'Memoirs' singer also takes on her haters
The first time I interviewed Mariah Carey was around 15 years ago. I was Billboard's newly minted talent editor and she was already a superstar. Her sweet, often angelic vocals made me think I'd be talking to some fragile creature, but she was a down-to-earth, slightly tough, city girl. And so she has remained. I interviewed her again last week for AOL.com. She's sold another 100 million or so albums, become richer than Croesus, and divorced and remarried since our first talk and she lives in that rarified air where only first names are necessary. But there's something about Carey that remains open and vulnerable in a way that still surprises me and makes interviewing her a delight. Below is my conversation with Carey with some additional material:
Mariah Carey doesn't go around proclaiming herself the Queen of Pop, but she would have good argument to do so. With 18 No. 1 songs on Billboard's Hot 100 to her credit, she is a lock to surpass the Beatles' record of 20 No. 1 to claim the title -- in fact Carey's the lone artist within striking distance. The only question is will the Fab Four's record tumble during the run of 'Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,' Mimi's just released CD.
Given Carey's aggressively happy marital union to 'America's Got Talent' host Nick Cannon, no one would be surprised if 'Memoirs' floated along on the puffy clouds of connubial bliss, one joyous paean to the glory of love after another. But they would be wrong. As much as 'Memoirs' celebrates the unexpected rapture she's found with Cannon, the collection mourns heartbreak in all its wrenching disguises.
Carey, who co-produced 'Memoirs' with Tricky Stewart and The-Dream took time out on the 'Memoirs' release day to talk to PopEater about her surprising bedside reading material, cross dressing, unsightly facial hair and her emotional message to those who feel the five-octave superstar needs to change her tune.
You've compared this album to taking pages from your private diary. How hard was it to revisit what were clearly some painful times?
You know what? It was easier to revisit the painful times because they're over and I wanted to let out how I was feeling. And in a way, letting it out when there's also humor attached to it is more therapeutic.
You can be very funny, but it's not a side you usually show on your records until now on songs like 'Obsessed' and 'Up Out of My Face.'
It's interesting because my friends know that my sense of humor is like 70% of who I am. It's had to be that way since I was a little kid. But my work didn't always tend to reflect that and I think that collaborating is fun and so, therefore, whatever you're feeling, you can bounce it off of somebody, where if you're just by yourself, maybe you wouldn't have the guts to say, "okay, maybe I'm just going to say this one line."
You told Elle that your favorite song is 'The Impossible' because you're in love for the first time. Did you fear love would never happen for you?
I don't think I feared it because I guess I almost didn't believe in it. I always had a connection spiritually and I felt that maybe that's where I was supposed to be and I made music and wanted to be creative. But, you know, I didn't really trust people. I didn't really trust [sighs] what it would be like to be in a relationship again because I'd been, you know ... so many times it had been disappointing. But the situation with Nick is totally different because we're very similar. We have a lot of the same likes and dislikes and we have so much fun together.
What would surprise us that you do for fun?
I go for walk in a semi-disguise. That's fun to me. I like to go to public places and do things that I would never get a chance to do. The other night, I went out wearing all Nick's clothes.
Did anyone recognize you?
Yeah, a couple of people. But the thing is if they recognize him, they're going to ... if he's holding someone's hand and walking with them, they're going to look and go, "Who is he with?"
And if he's holding someone's hand, he better be with you.
Exactly! You know that's right.
How did Nick influence this album?
I think being with Nick had a big influence on this album because we would just drive around and listen to it and there would be little things we would [suggest]. Just even little ad libs or things that I would do that would become our favorite little part. He's really into different groups from back in the day and so that's a really specific style and even if it's just a "yeah" (sings softly) like that, I did something that I knew he would think was cute. I might do it just to make him laugh and then that would be his favorite part. [laughs]
What do you want people to learn about you from 'Memoir' that they may not know about you yet?
