Okay, it's understood that Mariah Carey is the closest thing to heaven when she sings. That explains why jaws still drop after a listen to any new Carey offering since her self-titled 1990 debut. We at JAMZ, though, still are scraping ourselves off the floor after Columbia Records' Ken James stopped by the offices (in the process, disturbing our sleep) and played Ms. Carey's first single, "Fantasy," a powerful, sassy and very street single from her spectacular "Daydream" album. It was such a departure from her previous tunes that we didn't know who this singer was and refused to acknowledge that it was indeed Carey when James certified the truth. (Ed. note: That's why they work at HITS.) "Daydream" continues the storybook musical life of Mariah Carey, one that has seen her sell over 60 million albums world-wide in a little over five years. Pretty much doing as she pleased when co-writing and co-producing "Daydream," Carey gathered Babyface ("Melt Away"), Jermaine Dupri ("Always Be My Baby"), Walter Afanasieff ("Underneath The Stars," "I Am Free," "Opan Arms," "When I Saw You," "Forever," "Looking In") and Boyz II Men ("One Sweet Day"). Mariah Carey has got it going on quite the opposite of HITS Staff Writer Gary "Traction-less" Jackson, whose career is on permanent stall with no tow truck in sight.
You have a new flava on "Daydream." Tell us about it.
I grew up on R&B music, and I'm also a big fan of rap and hip-hop. When I began putting the album together, in addition to the pop-oriented songs for which I've received much appreciated support over the years, I also knew I wanted to explore more of my urban roots this time.
On "Fantasy," you combine street, club and radio at the same time.
I love the song because it covers so many bases and gives me the opportunity to spread my wings beyond just singing. (On the re-mix) Ol' Dirty Bastard is real, the most real (hardcore) rapper you can get. The Tom-Tom Club's "The Genius Of Love" was one of my favorite songs growing up. We sampled some of that and put my song on top, so it's not like a re-make. Ifs really a completely new song on top of a re-make.
And you also directed the video.
Yes. Before, I mainly took direction, often thinking to myself that my videos could be better and much more reflective of the real me. When I felt I had (enough) experience and confidence to write and direct my own clips, I decided to go for it. It's difficult wearing all those hats, but the challenge and positive results are worth it. That's also why I plan to direct the rest of the "Daydream" videos.
What about potential criticism over directing your own videos?
If they work, I'll take the credit. If they don't, I can handle the heat. I have to shake off the criticism.
Much useless ado has been made over your mixed heritage (Mariah's mother is Irish and her father is Venezuelan and African-American). How do you handle the cultural combination?
I'm a multi-racial person and perceive myself as such. I strive to be a positive example of the best of both worlds. To say I'm only one or the other would be negating all the other things that I am.
In that vein, you have a project called "Camp Mariah" that sends inner city children to summer camp.
God has given me so much that I feel the need to give it back, especially to kids who deserve to go to camp just like anyone else, despite being unable to afford it. Thus far, I've committed $1 million the project and, through a benefit concert I gave last December, we were able to raise $650,000 more.
How do you maintain such high quality from album to album?
I've come to realize more than ever that it's the fans who make or break you. For me, they are the priority and I keep them in mind as far as the quality and substance that has to go into every song I record, as well as every live show and video I do. I'm at a place where I'm comfortable now and I feel that shows in my music.