There aren't many true superstar icons left. But the biggest-selling female artist of all time has consistently delivered solid musical content over a 20-year period with an unmatched record-breaking checklist. Married to honorary Nickelodeon chairman, actor, comedian and TV and radio host Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey is a lady who's often misunderstood, misquoted and underestimated. With a fast, snappy repertoire and an even faster lifestyle, this girl can't be held down. Since their marriage two years ago, the pair have been hunted by the world's press, bloggers and naysayers searching for every tiny detail about the life of the new Mrs Mariah Carey-Cannon. Here she lies back on her favourite chaise longue and reveals all to Pride about her new album Merry Christmas II You, which has just stormed to the number-one spot on Billboard's R'n'B albums and holiday albums charts, the journey thus far and her new path, which includes a new happiness, a new life and a whole new hope for a baby in a new Obama world...
Congratulations on your new album, which has debuted at number one on Billboard's R'n'B albums and holiday albums charts! Why did you choose to do another Christmas album?
Well, it's been a while since my first Christmas album, Merry Christmas, and this year I was full of excitement about becoming a mum, and it felt right to make this album. Also, I was really inspired by classic Christmas songs by Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole and festive, timeless, fun Christmas records by the likes of Jackson 5 and Donnie Hathaway. In the spirit of classic Christmas records made in the 1950s, we had a huge orchestra session, and I've never experienced anything so beautiful and rich in my musical career as being in the room listening to the lush orchestral moments.
You mum, Patricia Carey, who's a trained opera singer, is on the track "O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus" with you. Will we be hearing any more collaborations between you two in the future?
Well, many people already know that my mother is a trained opera singer, so I guess it was only a matter of time before we both got on to a record together. Doing "O Come All Ye Faithful" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" seemed like a perfect choice for both of our voices, which are very different in terms of style and tone and everything. It was lovely experience being in the studio together, and I'm very happy that I have this documented for the rest of my life.
What's your favourite track on the album, and why?
It's always difficult when I'm asked that. As a writer and producer, all my songs are very close to me. I love that I have been able to combine festive sounds with more soulful sounds that very talented people like Big Jim Wright have helped me with. Jim's worked with everybody from Sounds of Blackness to Aretha Franklin; he's Mo'Nique's musical director; and we wrote "Fly Like a Bird" together, so this record's a bit more soulful than Merry Christmas was. Also, I worked with James Poyser from The Roots; we worked together on The Emancipation of Mimi and this time on "When Christmas Comes," the R'n'B single from this album, which is very inspired by 70s soul music.
You've won five Grammy awards and had 18 number-one singles; what is your favourite song that you've every written?
All of my songs are special to me, as I write and produce all of them, so each stems from a personal place. Some are about relationships, bad times, good times, special people in my life and amazing moments. I love them all, but "Close My Eyes" and the whole Butterfly album are very special to me. Of course, my Christmas songs are very close to me because I love Christmas so much and listen to them every holiday season.
Rumours about your pregnancy have been non-stop really since you and Nick got married. Did you feel under pressure to start a family?
It's hard to explain. I am always grateful and know that I have been blessed with my life and experiences. But it gets to the point where you become scared to leave the house in case photos look like you're pregnant when you're not. The constant questions from the press, the pressure that puts on you as a woman, the questions from your families and friends it's quite overwhelming. It becomes worrying to even go online to read the news or check emails in case you read some mean untruths about yourself. It's a lot of pressure, but I can handle whatever life throws at me, and we knew when God wanted us to be blessed, we would be.
How did you know that Nick Cannon was The One?
We both knew. There was no denying the way we both felt it's just real.
A lot of people said that your relationship with Nick was a publicity stunt. How did you guys feel about those reports at the time? How do you feel about the criticism you and Nick sometimes face about the difference in age?
I try not to pay attention to what people say. People have been saying things about me my whole life. I understand that people have opinions about people in the public eye, but if I focused on that stuff I wouldn't have time to live. Also, the age difference in my first marriage was double what this is, the opposite way. People always have something to say when they sell papers or gossip because they're bored or jealous.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Have you had any weird cravings? How is carrying a child changing now?
Cherry Jell-O I think you Brits call it jelly! The one thing I am overjoyed about, aside from being blessed finally with the best gift that anyone can ever receive, is the fact that our child will grow up in a new world that I could never have imagined when I was a child. Having Obama in office and bringing a child into the world at this point is totally different than me feeling like an outcast when I was growing up and not feeling like it was okay to be ethnically diverse, and I can't believe that we have arrived at this point within society. Like many people, I thought it would be a million miles away. I think it's a little bit easier now because the world has changed just in terms of identifying yourself. That always felt like a strange thing to me as a child; not looking the same as your own mother or father was a very different thing back then, and as my parents weren't together when I was a kid, I'm happy that my child will have a unity that was lacking in my early life.
Can you recall the story of where you were when you realised you were pregnant? Were you and Nick together?
I was at home. I took a test by myself and then another one and another one. And when Nick got home, I showed him the first, second and third tests, and then we did another one together.
What are your hopes and fears for your child coming into this world?
I imagine, like all other parents-to-be, we just want them to be safe, healthy and happy and be the best human beings that they can be.
How much of a diva are your really?
I'm a strong woman who works extremely hard to be able to have my life the way I want it. So, if that makes me a diva, then okay.
Who do you admire out of the new breed of divas?
I don't really follow every new act they come out constantly. There are so many, it's often hard to keep track, and sometimes they're here today and gone tomorrow. I admire my friends, like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj people who seem destined to be doing this for a living with longevity.
What do you make of the new women making waves in the industry, like Rihanna and Willow Smith? Do you feel in competition with them? Are you intimidated by the talent coming through?
I feel there's always enough room in the charts for everyone. The true stars will have staying power, and only history will show who those are.
You have had a very successful and long-standing career, but it's also been bumpy along the way. What would you say was your lowest point? Is there anything you regret or would change?
There aren't many long-standing careers that exist that haven't had a couple of bumps on the journal life is full of shade and light. There have been highs and lows, and I take them all in my stride. I know that God will never give me anything to deal with that I can't handle. You can't live with regrets it's about the journey!