Pop Culture

Mariah Carey comes up with a new equation

On a recent Monday morning, Mariah Carey flew the red-eye from New York to Los Angeles, stopped by Ryan Seacrest’s morning radio show to chat, recorded a background vocal track for the song “I Stay in Love” for her upcoming album, then recorded a video for Wal-Mart’s “Soundcheck” series, which will be used as bonus footage online and played in stores.

By the time all of this was done, it was just past noon. Her afternoon consisted of another radio interview, and in the evening she returned to the studio to work on mastering the album, “E-MC2” — due April 15 via Island Def Jam.

If “E-MC2” scores big, Carey could find herself in elite chart company. She’s currently tied at No. 2 with Elvis Presley for the most Hot 100 No. 1 singles, with 17. The Beatles hold the crown with 20.

The busy singer recently spoke with Billboard about the new album.

Billboard: “E-MC2” crosses a lot of genres. There are a few ballads, but there’s definitely some hip-hop and even some gospel-tinged songs and a bit of a reggae beat.

Mariah Carey: I’m really a festive person, and that’s what came across with the “Mimi” album. I hate it when people are like (uses a dramatic voice): “She’s taking a new direction with hip-hop.” I’m like, “Will you please freakin’ research?” I’ve been doing this for a long time — working with (writer-producer) Dave Hall on “Dreamlover,” using the “Ain’t No Half-Steppin”’ loop.

I think that it was Q-Tip — he said this to me in ’97 — that I was really the catalyst for so many of these artists who are now trying to infuse (songs with hip-hop). It was just digging in the crates with Dave Hall and coming up with, “Hey, let’s use this loop!” And from then on, I did it anytime I could. The next was “Fantasy,” which was a groundbreaking moment for me, the ability to be able to work with Puffy (Sean Combs).

Right now everything is kind of merged together because pop is such a nebulous format, in my opinion. You’ll hear a hip-hop record next to sort of a rock-sounding pop beat, or a country song. Aretha Franklin can still have a hit — look at “A Rose Is Still a Rose” — it’s just her talent is shining through. She can work with anybody at any time in her life. Same thing with Patti LaBelle and Luther (Vandross), God rest his soul, before he passed away. The true talent will always come through.

Billboard: And after the success of “We Belong Together,” “Don’t Forget About Us” — co-produced by Bryan-Michael Cox — and “Shake It Off” on “Mimi,” you’ve teamed up with Jermaine Dupri again for several songs on “E-MC2.”

Carey: JD is the best. I love him, I really do. We have such similar influences. It’s funny because a lot of our favorite records from growing up are really the same. Back in the day we did the (R&B) remix of “Always Be My Baby.” The original version was a hard track, if you listen to the bass — but it was very poppy on top. I knew JD could do it, even though he hadn’t really worked with somebody like me before. I knew he was just incredibly talented. He’s really just honed his skill as a producer in so many ways. I’m a fan and a friend.

Billboard: Do you ever think about surpassing the Beatles with their 20 No. 1s?

Carey: I do, because people bring it up. (laughs) But it’s not like I sit around thinking about that type of stuff while I’m creating something. I did write this record in terms of wanting it to be a lot of songs that could potentially be singles, because people like that.

Billboard: You write or co-write almost all your songs — what’s your process? What inspires you to write?

Carey: For each album, I try to have a book that I write the whole thing in. It started — this was a long time ago. I don’t have birthdays, I only have anniversaries. (laughs) But actually, this was the last birthday party I had ... I think it was my 21st birthday, even though I’m only 12. We had it in advance. (laughs) Cyndi Lauper came to the party, and I’ve always been a big fan of hers since I was growing up. She gave me this book, and I wound up writing the whole “Music Box” album in this book, which I still have.

Jay-Z said something to me that was really interesting, and I don’t even know if he really remembers this. He’s known me for a long time, and he’s like, “You need to use some of your phrases in your music.” I have my own little slang that I make up and say stupid stuff just for laughs. (On) the song “O.O.C.” — that’s a Swizz Beatz track — it means, “Out of control.” So me and my friends will say that to each other, like, “OK, you’re a little O.O.C. right now, tone it on down.” Da Brat, who’s a really good, close friend of mine since we worked on “Always Be My Baby” — we wrote the lyrics together, and it was so fun. By saying (sings), “I get so O.O.C. / So out of control, baby,” we could explain it.

When somebody was helping me type up the lyrics, and they wrote “Out of Control” in parenthesis (by the song title), I was like, “Get rid of that. It’s ‘O.O.C.’! Let them figure it out! It’s not that tough! I say it in the next line!”

Billboard: The “Touch My Body” video is hilarious.

Carey: Thank you. That was a (director) Brett Ratner-and-me collabo. (laughs) I love Brett because he is like me. If I’m eternally 12 — because he’s a little bit more naughty than I am — he’s eternally 15. He has a great sense of humor, obviously, and he knows that I have a sense of humor and he feels that people don’t recognize that about me. And I’ll do stuff that I’m totally joking and they’re like (uses mean girl voice), “Why is she doing that? Why is she doing the treadmill with her high heels on?” I’m like, “It’s a freakin’ joke! It’s ‘Cribs’! Hello! It’s a freakin’ joke!”

