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The Record Industry’s Focus

I’m not much of a Mariah Carey fan. I always thought she was more technique over soul, same with Whitney Houston. Then again, in Houston’s case, she had some songs—“The Greatest Love of All,” “I Will Always Love You”—that had so much soul in them that technique couldn’t blow it out.

Anyway, a tweet did catch my eye: “How To Solve the Mariah Carey Problem: Former Record Exes (sic) Chime In.” More than once, as a matter of fact, as they retweeted it several times over the next few days. It linked to an article with that title.

I didn’t have to read it. I’d already seen another tweet from another site,, “Mariah Carey’s Latest Album Crashes and Burns on Charts, Drops Off Top 100.” So I could definitely see a problem—if not the problem.

Two problems, actually, the first being the one they want you to click on.

Mariah Carey“Despite great reviews, [Carey’s new album Me. I Am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse] is now number 157 on iTunes and 75” wrote showbiz411’s Roger Friedman, adding that at the time of his writing, it had sold “a paltry 75,000 copies [and] probably not too many more after that.”

Billboard was up in arms over this “failure,” and interviewed its panel of “former record exes” to ascertain what could be done.

They’d have better luck deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

But first they need to recognize that Carey is 45—or 44 (sources differ, according to Wikipedia). Then look at Carey’s current pop diva competition in Katy Perry (29), Rihanna (26), Lady Gaga (28) and Beyonce (32). Really, they need look no further.

I tried to listen to Me. I Am Mariah, and made it through three full songs before hitting the fast-forward. It sounded perfectly acceptable—but nothing jumping out to command pop radio attention like the hits of the younger gals.

In other words, in a youth-driven pop market that Carey once dominated, she’s lost the sound, if not the relevance—and not many artists are able to stay big-time commercially relevant past their generational time. Cher seems to make a splash now and then, and through talent and sheer will to stay a step ahead Madonna kept it going past her prime—though I’d be surprised if even she can have another big mainstream hit now at 55.

The only one I can think of who ever came back strong and stayed there for any length of time was Tina Turner, but she was unique in having been gone so long, and coming back with such a distinct new sound and perfect songs to match—plus a dramatic back story that propelled her to the top. I don’t see Carey having anything like that.

But it’s the second problem that leaves me mystified, and that is, why there would be an industry focus on a so-called “Mariah Carey Problem” in the first place—at the expense of other artists and genres who never get a shot on Top 40 in the first place.

Jim Bessman

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