Articles 1991 - Heroes of Mariah

From Washington Post (All rights reserved)(extract)
Mariah Carey Up for 5 Music Awards
Newcomers [Mariah Carey] and Wilson Phillips collected a total of nine nominations. Carey, the 20-year-old who rocketed to the top of the charts with her debut single "Vision of Love," was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year (both for "Vision of Love"), Album of the Year ("Mariah Carey"), Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocalist. It is only the third time in the history of the Grammy Awards that an artist has been nominated for Record and Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Carey's style has been likened to that of Whitney Houston, who will compete with her in the female pop vocal category.

From Ebony
Mariah Carey: 'Not another White girl trying to sing Black.'
Mariah Carey has a score to settle. Last summer, soon after her debut recording started racing up the record charts, she says a music critic referred to her as "another White girl trying to sing Black."

Carey, indisputably the hottest new artist of the year, was infuriated.

And now, here at a luncheon at Lola's restaurant in Manhattan, she has the perfect opportunity to set the record straight and "tactfully" correct the erring critic.

"I'm not a White girl trying to sing Black," the 20-year-old singer says in an interview soon after. "My father is Black and Venezuelan, my mother is Irish. That makes me a combination of all those things. I am a human being, a person. What I am not is a White girl trying to sing Black."

Though barely out of her teens, Mariah Carey is indeed her own woman. She grew up in New York with her mother, Patricia Carey, a vocal coach and former singer with the New York City Opera. Her parents divorced when she was three, and Carey had an "on-and-off" relationship with her father, Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer in Washington, D.C. (She has a brother, 29, and a sister, 30.)

"Some people look at me and they see my light skin and my hair," she says running a slender, neatly manicured hand through her long, semi-curly, honey-colored tresses for emphasis. "I can't help the way I look, because it's me. I don't try to look a certain way or sing a certain way. I'm just trying to be me. And if people enjoy my music, then they shouldn't care what I am, so it shouldn't be an issue."

Carey says she has always loved to sing, and she gives credit and thanks to her mother for the "genes." Her mother started giving her vocal lessons when she was four years old, and she spent considerable time around her mom's musically talented friends, soaking up the sounds of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan.

As a kid, she also spent a lot of time listening to the radio and her sister's records. The soulful sounds of Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Al Green were constant companions. She sang along and studied the lyrics and arrangements. By the time she was in high school, Carey was writing her own songs, several of which appear on her recording.

Gospel music was also a great influence. On occasion, she accompanied her paternal grandmother, who is Black, to a Baptist church. Even today, she says, "I get up and go to bed listening to gospel music." Her favorites include the Clark Sisters, Shirley Caesar and Edwin Hawkins, in addition to Aretha Franklin and Al Green.

Because she and her mother moved often, she didn't have many close friends or get involved in high school music programs. Instead, she spent after-school hours writing songs and making demo tapes with longtime acquaintance Ben Margulies.

In 1987, right after finishing high school at age 17, she moved from her mother's home on Long Island into a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with two other struggling performers. During this exceptionally lean period, she slept on a mattress on the floor and worked as a waitress, hat checker and restaurant hostess to make ends meet. Before and after work, she diligently shopped her demo tapes from record company to record company, but was basically ignored.

Eventually she began singing backup to Brenda K. Starr, and she was regularly doing studio session work. "We became good friends, and she helped me out a lot," she says of Starr. "She was always saying, `Here's my friend Mariah, here's her tape; she sings, writes. . . .'"

It was Starr who took Carey to the CBS party where she was discovered. At the party, Carey gave CBS (now Sony Music Entertainment) president Tommy Mottola a demo. In return, he gave her a "Great -- another demo tape" smile, and Carey assumed it was another dead end. But on leaving the affair, Mottola popped the demo into his limo's tape deck. He liked what he heard so much that he immediately returned to the party to find Carey. But she had already left.

Having no address or telephone number did not deter Mottola from tracking her down. Ironically, another record company had expressed mild interest in Carey, and a bit of a bidding war evolved.

In December 1988, she signed with CBS' Columbia Records. Within a week she wrote "Vision of Love" for her debut album. In fact, she wrote lyrics for all 11 songs on her self-titled LP, and she even produced "Vanishing."

Columbia went all-out to promote the lissome artist with the clear, passionate seven-octave voice, flexing a little clout to get her the coveted task of singing "America The Beautiful" at the 1989 NBA finals, where she was exposed to 16 million people. Both "Vision of Love" and "Love Takes Time" have gone gold, and the album has sold more than two million copies. Ironically, Carey wrote "Love Takes Time" for a second LP. But when Mottola heard it, he insisted on stopping the presses and adding the song to her debut album, even though some recordings were already in record stores.