I think there are a whole lot of different songs. They should hear the subtlety of 'H.A.T.E. U.,' but also the pain in that. And there's other songs like 'Angels Cry' [and] 'Languishing.'
Well, I feel like, "This is the way I feel sometimes" and I'm sure other people feel the same way. You don't have to be someone in the public eye to feel this way. It's kind of more about your personal relationships -- and I don't want to say which ones I'm referring to -- and how you feel about the people that are in your life and/or may be just observing your life. I just think that is like the antithesis of 'Obsessed.' I think that's why I made it the interlude to 'I Want to Know What Love Is' because it was, I don't know, like [quotes lyrics]: "Those ancient buried recollections/We transform them and select them/you have yours, I have mine/That's fine." There are a lot of people who rewrite history and change things and you're like, "I don't remember it happening that way."
You work very hard. Do you ever get to rest and breathe?
I do sometimes and it's better now because we have more places to live. Nick had a place out in L.A. and then we decided, OK, let's just do something together and really make it work for both of us and that's really been cool. We have a place in the Bahamas and so we can go to different places without having to rent them and do all that nonsense. So it's nice, it's relaxing and you can calm down and experience solitude.
In a recent USA Today piece, journalist Alan Light was quoted as saying that you've "affiliated [yourself] with urban musicians and that's a young person's game. It would be good for her..."
[Interrupts] I heard it. I don't agree. I heard the quote and he said he preferred that I stand there and sing.
Well, he said it would be good for you "to reestablish herself as a vocalist because that's her strength." How do you assess both parts of that comment?
OK, either he likes urban music but he doesn't like me singing urban music or he's someone who wants me to stand in the middle of stage and sing ballads. And that's cool, I'll do that, but honestly, my fans want to hear a variety of songs. Even back in the day, I was singing...People don't realize that 'Dreamlover' was based on a loop that a lot of rappers have used so that was way back when. I don't think people realize that it was a pop song [but] underneath it all it was produced by Dave "Jam" Hall, who would mainly work with Mary J. Blige and rappers. It's always been a love of mine to sing R&B music. But the thing is you can sing a song like 'The Impossible' or 'H.A.T.E. U' and you don't have to belt or sing out the whole time. I think 'I Want to Know What Love Is' does what he is referring to. Can I say one more thing? If they can't hear that I'm a vocalist from 'I Want to Know What Love Is' then I just don't know what they want me to do.
In August, Nick quoted the book of Genesis when he was tweeting a response to Eminem for taking you on in the song "The Warning." Then in Ell, when asked about where you wanted to be 10 years from now, you quoted Matthew 6:34. Were you always a student of the Bible or is that something that you two brought out in each other?
Actually, a friend of mine's mom gave me a student bible about 2004. You read it three times and then the last time you're reading every word, you're not skipping things, so I have been reading that bible pretty much every night for years and I learned a lot. Now I have to figure out, okay, what's my next bible? Is it going to be a devotional, because I really feel there's a lot we can learn. I'm not a religious fanatic. It's just something that I'm very spiritual and I do feel calmer when I read even just a little bit of the bible and go to sleep.
What did you take away from playing a very plain character in the movie "Precious?"
I think I'm less insecure...because you go that far, even allowing them to do a faux 'stache on you, it's just sort of like, "Okay, this isn't my greatest angle, but I've definitely looked worse."
Who else is slated to appear on country's biggest night?
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley will pull double duty at the 43rd annual Country Music Assn. Awards, serving not only as co-hosts, but as performers.
It may be the last time to see some of your favorites on TV for awhile: Brooks & Dunn are pulling the plug on their tremendously successful partnership after their next tour, while Chesney is taking a year or so off the road for a little down time.
The show airs live (EST), Nov. 11, on ABC from Nashville's Sommet Center.
It's a hodge-podge of album releases this week, from Keith Urban to Air
New music and album releases for Oct. 6, 2009:
Air, "Love 2" (Astralwerks): This French duo's fifth studio album combines atmospherics, electronica and their general je ne sais quois to strong effect in this song cycle about love.
