The 'Emancipation' of Mariah Carey Pop diva Mariah Carey talks to Ed Gordon about her early rise to superstardom, her highly publicized emotional meltdown, and her return with a Grammy-winning album.
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The 'Emancipation' of Mariah Carey

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The 'Emancipation' of Mariah Carey

The 'Emancipation' of Mariah Carey

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ED GORDON, host:

She turned 36 yesterday. But Mariah Carey has already been celebrated as one of the world's best recording artists. During the 1990's, the Long Island native made eight smash albums, a string of hit single and won two Grammies. Carey was the first artist to top the charts each year of that decade.

She surpassed the Beatles by spending the most cumulative weeks atop the Hot 100 Singles Chart. Only Elvis has been in the number one spot longer.

Ms. MARIAH CAREY (Singer): (Singing): Heartbreaker, you got the best on me. [unintelligible].

GORDON: But Carey was less successful in her personal life. In 1998, after five years of marriage, she split with record mogul Tommy Mottola, the man who helped spark her career. In 2001, Carey's very public emotional breakdown was followed by what some called a professional collapse. She starred in Glitter, which became a box office flop, and sales of the soundtrack were disappointing by the superstar's standards.

Four years later, the resilient pop diva returned with a new attitude and the Grammy winning album title, The Emancipation of Mimi.

Ms. MARIAH CAREY: (Singing): Just let me rock you to the moon. It's cold out and much too late. You know I need you baby. I'm so lost without your love.

GORDON: Carey says her new music has proved that she has overcome the nay sayers who had already dismissed her.

Ms. CAREY: I think I wouldn't have been blessed with such a phenomenal success of this album if it were about anger right now for me, you know what I mean. I had to go through a situation where people did write me off, because people do tend to believe whatever they read, whatever they see in the papers. And I used to be one of those people, until I experienced what it can be like to go through something that's really deep and really kind of intense.

And to go from that and to just be creative and to make an album, and to not lose faith in myself, I think was my lesson.

Ms. MARIAH CAREY: (Singing): My life. No stress. No fights. I'm leaving it all behind. No tears, no time to cry, I'm making the move for life.

GORDON: When you look at someone like Whitney, a contemporary of yours, a friend of yours who has gone through so much trouble, I know one of the things that you wanted people to understand is that you saw the need to stop when your world was getting crazy. Isn't that part of the issue and part of the problem, that people in this business aren't able to kind of take a look and say, whoa.

Ms. CAREY: Yeah, and I understand it. But, you know, I think that my tolerance level for dysfunction is so high, because I grew up in a very dysfunctional environment, and then I went straight into a really abusive, dysfunctional relationship as a very young person. And, um, I know how to adapt. It's easy for me to adapt. And I kind of had the outlook and the mentality of why should I be blessed with my dream coming true and also having a happy personal life? I didn't expect it. I didn't feel I deserved it.

GORDON: There was guilt there?

Ms. CAREY: Yeah. It was like why should I be the exception to the rule. I'm on TV now. Here I am. I'm living my dream. And yeah, my home life is miserable and intolerable for most people, but for me, like, I just dealt with it because I figured that's how it was supposed to be. I had never had anything different. But I think that after I overcame the obstacle of that insecurity - yeah, I was like excited to be free and looking forward to all the things that would come my way, but then I was still embroiled in this like battle and still dealing with a person who wasyou know, we had a personal involvement and we were working together still. So it was tough.

So that didn't end until I actually said, halt, and had my own problems, and then I was left alone. My own problems really stemmed from that whole situation.

GORDON: Do you allow yourself to look back and look at the success you've had? I mean, 10 times platinum albums, etc., etc. Do you ever allow yourself to embrace some of that?

Ms. CAREY: I really do now. And you know what, it's funny. Because when people ask me like, well, how do you feel about those people who wrote you off? I have to explain like, even when they wrote me off, I was already in the history books with a lot of these things. Like, I still had broken those records. So for people to write me off - the only thing was it was a little bit jarring for me that people were so quick to write me off, and were so brutal about it.

But you have to go through things in order to come out the other side, like I said. And yes, it would be wonderful, if one day, people didn't have to ask me about all that stuff; and didn't have to say, are you black, are you white, are you brown, are you green? But the thing is, it is important because a lot of biracial kids tell me that they had nobody to look up to before I came out. A lot of kids who felt like they weren't accepted by either side didn't really have someone that they could look to and say, you can succeed, even though you may feel weird or different because of this.

GORDON: Last question, what's upcoming for you? I know you've got the new video coming out that you shot in Paris. People will be looking for that. But also what else is down the line for you?

Ms. CAREY: There's a lot of really exciting stuff that's going on for me. I do want to make sure that people know that this single Say Something, with Snoop and Farrell is coming out and we did shoot the video in Paris, and that was really, really fun. And Fly Like A Bird is the other song, and it's real important to me because it does have a message. And after putting out these records and having these number ones from this album, it was kind of important to put out just a record for the sake of loving it as an artist. It's an artistic moment for me, and there was a message that needs to be heard.

GORDON: And an inspirational moment for you as well to blend that...

Ms. CAREY: Exactly. And my pastor begins the song by speaking, weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. And I know there was a time when I needed to hear that and nobody said it to me.

Ms. MARIAH CAREY: (Singing) Now I know that there's a place up above with [unintelligible]. Because I feel the unconditional love from one who cares and do for me to erase all my burdens and let me free to fly like a bird [unintelligible], I need him now, Lord.

Ms. CAREY: There's a lot going. I'm going to be filming a movie with Lee Daniel in April and that's real exciting - because he saw me in Wise Girls, which was an independent project...

GORDON: We should note, Lee Daniels, the man behind Monster's Ball.

Ms. CAREY: Yes. So it's a huge compliment that he called me to do this project. And I'll be spending a lot of time in Tennessee, and that's also the name of the movie. That's coming up really soon. And I'm going on tour this year, so that's going to be a lot of fun.

GORDON: Mariah Carey, we thank you much for your time, and we still congratulate you. I didn't think you went anywhere, but congratulations on a huge year. And I'm sure that it's just more and more to come from you.

Ms. CAREY: Well, I appreciate you so much and it's always good to talk to you.

Ms. MARIAH CAREY: (Singing) Say something good to me. Hey, hey hey, hey hey, if it's what you want do something good to me.

GORDON: That's our program for today. Thanks for joining us. To listen to the show, visit And if you'd like to comment, call us at 202-408-3330. NEWS AND NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.

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