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Listening to Mariah Carey a Lifestyle

Observer Scene | Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A friend of mine recently said to me, “I never went through a Mariah phase,” to which another friend quickly responded, “It’s not a phase. It’s a lifestyle.” I have never heard devotion to Mariah Carey summed up so well.

I have been an active Mariah Carey fan for 13 years – active meaning I’ve bought her albums, read her interviews and watched MTV all day long to see her videos back when the network still played music videos. I was in fourth grade when she released “Daydream” and it was like I hadn’t been a music fan before that album. My mother bought me the cassette tape (I didn’t own a CD player until a year later), and I remember sitting in my room by my boombox, learning the words to “Always Be My Baby” using the lyrics on the cassette’s cover (I wanted to get her “do do doop dum”s just right). Wasn’t it great that Mariah always including the lyrics?

I liked Mariah a lot. She was super pretty, she had hair that I could only dream of and she had an advanced vocabulary. I’ll be honest. I had no idea what “indefinitely,” “linger” or “inevitably” meant until I heard them in “Always Be My Baby” and asked my mom for their meaning.

I was only slightly aware of the changes occurring in Mariah’s own life with her divorce from music executive Tommy Mottola, who discovered her. But that turmoil became extremely obvious with the music video for “Honey,” where Mariah literally and figuratively escapes from imprisonment and throws off all her clothes. “Honey” wasn’t as big of a hit as her most previous singles, but it coincided with my newfound love of rap music so I was sold on the collaboration with Puff Daddy. “Honey” marked Mariah’s turn toward hip-hop and R&B, a turn that was never fully realized until 2005’s “The Emancipation of Mimi.”

Mariah stayed on top of the charts with “Rainbow” and became the only artist to have a number-one single every year of the 1990s. But then “Glitter” happened.

I never saw “Glitter,” nor did I listen to the accompanying album. I loved Mariah too much to ruin any image I had of her with something that I was aware was rubbish. I saw her little popsicle incident on “TRL” and was sad to see my favorite pop star falling. Worse yet, people seemed to be getting enjoyment out of her downfall.

The year was 2001, six years before Britney Spears shaved her head, and we were getting a taste of what was to come in the new decade with the media attention, speculation and backlash that surrounded Mariah Carey. She suffered from exhaustion, was dropped by her label and released a “comeback” album too soon with 2002’s mediocre “Charmbracelet.” I bought the album, listened to it once, stored it away and prayed that this wasn’t the end of the songstress who gave me “Daydream.”

“The Emancipation of Mimi” was worth the three-year wait. “We Belong Together” became one of her new signature singles and Mariah was back. This was Mariah’s real comeback album and it marked the return of the Voice. Now we have waited another three years for “E=MC2” (which means “Emancipation of Mariah Carey to the second power”) and I have to say that it’s pretty fantastic. This album has plenty of her new sound, but sometimes I miss pre-“Honey” Mariah, and this album gives you some of that too.

“Touch My Body” became Mariah’s 18th number-one single, surpassing Elvis’ record, and putting her in second place only behind The Beatles’ 20 number-one singles. Mariah could tie or even surpass the Beatles’ record with “E=MC2,” and since she can’t break up with herself she could just keep on going. At 38, Mariah is one of the greatest recording artists in history and she looks just as fabulous as ever.

Children born when I first fell in love with Mariah will be starting high school next year. Maybe “We Belong Together” is for them what “Always Be My Baby” was to me. Needless to say, I hope their love for Mariah isn’t just a phase because mine is definitely a lifestyle.