Mariah Carey has sold more albums than any other female artist in the 1990s. And she just soared to the top of the charts again with her new soulful album Butterfly.
The album has her signature ballads. But, it also brings in up-tempo hip hop and R&B sounds to it as well. "This was my biggest first week of sales ever," she told Jet. "Usually, my material builds when you get to the ballads. I'm very proud of it. And I'm very grateful that it went to No. 1. You never know how people are going to respond to what you're doing. I'm very gratified. I never bank on anything."
For the album, Carey brought in musical friends Sean "Puffy" Combs, members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. She co-produced and co-wrote most of the songs on the album. "I did Breakdown with Krayzie and Wish Bone from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. It's one of my favorites. I think it's a really strong collaboration. This is a very personal album. It's an album I could listen to as a whole. With other albums I could skip certain songs. This album I listen to from start to finish. With this album, every word and every emotion I put into it is coming from me. I don't think I abandoned who I am. I think I just added another dimension to myself."
Some critics have charged that Carey abandoned the safety of pop to take on a major gamble and embrace rap and hip hop. She angrily denies it. "Vision of Love was my first single and it was a No. 1 R&B single. So, it's not like I've never gone in the R&B direction. It's just that I had pop success with Hero and Without You back-to-back. That took me to a pop place. A lot of people who only listen to pop radio see this as a huge departure. I don't think any of this is a gamble. I've had other singles on previous albums that had R&B songs. They (the record company) just never chose to release them as singles."
She said she always has listened to all types of music and wanted a project that brought in different types of music and beats that she loves. "I think it's really balanced."
Carey, 27, is separated from her husband, Tommy Mottola, 47, president and chief operating officer of Sony Music Entertainment. The two were married in 1993. Since their breakup, Carey has been the subject of numerous, generally unflattering, tabloid stories. "It's very surprising and it's overwhelming to me," she said. "If you believe the tabloids, you'd think I was out with a different guy every night. I am not a promiscuous person. I might go out to dinner with someone. But, I would not be in someone's bed one night and someone else's bed the next night. If you believe the media. you'd think I'm just jumping in and out of bed with gangsta rappers and models. It is so ridiculous how they are calling people 'gangsta' rappers."
She told Jet that even when she has been out with her nephew, he was described as a 'gangsta' rapper. She said she finds it extremely curious and offensive that some elements of the media are so comfortable and quick to label people that way.
"People haven't seen a lot of me in the last six years. For a long time, people only saw me standing on stage singing Hero or lying in a field singing Dream Lover." Now that she is a single woman in Manhattan, she is constantly reading about herself and her wild ways. "Suddenly, I'm the gangsta chick of the '90s. It's like suddenly I just went bananas and I think I'm Little Kim."
Regarding her marriage to Mottola, she said the two remain good, close friends who talk to each other frequently. "I feel like he and I are friends. We're friends. And that's cool. Tommy and I had a discussion last night. We said, 'Enough about people in our business. Enough with people giving quotes on or off the record.' Now, I'm in a place where I feel confident enough to stand alone."
And that is why she is so excited about Butterfly. It's Mariah's concept. "I started on the album last January and finished early August. But, I did three videos in between. This album is definitely something I've wanted to do for a long time. There were songs I wanted to do in the past. I recorded them, but they never got on the album. That happened even on the first album because some people felt they were too R&B or whatever the terminology was. It's been a gradual process of my being able to say that this is what I'm going to do at this point. People owe it to you to let you express yourself. With all the changes that I've gone through both professionally and personally, it was a release to work on the album."
Beyond singing, she said she has always wanted to act. And now, she is pursuing it in a big way. For the last eight months, she has taken acting lessons. Currently, a movie project is being developed specifically for her.
"There are a lot of personal factors that kept me from pursuing acting several years ago. I feel everything happens for a reason. If this is the time that God intended for me to get into things and explore other aspects of my creativity, then it's the right time. I don't look back in anger or resentment or self-pity. I'm very fortunate to be where I am now. We've all been through struggles."