms. Carey into a laughingstock. Her record label, Virgin, was so spooked that it paid $28 million to release her from her contract.
Now Ms. Carey is ready for her comeback. She has a new record contract, and her new album, "Charmbracelet" (MonarC/Island Def Jam), is due out on Tuesday. It's an odd comeback attempt, because most people can't be sure exactly what Ms. Carey is coming back from. She has to make her fans forget a movie they probably didn't see and an album they probably didn't buy.
This is either a terrific time or a terrible time for Ms. Carey's revival. Her competition has thinned out, but so perhaps has her audience. The glamorous women with whom she once shared the spotlight aren't so popular anymore. Celine Dion put herself out to pasture in Las Vegas, Whitney Houston is trying to dig herself out of a deep hole, and Christina Aguilera may have just dug herself into one. Faith Hill and Shania Twain both have new albums, but they're not the dominant forces they once were. Right now, the country's most popular balladeer is probably what's-her-name, from "American Idol."
Is there a vacuum waiting to be filled, or have people lost interest? So far, the signs suggest the latter. The lead single from "Charmbracelet," "Through the Rain," is the sort of self-help ballad Ms. Carey was singing a decade ago, but it hasn't been a hit with radio D.J.'s. So Island Def Jam has declined to release a retail version, and Ms. Carey is looking ahead to the second single, "The One," an airy midtempo song produced by Jermaine Dupri.
Ms. Carey, 32, says she approached "Charmbracelet" in much the same way she approached her previous albums. "I didn't do it to answer people, or to justify my validity as an artist," she says, sitting on a couch in a recording studio in Manhattan, where she lives. "It really was just about an emotional outlet for me. That's what writing and singing always is."
Writing and singing is also big business, of course, and Ms. Carey surely knows that if she sells, say, only a million copies of her new CD, it will be considered a failure. But she also knows that her best bet for success is an old-fashioned Mariah Carey album; for better and for worse, the new disc hews closely to her tried-and-true approach. Her task is not to reinvent herself; on the contrary, it's to convince her fans that she is more herself than ever.
ANYONE who rents "Glitter" in the hope of seeing the worst film of all time will be disappointed. True, it has the leisurely pace and linear plot of a mediocre television movie, as if it were made to be perused rather than watched. But it's no "Battlefield Earth." And while the 1980's-inspired soundtrack did not have nearly enough catchy tunes, it did include a cover of the Robert Palmer hit "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," as well as a new song written by Rick James. (By far the most entertaining artifact from Ms. Carey's disastrous 2001 is David LaChapelle's garish — and hilarious — music video for "Loverboy," a song from the movie soundtrack, in which Ms. Carey squeezes into a snug pair of shorts and waves a checkered flag at a bunch of car-racing rappers.)
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