Carey says she was just as startled as anyone that "Vision of Love" hit so big because "it isn't hip-hop music, it isn't house music, and it isn't rap. But I am so glad and thankful," she says. "That song really represents everything in my life. It is a song from the heart."

Consider the lyrics: "Prayed through the nights/Felt so alone/Suffered from alienation/Carried the weight on my own/Had to be strong/So I believed/And now I know I've succeeded/In finding the place I conceived."

Just why would such a seemingly tender womanchild write these words of despair and sing them with such deep passion?

"Well, just because you are young doesn't mean that you haven't had a hard life," she says with a knowing little smile. "It's been difficult for me, moving around so much, having to grow up by myself, basically on my own, my parents divorced. And I always felt kind of different from everyone else in my neighborhoods. I was a different person -- ethnically. And sometimes that can be a problem. If you look a certain way everybody goes, `White girl,' and I'd go, `No, that's not what I am.'"

Carey chose to express her innermost feelings in her songs rather than become depressed and bitter. "You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, `I'm proud of what I am and who I am, and I'm just going to be myself.'"

And for Carey, that translates into being a "respected" singer and songwriter. But her phenomenal success has not inflated her head or her bank account, for she has yet to realize any monies from the album's success. The days when she and two struggling roommates stretched out a boxed macaroni dinner for a week are still too vivid, she says.

"And, no, I don't let stuff like this go to my head, because success isn't a scale for talent," says the singer. "I don't want to be a `big star,' but I want to be respected as an artist. I'm delighted and very thankful [that people like her work].

"This is my love," she says emphatically. "I want to sing for the rest of my life."

At this point, she sings every chance she gets. In the studio. During promotional stops. In the shower. Around her one-bedroom Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. To the boyfriend/singer she's known since high school. To her two Persian cats.

"Singing makes me incredibly happy," she says. "Music makes me immeasurably happy."

Carey, Hammer take the Soul Train
Newcomer Mariah Carey and rap artist M.C. Hammer iced out the competition last night at the fifth annual Soul Train Awards, an event celebrating music by predominately black artists.

Carey won three awards, including best rhythm and blues-contemporary album for her self-titled debut "Mariah Carey," and for the song "Vision of Love" as best single. The New York native also won the best new artist award.

From Style New York daily News (All rights reserved)
The Pop-Gospel According To Mariah Carey 
Mariah Carey has the air of an ambitious teen-ager who was forced to grow up too fast. One-half diffident youth, one-half brusque sophisticate, she seems to be a woman who doesn't believe in wasting words. And her shyness is only partly concealed by the determined set of her jaw. 

One day last July, the 21-year-old singer, who had been up until 6 in the morning, was back in the studio by 2 in the afternoon, helping mix final vocals on her new album. She was clearly relishing her workhorse schedule. For, appearances to the contrary, Ms. Carey did not magically ascend from nowhere 15 months ago to the top of the pop charts. 

"Most people don't think I've paid any dues," she said during a break at Right Track Recording in midtown Manhattan. "But I condensed 10 years of work into 3. It was like fast-forwarding. I worked around the clock. I would waitress until midnight, then go to the studio and work till 7 in the morning on the album, then sleep, then do the whole thing again, day after day. No one helped me out, and I lived on very little money." 

That debut album, "Mariah Carey" -- one of the most intensively promoted in Columbia Records history -- has sold more than five million copies and won Ms. Carey a Grammy for best new artist of 1990. The follow-up, "Emotions" (Columbia 47980; all three formats), to be released Tuesday, arrives less than a year and a half later. Coming so soon on the heels of her megahit, the release cuts against conventional wisdom in the record business. Most pop stars wait two to three years between albums. 

"I discussed it with everyone," she said. "We decided I should put out a new album soon, because I was growing so much from the last album. 

"I wanted 'Emotions' to be more sparsely produced than the first one," she continued, "and for the most part it is. I also wanted to use the influences of all the music I loved, like Motown stuff and Stevie Wonder. I felt the uptempo songs were a little over produced on the first record." 

Both records feature Ms. Carey's technically impressive and impassioned pop-gospel singing. Few vocalists in any musical genre have voices as flexible as Ms. Carey's nearly four-octave instrument. 