Backstreet Boys, "This is Us" (Jive): Boy band returns for another go-round with collaborators old (Max Martin) and new (T-Pain). The group jumps on the vamp wagon with the video for their first single "Straight Through My Heart."
Michael Buble, "Crazy Love" (143/Reprise): The Canadian crooner mixes it up on his fourth album by recording largely live, as well as blending standards with modern-day songs about love, such the Eagles' "Heartache Tonight."
Built to Spill, "There is No Enemy" (Warner Bros.): Alternative band led by Doug Martsch's distinctive vocals keeps up its rep as one of the leading purveyors of guitar-based rock that spans the spectrum of the genre.
Brandi Carlile, "Give Up the Ghost," (Columbia): Folk-rock singer/songwriter with a knock- out voice pairs with the likes of the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray and Sir Elton John on her third, Rick-Rubin-produced set.
Daniel Johnston, "Is and Always Was" (Eternal Yip Eye Music/High Wire): Emotionally troubled-yet-beloved singer/songwriter mixes it up for his latest album by taking switching from his usual low-key recording efforts to going for multi-layered, lush production with Jason Falkner.
Toby Keith, "American Ride" (Show Dog Nashville): Country superstar delivers another album with the typical swagger, but there are also a few heartbreaking tunes on here, especially his wrenching farewell to his good friend, bassist/former NBA superstar Wayman Tisdale, who died of cancer earlier this year.
Kiss, "Sonic Boom" (Kiss): Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: Just like Garth Brooks, the Eagles and Journey before them, Kiss is offering this 3-disc set exclusively through the world's biggest retailer. "Sonic Boom," the band's first album since 1998, combines new material, remakes of classic hits and a live DVD.
Blake Lewis, "Heartbreak on Vinyl" (Tommy Boy) After parting ways with Arista, "American Idol" season 6 runner-up and beatboxer Blake Lewis releases a dance/beats-oriented album on a label known for its dance artists.
Noah and the Whale, "The First Days of Spring" (Cherrytree/Interscope): Part of London's new anti-folk scene, most folks in the U.S. still know this quartet from their music's usage in car commercial. On their second album, the band covers such big themes as love, loss and mortality. So big, in fact, that they had to make a film to accompany the CD.
Somebody snatches the top spot, and it's not Mariah, Babs or Madonna
While most eyes were focused on the divas--Mariah, Madonna and Babs-little Hayley Williams and her band Paramore were busy selling records. So much so that it looks like the Nashville-based rock band will come in at No. 1 next week with "Brand New Eyes."
The group is on track to sell around 195,000 copies, giving them a handy lead over Mariah Carey's "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," which will sell up to 170,000, according to Hits Daily Double.
Barbra Streisand could catch Carey, but will likely have to settle for No. 3 with "Love is the Answer." So where does this leave poor Madge with "Celebration," her greatest hits set? Madonna will have to settle for No. 8 or so...not too much to celebrate there.
Inbetween are a slew of new releases from Breaking Benjamin, Alice in Chains and Miranda Lambert, who will come in at No. 1 on the country chart with "Revolution." In fact, the only holdovers in the top 10 from last week are Jay Z, who falls from 2-6 and Pearl Jam, who dive from No. 1 to 9.
Somewhere, Taylor Swift has the last laugh
The "Fame Kills" tour is dead.
In a terse statement issued today, promoter Live Nation announced "that the Kanye West and Lady Gaga 'Fame Kills' tour has been cancelled. Refunds are available at point of purchase. Tickets purchased online and via phone will be refunded automatically."
No reason for the outing was given, however a number of outlets, including In Style and Star magazines are reporting that West is headed to rehab.