Billboard: Have you thought about touring for this album?

  • Slideshow Photos

    Neil P. Mockford / GC Images

    Image: Celebrity Sightings On The Set Of 'A Hundred Streets' - August 8, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

  • Image: Celebrity Sightings On The Set Of 'A Hundred Streets' - August 8, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Idris Elba -

    Actor Idris Elba seen on the set of :A Hundred Streets" on Aug. 8 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "The One I Love" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Elisabeth Moss, Mark Duplass -

    Actors Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass arrive at the premiere of RADIUS-TWC's "The One I Love" at the Vista Theatre on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "The One I Love" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nick Kroll -

    Actor Nick Kroll arrives at the premiere of RADIUS-TWC's "The One I Love" at the Vista Theatre on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson -

    Actors Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson arrive at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Cast member D'Arcy poses at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" in Hollywood

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    James D'Arcy -

    James D'Arcy arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: BESTPIX: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Arrivals

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Julianne Hough -

    Actress Julianne Hough arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Arrivals

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Hannah Simone -

    Actress Hannah Simone arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Twentieth Century Fox's "Let's Be Cops" - Red Carpet

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nina Dobrev -

    Actress Nina Dobrev arrives at the premiere of "Let's Be Cops" at the Cinerama Dome on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nicole Murphy, Brandy Norwood -

    TV personality Nicole Murphy and singer Brandy Norwood attend The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception at W Hollywood on Aug. 7 in Hollywood.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Tara Reid -

    Actress Tara Reid attends The Pump Group VIP Cocktail Reception at W Hollywood on Aug. 7 in Hollywood.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: "Phoenix" Opening Night

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    James Wirt, Julia Stiles -

    Actors James Wirt and Julia Stiles stand on stage during the opening night curtain call for "Phoenix" at the Cherry Lane Theatre on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: "Phoenix" Opening Night

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    AnnaSophia Robb -

    Actress AnnaSophia Robb attends the opening night performance of "Phoenix" at the Cherry Lane Theatre on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Madame Tussauds New York To Unveil New, Never-Before-Seen Selena Gomez Wax Figure

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Selena Gomez -

    A boy gives the wax figure of Selena Gomez a kiss at the unveiling of the new new, never-before-seen Selena Gomez wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Chris Martin Visits "The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Chris Martin -

    Chris Martin of Coldplay performs during the Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show at Z100 Studio on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: BESTPIX: Apple Store Soho Presents: Meet the Actors: Michael Fassbender And Domhnall Gleeson - "Frank"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Michael Fassbender -

    Actor Michael Fassbender attends "Meet the Actor" at Apple Store Soho on Aug. 7 in New York.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Mickey Rourke -

    Actor Mickey Rourke is seen at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Jordana Brewster -

    Actress Jordana Brewster waves outisde of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: G. Garvin Live

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Keshia Knight Pulliam -

    Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam attends G. Garvin Live at Buckhead Theatre on Aug. 7 in Atlanta.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Reese Witherspoon -

    Actress Reese Witherspoon is seen on Aug. 7 in Los Angeles.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Miley Cyrus

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Miley Cyrus -

    Singer Miley Cyrus performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

    AP / AP
  • Image: 67th Locarno Film Festival - Day 2

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Melanie Griffith -

    Actress Melanie Griffith attends a press conference during the 67th Locarno Film Festival on Aug. 7 in Locarno, Switzerland.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Lily Allen

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Lily Allen -

    Singer Lily Allen performs in concert at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 7 in Nashville.

    AP / AP
  • Image: "The Expendables 3" Paris Photocall At Cinema UGC Normandie

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    'Expendables 3' -

    The stars of "Expendables 3," from left, Kellan Lutz, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes attend "Expendables 3" at Cinema UGC Normandie on Aug. 7 in Paris.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Meet The FilmMakers: "The Rover"

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Robert Pattinson -

    Actor Robert Pattinson speaks during the Meet The Filmmakers event for "The Rover" at Apple Store, Regent Street on Aug. 7 in London.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Celebrity Sightings In New York City - August 07, 2014

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman -

    Actors Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman are spotted filming Bateman's "The Family Fang" in Westchester, New York, on Aug. 7.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Africa: New Partnership Models For Growth

    Celebrity Sightings

    of

    Akon -

    Grammy-nominated artist Akon, who is the founder of Akon Lighting Africa Project, discusses at the US-Africa Leaders Summit "Africa: New Parnership Models for Growth" news conference, held in Washington, DC, on Aug. 7, the progress that African heads of state have made.

    Getty Images / Getty Images

Billboard: And now that you’re in promotional mode, does it ever get daunting?

Carey: I’m totally ready for a nap. I’d love a nap ... It’s a little tiring to have this kind of schedule. As long as I’m straight up in promo mode, it’s cool, but I’m still doing little things on the record — we’re mastering ... (But) I’m collaborative about it. I like to hear what other people have to say. I wouldn’t feel like an artist if I didn’t. I wouldn’t feel like I was truly the architect of the record. And why do it, then?

0:00
 
0:00
Your video begins in
0:00
TOP