Since the turn of the century, Mariah Carey’s once-seemingly indestructible career has twisted and turned, going up and down and back around like that roller-coaster ride in the video for “Fantasy,” one of her biggest songs from the last century.
Ups: The Emancipation of Mimi, the best selling album of 2005 in the US, which featured “We Belong Together,” the biggest solo single of Carey’s career, and a well-reviewed supporting performance in the Oscar-nominated 2009 film Precious. Downs: a flop film/soundtrack combo (2001’s Glitter), under-performing albums and singles and that public meltdown that sent her star shooting in the wrong direction for most of the first half of the millennium.
Now that star is in a state of flux, teetering, thanks to her last album, 2009’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, which yielded mixed results. Though it received decent reviews, it launched only one Top 10 single (the Eminem-dissing “Obsessed”), and became her first studio album not to at least go platinum. A Memoirs remix album, Angels Advocate, was scrapped, and not even a tacked-on Nicky Minaj cameo could pull “Up Out My Face,” the first single from the aborted project, higher than No. 100 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
But through the rain (to quote the title of one of her downs), nobody ever accused Carey of being over. In fact, the timing might be perfect for her to launch a full-scale comeback, which unofficially began on March 1 with a forty-minute show at New York City’s Gotham Hall, her first performance since giving birth to twins Moroccan and Monroe on April 30, 2011.
Adele is helping to make the Hot 100 once again safe for sisters with voices, and the death of Whitney Houston has increased the void that she and Carey spent the ’90s filling. Like Houston, she specializes in the sort of big, melismatic R&B ballads that have been MIA from the tops of the pops for several years now. Carey could use one to claw her way back to the top of the diva heap, but she’ll need a sturdy comeback plan. Here are five guidelines she should scribble on it.
Choose your collaborators wisely. Carey has released little new music since 2009, aside from her second holiday album, 2010’s Merry Christmas II You, and a re-recording of her own “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with Justin Bieber for Under the Mistletoe, his 2011 Christmas album. Though that’s precisely the kind of collaboration she should avoid in the future (a forty-something woman need not be seen and/or heard cavorting musically with a teenager), the recent news that she’s been in the studio with Jermaine Dupri, who co-wrote and co-produced “We Belong Together,” is already music to these cautiously optimistic ears.
Sure Carey could probably score at least one quick hit by hooking up with Dr. Luke, will.i.am or David Guetta, but why chase after the scraps that all of those other pop divas have been picking on, or invite such overexposed rappers like Minaj and Lil Wayne into the studio to spice up whatever she’s cooking up? She and her longtime cohort can produce a gourmet meal that fans won’t be able to feast on anywhere else.
Keep leaving “dem babies” at home. It was wise of her to refer to her twins with husband Nick Cannon only in onstage banter at the New York City show and not actually trot them out. Sex sells, and although motherhood is sexy, nobody wants to see Carey pushing around twin baby strollers in a little black dress.
Get involved: Sign up for as many extracurricular activities as possible. It’s hard to imagine that Jennifer Lopez would have scored a comeback hit last year with “On the Floor,” or a plum spot Oscar-presenting with Cameron Diaz at this year’s Academy Awards if she’d never signed on as an American Idol judge. (Does that mean she has Idol to blame for that unfortunately exposed nipple while co-presenting Best Costume Design and Best Makeup?)
Carey was at one point mentioned to fill the Idol seat that Lopez eventually snagged. Now that Paula Abdul is gone from the US X Factor, Carey should lobby hard with Simon Cowell to take her place and then use the show to launch the first single from her next album.
And don’t forget, you’re an actress, too. After a few false starts, Carey finally proved herself in Hollywood with her small but pivotal performance as a supportive social worker in Precious. Since Whitney Houston is no longer around to reprise her role as Savannah in the planned sequel to Waiting to Exhale, Carey should make sure that she, and not Oprah Winfrey, as has been suggested, is next in line to replace her.