Additionally, West was still under a black cloud of negative publicity after he crashed Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at Sept. 13 MTV Video Music Awards. For those with short memories, West rushed the stage, grabbed the microphone from a stunned Swift, and declared that Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" was one of the videos of all time," implying that Beyonce should have captured the trophy for best female video rather than the budding country superstar. Prior to the awards show, he was seen swigging from a bottle of Hennessy.
West went on "The Jay Leno Show" the next night and attempted to redeem himself and indicated that he planned to take some time off to "reevaluate his career" and to properly mourn his mother's death. Following those comments, many observers were surprised when mere days later, the dates for the West/Gaga tour were announced (although the tour had been planned for months).
The tour was slated to start Nov. 10. Representatives for both acts were unavailable for comment by press time, according to the AP. Live Nation had no further comment.
We bow down to Eddie & Co.
At what point does a band cross over from merely great to iconic? I found myself asking that question at Pearl Jam's first of four shows at Los Angeles' Gibson Amphitheater on Tuesday.
Is it something as simple as when they get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? When they've reached a certain sales threshold? When their influence rubs off on a new generation of artists? The first two are arbitrary markers that indicate nothing but politics and a great marketing team; the latter carries more weight, but is too broad a definition.
For me, Pearl Jam became iconic last night in a concert that was so transcendent my heart is still racing. And that has happened every time I've seen the band over the past 18 years. Pearl Jam is a band I've followed since "Ten" came out in 1991. So many critics consider the group in a lesser light than its Seattle compadres Nirvana. Not me. Even before Kurt Cobain died and ascended into sainthood, Pearl Jam's feral music, bolstered by Eddie Vedder's growl that was always more expressive and seductive than menacing, spoke to me in a visceral way that Nirvana's did not.
And is still does. Last night, Pearl Jam dug out a number of songs from that nearly 20-year old masterpiece. At first, "Even Flow" seemed rushed, as if the band couldn't wait to get through it after playing the song for a thousand times already, but then Mike McCready went into an extended guitar solo that had its share of sizzle--he played much of it with his guitar behind his head--but was 90% pure steak. Muscular and vibrant, the solo reinvigorated a performance that could have turned into a rote exercise. The turgid "Black"-a worthy candidate in the break-up song hall of fame-- had the heaviness of a suffocating blanket. Remarkably, "Alive," Vedder's autobiographical tale of discovering the man he believed was his father is really his stepfather, remains a surging, unapologetic affirmation to life.
As much as last night was about delving into a strong catalog--PJ pulled out such rarities as "Tremor Christ" the "Rats"--the evening was about showcasing the new songs from "Backspacer," which, coincidentally, had debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 earlier in the day. It was the band's first No. 1 on the chart in 13 years.
"By the way, we got news today that the album we put out is No. 1," Vedder said more than an hour into the concert. "We had a couple of those a while ago. Back then, we just didn't give a s---. All these years later, we still don't give a s---. But a few of us have kids. We're not going to explain what it means, but your dad's f---ing No. 1 ... and don't you forget it!"
The good news is the "Backspacer" songs fit perfectly into Pearl Jam's body of work-even as the band finds its sea legs with the new material: last night was the live debut of "Backspacer's" "Force of Nature." First single (and mega Modern Rock hit) "The Fixer" ricocheted off the walls, while "Got Some" and "Amongst the Waves" sounded sure and confident. For the first encore, Vedder brought out a string section for the luscious "Just Breathe" and the wrenching "The End." He prefaced the latter by taking a swig from a bottle of wine he'd brought out during McCready's "Even Flow" tour-de-force. "It's always good to take a sip of red wine before you sing a song about death," he declared. And what a song it is with its lyrics about slipping away and leaving those behind despite a desperate desire to stay.
Despite the inclusion of a few ballads-very few, actually. PJ stayed away from oldies-but-goodies like "Daughter" and "Better Man"-the two-hour plus show was all about building an impenetrable wall of sound that surrounded the band and the 6,000 concert-goers from the outside world-even if it was only for a short while.