The new record should mute critical dismissals of Ms. Carey as a Whitney Houston vocal clone, even though their albums have been made by many of the same hands. In the last year, Ms. Carey has succeeded in stealing some of Ms. Houston's thunder. Sales of "Mariah Carey" have exceeded those of Ms. Houston's third and latest record, "I'm Your Baby Tonight," by some two million copies. 

Ms. Carey is uncomfortable discussing the comparisons. But Walter Afanasieff, who helped arrange Ms. Houston's three albums and co-produced several tracks on "Emotions" with Ms. Carey, is not. 

"Mariah is a songwriter and producer as well as a singer," he said. "Whitney doesn't write songs and doesn't produce. She usually comes in and sings at the last stage of the recording process. Whitney has a beautiful voice, but Mariah has infinitely more control. Mariah will have 40 ideas of what to sing on a particular lick and choose the best. I think 'Emotions' will show a total separation between the two." 

Although most songs on "Emotions" stick to the pop-gospel format of the first album, Ms. Carey's profile has been dramatically sharpened with leaner, springier arrangements. And her vocal trademark -- in which she leaps into a high coloratura register and swings like a virtuoso trapeze artist -- is showcased much more effectively on "Emotions." If Ms. Carey's sonic feats are comparable to those of Yma Sumac or Minnie Riperton, what distinguishes them is a rhythmic charge. At the opposite extreme, Ms. Carey's dark lower register is showcased powerfully for the first time in "If It's Over," a collaboration with Carole King that harks back to Ms. King's late-60's classic, "A Natural Woman." 

Here and there, Ms. Carey's singing takes on a raw, rockish edge that recalls the soul belter Teena Marie. And on the album's final cut, "The Wind," she moves promisingly into the realm of jazz-torch singing. The song was discovered by Mr. Afanasieff on Keith Jarrett's "Paris Concert" album. Ms. Carey added her own lyrics. 

The only sign of pop immaturity on "Emotions" can be found in Ms. Carey's lyrics, which describe the rapturous highs and desperate lows of romance in blunt, strung-together pop cliches, with minimal rhyming. "You've got me feeling emotions," go the opening lines of the album's title song. "Deeper than I've ever dreamed of/ You've got me feeling emotions/ Higher than the heavens above." 

Ms. Carey, who seems much too practical to be the tortured romantic her lyrics suggest, insisted that her writing does not mirror a tempestuous love life. 

"Sometimes the inspiration is more real life than romance, but I make it about love because it's easier to write about, and more people can relate to it." 

Ms. Carey's no-nonsense attitude reflects the pragmatism of someone who has always viewed herself as independent. Her parents were divorced when she was 3. Her father, an aeronautical engineer, is black and Venezuelan. Her mother, Patricia Carey, who is of Irish descent, is a vocal coach and opera singer who was a soloist with the New York City Opera in the late 60's and early 70's. Her brother and sister, who are 9 and 10 years her senior, left home by their late teens. Beginning at age 7, Ms. Carey said, her only baby sitter was a little radio. 

"My mom and I almost grew up together," she said. "We were like a team. She used to bring me with her everywhere, and I was like a young adult at 5 or 6. Because she sometimes worked during the day and at night, I often had to stay home alone. It was what gave me my independence." 

The family moved 13 times, though at least during her teens Ms. Carey was able to stay in one place, Huntington, L.I., long enough to make friends. While most of them went off to college, she moved to New York to pursue her career. Obsessed with pop music since she was a toddler, Ms. Carey began songwriting at 13. Through friends of her brother, she met Ben Margulies, her first important collaborator. Together they wrote six songs for her first album, including the No. 1 hits "Vision of Love," "Someday" and "Love Takes Time." The two are now estranged because of a business dispute. 

"When we met she was 17 years old and I was 24," Mr. Margulies recalled the other day. "We worked together for a three-year period developing most of the songs on the first album. She had the ability just to hear things in the air and to start developing songs out of them. Often I would sit down and start playing something, and from the feel of a chord, she would start singing melody lines and coming up with a concept. 

"I'm looking forward to getting back together in the not too distant future and working again like we used to. Hopefully, art will prevail over business." 

Through Manhattan's musical network, Ms. Carey landed a job as a backup singer for Brenda K. Starr, a dance-music performer who became her outspoken champion. It was Ms. Starr who, at a record-industry party, dragged Ms. Carey over to meet Tommy Mottola, the president of CBS Records (now of Sony Music Entertainment), and gave him her tape. Mr. Mottola made Ms. Carey his protegee and served as executive producer of both records (published reports have linked them romantically, though neither will discuss their relationship publicly). 