Act your age, not Katy Perry’s. Carey once told me during an interview, that her baby-doll persona is totally wink-wink: those sideways glances, the fluttering of her eyelids, calling fans her “lambs””all an act. I got the joke, but unfortunately, it only made it easier to believe she’d suffered a serious breakdown in early 2001, since she’d always acted a little… off.
Now that she’s in her forties, it’s time to overhaul the life-size-Barbie image. Adele became the biggest pop star in the world without a single gimmick. Carey should follow suit and rely solely on her voice. It’s still in working order, and for all her ups and downs this century, it’s the one thing that hasn’t failed her yet.
Hip hop heroes did more than disappoint this weekend when headliners for the First Annual Playground Music Festival skipped their sets, leaving fans and promoters scratching their heads and looking for refunds.
The event was billed as a two-day hip hop, rock and electronic festival, suited for all ages, and promised 200 bands over thirteen stages. Hosted by Nick Cannon and headlined by The Game, E-40, Too Short, Big Sean, New Boyz, Panic! At The Disco and The Bravery, it even boasted appearances by Lindsay Lohan and Pete Wentz.
When gates at Hidden Valley, Irvine opened at noon on Saturday, the mostly vacant parking lot was an early warning sign that the 30,000 capacity outdoor venue might not be packed that day. Once inside, fans found their way across thirteen stages strewn throughout the Hidden Valley property, ultimately leading to the main stage, where Game was expected to perform his Number 1 album, R.E.D. later that evening.
With no signage or announcements of show schedules and stages, it was tough for fans to find the sets they came to see. Luckily, we caught OurStage’s own ForestPunk delivering one of the best rap performances I’ve seen in years. The twenty-year old Los Angeles native spit thirteen tracks in his hour-long set, which included an eclectic range of thought-provoking prose over heart-pounding dubstep beats, up against his softer-sounding songs like Scary Monster over acoustic guitar. His set-closing number, Bad Monkey had tinges of Lupe-inspired sound fused with the insight and confidence expected from an artist twice his age.
As the night moved on, Shiny Toy Gunz and The Cataracs gave lackluster performances to an eager but small crowd. As the lock neared 8PM, the sound plug was abruptly pulled and an announcement followed that Game won’t be performing tonight. Show is over. Please proceed to the exits. No talk of refunds or rescheduling followed, only herds of fans rushed through the grounds with no explanation as to why. Too Short and E-40 also missed their headlining slots, with the entire night going up in smoke.
You’re sitting there, enjoying Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, when all of a sudden Gore Vidal appears on screen to discuss the political implications of Bieber’s evolving hairstyle. OK, that didn’t happen, but the following actual rock doc commentators are just as jarringly inappropriate:
7. Stones in Exile
Will.i.am, Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair
I don’t even want to hear what Will.i.am thinks about The Black Eyed Peas, never mind what he has to say about The Rolling Stones’ masterpiece Exile on Main Street. Sheryl Crow shows up to tell us how much musicians revere the album. Was there literally no one else available? Due respect to Sheryl Crow, but her music doesn’t exactly evoke the gritty swinging awesomeness of Exile. And finally, Liz Phair seems to be included strictly by virtue of the reference in the title of her first LP, Exile in Guyville.
6. The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks
Adam Goldberg, Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis
Unless they have some direct connection with the artists, I can’t get down with listening to actors talk about being a fan. Yeah, I’m a fan, too, that’s why I’m watching this. What possible insight are you providing me? What’s that you say? Yes, I know, I feel the same way. We’re both fans, you see. Wait, did you produce their last record? Oh, me neither. I think these three actors are all great, but what are the chances that the (at the time) romantically-linked Goldberg and Ricci each have something independently valuable to add to my understanding or appreciation of The Flaming Lips?
- Glee creator has a big helping of humble pie. Nom nom nom.
- Nick Cannon wants to be Ryan Seacrest. Wait, who’s Nick Cannon again?
- Just another song about being in da club.
- Britney Spears sure hops up and down good, ya’ll.
- We wish more artists would play albums-in-full on tour. We’re talking to you, Arcade Fire.
- It’s official, we’re over Odd Future. Yeah, we said it.
- Any chance Elton John’s kid had at being normal just went out the window.