As you’ll recall, Dupri was only on board as her official manager since last fall, but he and Carey have a very long history as musical collaborators, going back to 1995’s “Daydream.” He served as executive producer on Carey’s latest set, “Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse," and co-produced five tracks on the album.
As you know, that album continues to circle the drain. It’s worst than if she’d never released an album because she now has this huge commercial failure around her neck. “Mariah” sold 58,000 in its first week of release in May, which was by far her poorest showing in her 25-year career. It’s a shame because the album, as overstuffed and scattered as it was, had some strong cuts that got thrown out there, but didn't really get their due, like "You Don't Know What To Do," featuring Wale or "Make It Look Good."
But I would never, ever count Carey out. She has too much talent and too much determination. She can rise again. The question is who is the right partner to help her do so.
It’s unclear from today’s news if Dupri will continue working with Carey musically, despite his noting that it’s a possibility in his statement to Billboard about the management shift. It read, in part, “I put my all into every project. But when I’m not allowed to do what I do, then it’s time for me to move on. Mariah and I enjoy working together and will continue to make great music together in the future.” I'm not so sure the first part of that sentence doesn't overrule the second part. Regardless, they may need a break.
So if we take Dupri out of the picture, here are six potential producers for Carey’s next album and what they would bring to the table.
Pharrell: They’ve worked together before, including on 2005’s mega-successful “The Emancipation of Mimi,” when he co-wrote “Say Somethin’,” featuring Snoop Dogg, and co-produced the tune with Chad Hugo, his Neptunes partner-in-crime. Along with his newfound superstar status, Pharrell has become the most mainstream of producers: he makes songs that appeal to tweens and soccer moms and everyone inbetween. Carey’s known for her ballads and they could throw a few on here, but what if they just went for a sunny, upbeat, fun album that showed off her pipes, but also made it all seem effortless?
Don Was: Hey, if he’s good enough for the Rolling Stones, he’s good enough for Mariah, but we imagine him giving Carey the Bonnie Raitt treatment. His work with Raitt on 1989’s “Nick Of Time” catapulted her into stardom after she’d been dropped by Warner Bros. The album went on to sweep the Grammys. Was probably couldn’t get Carey back on the charts, but he could probably nab her some great taste-maker press and some Grammy noms if they made a record with stripped-down production and really confessional, heartfelt lyrics that reflected where she is in her mid-40s.
Dr. Luke: This is the most obvious choice if she wants to try to get back on Top 40 radio, but I don’t think it’s really a good fit. At this point, it would feel like a desperation play by Carey and she’s too good for that.
Dann Huff: Carey has a ragged determination to prove that she’s still street on every album and it’s hard to do that when you’re looking down from the penthouse. She also likes to pair with current hip hop or R&B acts to keep her credibility in those genres. What if she let all that go and just made a contemporary pop album that aimed for AC. Look at what Huff has done with acts like Faith Hill and Keith Urban…or even his work on Whitney Houston’s debut. He’s found a way to highlight their pop sensibilities without sacrificing their personalities. Carey would have to be willing to let go of her R&B side.
Walter Afanasieff: Yep. Take it back to the beginning. Afanasieff was there at the start and the songs the two created from “Vision Of Love” to “Love Takes Time,” “Dreamlover” and “One Sweet Day,” remain among the best in her catalog. Afanaseiff also co-produced her most notable covers, including “Endless Love,” I’ll Be There,” and “Open Arms.” What if they put together a tasty album of covers? To be sure, the reality of this one is very slim since Carey's ex, Tommy Mottola, got Afanasieff in the divorce, but it's a thought.
Rick Rubin: This would probably be a clash of the titans and we’d never hear what they worked on before it all went down in flames, but Carey may need someone who totally takes the reins, does not let her co-produce and she just sings (and if she wants to, writes). Rubin would be completely in charge of the sound of the record. If we had our druthers, he even choose all the songs.
Who did I leave out? Who would you like to see produce Carey?