The title of Mariah Carey’s new CD, ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’, raises several compelling questions: 1) What? 2) Why? and 3) Who?
Let’s tackle “who” first. Winding down in her hotel suite, Carey explains that Mimi is a nickname “that just sort of developed, mainly used by a few people who are close to me.”
“I guess it evolved out of a need for, when we were in a private place, not to have people going ‘Mariah!’ Someone called me Mimi and it stuck. “This is a really personal moment for me,” she says, “but I didn’t want to call it ‘The Emancipation of Mariah Carey.’ That would have had connotations of the whole celebrity thing, and all the misconceptions and baggage that come along with that.” Carey’s choice was affirmed by her label chief at Island/Def Jam, LA Reid, also her co-executive producer on the album.
“When LA was listening to it and helping sequence it, he was like, ‘I really feel your spirit here,’ whereas with a few of the old records, he heard my voice but didn’t necessarily feel me.” Though his name doesn’t come up, the singer is clearly alluding to some of the material she recorded under her previous boss, and ex-husband, former Sony Records chief Tommy Mottola. Referring to her self-titled 1990 debut, Carey, 35, says she is still “frustrated that we had to schlock it up, to add all those bells and whistles.” With ‘Emancipation...’, in
contrast, “the idea was that it’s better to keep it more raw. Most of the ballads were done completely live, with me singing at the same time the musicians were in the room.” Sessions for ‘Emancipation...’, which includes guest appearances by Carey’s longtime collaborator Jermaine Dupri and other hip-hop buddies such as Snoop Dogg, Nelly and Twista, also were more relaxed for Carey, who in the past has preferred not to have anyone in the studio when she’s laying down vocals.
“It ended up being this party, where Nelly was in one room and Snoop in the other, and we made a couple of records together.” Having always cherished her own autonomy in creative matters, insisting on writing or co-writing her songs and struggling to define her own image, Carey says she is feeling more in control of her private life these days. Less than four years after the widely publicised collapse that accompanied critical and commercial record/film failure ‘Glitter’, she is “really happy, for the first time — personally and professionally.” Carey won’t say if or whom she is dating, but admits she doesn’t know whether she would marry again. “My first experience wasn’t necessarily representative of what marriage is supposed to be like. And my own parents divorced when I was three. So other than my grandfather and his second wife, who I wasn’t around that much, I never had a template for a healthy relationship.”
Asked if motherhood might be an option, she says, “I think about it. I’m not at the freakout point yet, so it’s about making sure I’m with someone who would be a great father, and that the situation would be right for my child. Because being the child of someone who’s in the public eye would probably be difficult.” For now, Carey dotes on her Jack Russell terrier, Jack. Like any good showbiz mom, she fudges the dog’s age — “He’s eternally 2” —and boasts that he has two Web sites devoted to him. “I think he knows he’s a star, because he’s very dramatic. And whenever a camera is pointed at him, he always shows his good side. He has a good side, too,” she says, alluding to her supposed past preference for having just one profile photographed. Carey’s canine-diva routine may be a goof, but the sunny disposition behind it isn’t. “Nothing that’s ever happened has taken away the optimist in me,” she says. “It’s always, ‘Whatever — let’s go to Disneyland.’ Yes, I have my bleak, tortured-artist moments, but you have to hold on to what’s positive.”