The personalized star treatment undoubtedly jump-started her career, but it's likely her phenomenal gospel voice would have propelled her to the top of the charts anyway. Though Ms. Carey sounds as if she grew up singing in a Harlem church, she discovered gospel in a roundabout way. 

"When I was a little girl, my brother and sister were listening to records by Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight," she said. "When I got older, I found out that Al Green and Aretha Franklin had recorded gospel records, and I went out and bought them. From there I discovered the Clark Sisters, Shirley Caesar, Mahalia Jackson, Vanessa Bell Armstrong and whoever. I love that style because it's so free and real and raw." 

She was never tempted to study opera, although she has the voice for it. "I respect incredibly all the years of vocal training you have to have to sing that way," she said, "but it's just not me." Still, without her mother's example, she probably wouldn't have become a professional singer. 

"Because my mom did it for a living when I was young, I knew it could be more than a pipe dream," she said. "My mom always told me, 'You are special. You have a talent.' She gave me the belief that I could do this." 

If Ms. Carey is a major pop celebrity, she is the temperamental opposite of a star like Madonna, who demands attention, revels in controversy and loves performing. Although she has performed in public, Ms. Carey has yet to embark on a tour. Sooner or later, she realizes, she will have to make the leap. 

"I'm not a Broadway type of person," she said. "I'm something of an introvert, who is happiest when I'm creating in my own little world in the studio. I'm not into performing. I have to make myself do it because it comes with the territory. If I toured, I wouldn't have had another album out for at least another year. It's so hard on my voice. I need a lot of sleep, and my songs are all strenuous. Because I'm not a dancer-slash-singer, when I go out there people don't want to hear me just breeze through them. They want to hear every note. I'm definitely not going to do a full-out tour for this album either. 

"I don't want to be about hype and media," she continued. "I don't want to put myself in everyone's face and make them sick of me at this early stage of my career. I make pop music. That's what I do, and it makes me happy. I want to be around for a while."

From People Weekly
"Pop Meteor Mariah Carey Reaches Back to Aretha for EMOTIONS"
Mariah Carey is remembering the highlights of a trip she made to Los Angeles early last year. "I met Michael Jackson," she says. "he didn't know who I was, though."
Jackson would have had to spend the rest of 1990 sealed in a hyperbaric chamber to stay ignorant of Carey. Her debut album, MARIAH CAREY, full of catchy pop hooks and octave-busting crescendos, spent 22 weeks at BILLBOARD'S No. 1 spot. The first single, "Vision of Love," was everywhere at once, from boom boxes on the beach to in-flight airline 
sound systems. Two Grammy Awards capped the breathtaking rise of a twenty-year-old from Long Island who had been sweeping hair off the floor of a beauty salon barely two years earlier.

Now, with MARIAH CAREY having sold 7 million copies worldwide, the singer sits behind a mixing board at Right Track Recording on West 48th Street, finishing her new album, EMOTIONS. "I still don't think of myself as a big deal," she says. "There's so many pop fads, I can't start thinking of myself as a big deal.' In some ways, Carey seems to have remained downright girlish, doodling on a legal pad with a grease pencil as she talks, drawing tiny red hearts all over the page.
But it's clear Carey's trying to grow up and change musically. 
Unlike Whitney Houston, who's looked to hip-hop to spice up her slick pop sound, Carey looked backward for inspiration, to the soul and rhythm-and-blues of the late sixties and early eighties -- people like Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. "There's a rawness about those periods in R&B that's somewhat lacking today," she says wthout a hint of irony. 

"EMOTIONS has a little bit of an older-type vibe, a Motown feel. The music I like is vocally driven." Carey's got miles to go, however, before her music approaches the fierceness of Franklin's. EMOTIONS still has plenty of Top 40 sheen, 
particularly on the cuts produced with David Cole and Robert Clivilles, of C&C Music Factory. The trio collaborated on four up-tempo numbers, including the album's title song, which has an irresistibly bouncy bass line an Carey's signature vocal trick -- soaring high notes that most singers couldn't reach from the top of the Empire State Building.