For a few more of my thoughts about the show, go here.
'I Can Transform Ya' features Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz
Less than a year after Brown slapped around girlfriend Rihanna (and while he is still picking up trash alongside a Virginia highway as part of his community service), radio is happily playing his new single, "I Can Transform Ya."
"The audience loves it, " Steve Crumbley, operations manager/program director at Greenville, S.C.'s Hot 98.1 tells MTV.com "The response has been phenomenal. Plus, you have Lil Wayne on it, so you can't miss."
"People are loving the single, and they're excited about the album," confirms Robin Simone, program director at Cleveland's WENZ.
So, Brown's transgressions aside, how is the song? It's pretty great, and, dare we say, insanely catchy. The tune features an industrial/Middle-Eastern rhythm wrapped around a theme of transformation (Weezy even drops Optimus Prime's name). Lil Wayne and Swizz Beats get just as much radio time as Brown, who sounds strong here.
Hear it here. Or, listen to the embed below.
Small note to Brown: We're know it's Swizz Beatz delivering the line, but we wonder if it's smart to include a line like "Then I gotta rip off your dress..." Plus, it's not so complimentary to a gal to hear you want to transform her into a motorcycle, even if it is a Ducati.
Has Toby 'put a boot up your ass' Keith found a softer side?
Call us crazy, but does it seem a little odd that someone who threatened "We'll put a boot up your ass" in his song "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" will now perform at the Nobel Peace Prize concert?
That's right, country superstar Toby Keith will perform in Oslo on Dec. 11, one day after the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, according to the Associated Press. He'll be joined by Wyclef Jean, Donna Summer, Luis Fonsi and Amadou & Mariam. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith will co-host the concert.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Oct. 9. It is awarded, according to inventor Alfred Nobel's will, to someone who has done the most work toward "the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Who else rocks their way into the top 10 this week?
It's the group's first release on its own Monkeywrench Records in its nearly 20-year career. After a long stint on Epic Records and a shorter one on J Records, the band decided to go the indie route and set up a very well-conceived distribution network that included Target, indie retailers, iTunes and Pearl Jam's very active fan club.
"Backspacer" sold 189,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's almost 100,000 less than its last studio album, 2006's self-titled effort, sold in its opening weekm says Billboard. Back then, that landed the band at No. 2. Even though the music industry was already in the tank in 2006, those look like the good old days compared to now. This is the fourth album that Eddie Vedder and company have taken to the summit.
On iTunes chart, fans love Paramore
Never underestimate the power of "American Idol." Today is one of the biggest release days in months with Mariah Carey, Madonna, Barbra Streisand and others putting out new albums. Guess who is on top of Amazon's bestsellers chart? Adam Lambert. That's right. It's two months until his CD comes out on Nov. 24 and yet fans are pre-ordering his record in greater numbers than buying a CD they can actually hear before the first frost.
Amazon's list is updated hourly, so we don't know how long Lambert's CD, which doesn't even have a name yet, will be on top. Interestingly, the 67-year-old Streisand is No. 2 and No. 4, as the deluxe version of "Love is the Answer" snags the second spot and the regular edition is in the fourth spot.
We don't know the average age of the Amazon buyer, but remember even though they're buying online, they're purchasing physical CDs, not downloads. We're figuring they're older than the average iTunes purchaser, simply based on the list. At No. 3 is Harry Connick, No. 5 is the Beatles and No. 6 is Susan Boyle. Lambert is bringing down the average artist age way down.
It's a very different story over at iTunes, where Paramore's "Brand New Eyes" takes up no. 1 and 2 (the deluxe version is at the top). Pearl Jam's "Backspacer" is No. 3, fellow rockers Breaking Benjamin are at No. 4 and country sweetheart Miranda Lambert is at No. 5. In other words, 17-year olds are buying on iTunes, 40-year olds are buying on Amazon. Stay tuned. We still think Carey is going to come out on top this week.