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Mariah Carey takes on Madonna with new tour

<strong><p><strong>Singer's tour is as much about reclamation as emancipation</strong></p></strong></p>
/ Source: contributor

Hitting the road 16 months after the debut of her comeback LP, “The Emancipation of Mimi,” Mariah Carey has a tough ride ahead if she wants to show up rival diva Madonna. The Material Girl reportedly “laughed hysterically” when she heard rumors of Carey’s tanking ticket sales earlier this year — Madonna’s own “Confessions” tour continues to both sell out and cause controversy across the globe. Still, “The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, the Hits, the Tour” promises big sets, guest stars, and keeping with Carey fashion, lots and lots of costume changes.

With five million “Mimi” copies sold and three more Grammys added to her collection, Carey sets out on her long-awaited tour, which isn’t so much about emancipation as it is reclamation. It’s the ’90s again! Carey is once again on top of the charts.

Meanwhile, a certain aging fake-British diva is still miffed about the time way back when Carey told reporters that she grew up listening to Madonna. At the July 4 Live 8 concert in London, Madonna reportedly told a toady that she didn’t want to be anywhere near Carey. The two even feuded over this year’s opening spot on the Grammys, which Madonna won. Carey, however, led the nominations and took home the gold gramophones, proving that she’s hardly down for the count.

To help fine-tune the “Mimi” tour, Carey enlisted her longtime musical director (and “American Idol” judge) Randy “Dawg” Jackson. Despite the rivalry between Carey and Madonna, Jackson isn’t beyond looking to the enemy for inspiration. In a May interview on “Larry King Live,” Jackson voiced his appreciation of the dramatic “Confessions” tour, which features a $2 million disco ball, politically-charged slide shows, and on a giant mirrored cross. But according to Carey, this tour isn’t about theatrics — it’s about the music, the songs, and of course, the fans.

Along with her three-octave voice, nutty personality, butterflies, and quirky clothing, Carey has always been about the fans. Whether communicating with them through kooky messages on her Web site or choosing a set list she thinks will please them most, Mariah isn’t above even letting a fan name her new tour. “The Adventures of Mimi” comes from a fan’s Carey-centric diary of the same name. According to Carey, this time out she’s making decisions on what feels right, not what might make the most money — a method she faults with causing her past career calamities.

Is the tour Carey Classic?Despite “Mimi’s” smash success in 2005, it seemed like Carey was never going to tour. Most artists plan their shows to coincide with their latest releases. Maybe the Carey camp was holding back, fingers crossed, waiting to see how things turned out. The first few years of the new millennium weren’t good to Carey, after all. Her movie debut “Glitter” was a monumental bomb. She was hospitalized following a very public breakdown on MTV’s “Total Request Live.” And Carey’s record label EMI paid $28 million just to dump her contract.

It’s not like anybody — including Madonna — expected to see Carey back in the spotlight. Her last LP, 2003’s “Charmbracelet,” received lukewarm attention. Despite some minor hits, it was played primarily on adult contemporary stations, as opposed to the R&B radio Carey helped invent the decade before. Even her new record label, Island/Def Jam, seemed to be hedging its bets with “Mimi” — the LP cover features a gold-attired Carey styled to look less like herself, and more like Beyoncé, this decade’s reigning diva.

Once again at the top of her game, Carey is looking more like herself — which isn’t always a good thing. Carey’s entire career has been plagued by her questionable fashion choices (along with her wacky behavior and acting pursuits). A recent performance shows her wearing hot pants and tank top — the same trailer-trash style that earned her ridicule back in the day. Luckily for the “Mimi” tour, she’s allowing the wardrobe decisions to be made by a professional.

Stylist June Ambrose, who has worked with Diddy, Missy Elliott and R. Kelly told MTV that Carey’s tour wardrobe includes outfits you “wouldn’t normally see her in.” (Pschew!) Wardrobe sketches for the “Mimi” tour feature a white “James Bond” style dinner jacket, flowing gowns and a black crystal-covered leotard. As Ambrose describes it, the concert “starts out like a black-and-white affair and then (Carey) strips away all the rumors and she’s born again.” There are nine costume changes in all. (Madonna’s “Confessions” tour only has seven.) Accessories include a $10 million broach and 7-inch stiletto heels.

When it comes to the set list, expect a lot of classic Carey tunes along with the new such as “Say Somethin’” and “Don’t Forget About Us.” As she told MTV, “I’m the kind of person who hates to disappoint people, and there are just some people who won’t be happy unless they hear a specific song.” So expect to hear “Fantasy” along with a DJ remix of “Dreamlover,” and even a “hot medley of past hits and more obscure numbers. Carey loves company, so expect a cavalcade of surprise guests in select cities — though Madonna probably won’t be one of them.

“The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, the Hits, the Tour” began August 5 in Miami, Florida.

New York-based writer Helen A.S. Popkin wishes Mariah and Madonna would just kiss and make up.