But on other tunes, Carey's reined in the pyrotechnices a bit. 
Inspired by the Mahalia Jackson tapes she buys off late-night television, Carey's written "And You Don't Remember," a sentimental, gospel-heavy song about a fractured relationship that glides along on the whoosh of a Hammond organ. A jazz ballad called "The Wind" draws on Carey's sadness over the drunk-driving death of a young friend. Horns and the soulful 
guitar of Cornell Dupree, a veteran of some of Franklin's gems, punctuate the sassy "If It's Over," a song Carey wrote with Carole King. "She called and wanted me to do a cover of 'Natural Woman,'" Carey says. "I didn't want to, because Aretha's one of my idols and that's an untouchable performance." So King flew in from her home in Idaho and spent a day improvising with Carey.

Fame has also brought in less welcome guests. Gossip columns have said Carey and Columbia Records president Tommy Mottola were making private music together. ("I read that stuff and I throw it away," she says.) A critic dismissed her as "another white girl trying to sing black." (Her father is black, her mother white.) As she talks about these bumps in the road, Carey starts jabbing a small square of the legal pad with the grease pencil, over and over again, creating an oily red smear.

Carey's certainly happy with her new album, though, and she's shooting a new video to show her EMOTIONS. There'll be no tour, unfortunately -- "I like to travel," Carey says, "but it messes up my voice, because I have problems sleeping." With the rash confidence of a 21-year-old who's on top of the world, she says it wouldn't trouble her if EMOTIONS bombed -- the success of her first album has given her a sense of security. "If I wanted to stay home and write songs and make a 
moderate living, I could do that," Carey says. "I'm not worried that I have to go back and waitress."

From washington Post (All rights reserved) (extract)
Like Whitney Houston, to whom she's often compared, Mariah Carey possesses a marvelous voice, similarly rooted in R&B and gospel but more technically impressive. Indeed, Carey's soaring ascents into the coloratura range have become as much her trademark as they once were for the late Minnie Ripperton, but a little of this kind of thing goes a long way on "Emotions." Her octave-leaping stratospherics initially appear on the title track (already a Top 20 single) and punctuate several other typically lightweight lyrics, all of them composed by Carey. And as if her voice weren't big enough, the reverb-heavy sound mix sometimes creates the impression that Carey's words are ricocheting off the studio walls.

From Rolling Stone (All rights reserved)
Emotions review
A rookie success as spectacular as Mariah Carey's tends to spark a backlash, and Carey was derided by skeptics who saw that Columbia Records had spared no expense in accessorizing her with the most dependable collaborators money could buy. Emotions addresses the perception of Carey as a fabricated star, as well as the comparisons to Whitney Houston, by giving the twenty-one-year-old singer greater control: She wrote all the lyrics and coproduced all ten tracks. While it sustains her stature as a pop goddess, Emotions demonstrates the hazards of such calculations.

Like many young performers, Carey doesn't understand the value of understatement. "I Don't Wanna Cry" was the best track on Carey's debut because her downcast whispers animated the song's luxurious sorrow; at full speed her range is so superhuman that each excessive note erodes the believability of the lyric she is singing. On Emotions her eagerness to deploy her immense vocal range results in the overheated growling of "Make It Happen," a teary tale of how she kept her religious faith despite hard times.

Carey coproduced four songs with David Cole and Robert Clivillés, this year's pop-dance maestros, but the partnership doesn't fly: Their beats aren't as unrestrained and joyous as they are on their work with Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam or C + C Music Factory. Instead, they back Carey with pumping house keyboards and shamelessly recycle the chords of Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" and the Emotions' "Best of My Love" to construct the bubbly new-disco "Emotions."

On the other six songs, all ballads, Carey works with Walter Afanasieff, who produced "Love Takes Time" on her debut and also helped create Michael Bolton's bombastic soul. When the pace slows down, Carey does too, and Afanasieff can be an effective one-man orchestra: The moody grandeur of "And You Don't Remember" and "Can't Let Go" will sound great on the radio.

There's a conflict between Carey's thirst for musical challenges, like gospel choruses and the light jazz ballad "The Wind" which ends Emotions, and her dependence on commercial dance pop. Her goal is to elevate the Top Forty tricks of Janet Jackson and Karyn White with vocal greatness. On "If It's Over," Carey even invokes the style of Aretha Franklin's classic Atlantic sessions. Carey has spoken of Franklin as a hero, but there's an essential difference between their styles the daughter of a preacher, Aretha imbues even her dullest work with the spirit of the church, whereas Mariah's mother was an opera singer, a background that translates into such excesses as the falsetto whoops that punctuate so many of Mariah's songs. Carey has a remarkable vocal gift, but to date, unfortunately, her singing has been far more impressive than expressive.


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Heroes of Mariah 2000