Mariah Carey: Memoirs of 2 Imperfect Angels

How amazing is this? Mariah Carey has recreated her first album cover. She's done others recently too, but this one really blew me away. This album cover holds so much meaning for me. It's a snapshot in time, that original introduction to Mariah Carey. Back then I was trying to pull off the perfect imitation of her outfit in the Someday video, and trying to perfectly emulate her vocals from I Don't Wanna Cry. I didn't know what an overarching influence she'd be on me lyrically and vocally; didn't know how much strength I would find in the personal difficulties that she has overcome.

Almost every year brings another album... Another snapshot in her life and in ours... Something to gauge the years by... A different soundtrack for each era of our lives. Her albums and her career arc in general has always seemed to go parallel to the story of my life, or at least I've always thought so. Her first two albums, Mariah Carey and Emotions, are almost one distinct era for me because they were released almost back to back. Fun bubbly up-tempos, beautiful ballads... she was just the cool girl who could sing. Who didn't want to be her?

By the time Music Box was released, she was married and entering that very romanticized yet apparently very controlled phase of her career. I too was living a false life, trying to be someone I wasn't whenever people's eyes were on me. When Merry Christmas came out, I was isolating myself completely, spending Christmas alone at home with the dog (I miss you Mitzi), decorating a little tree and singing Miss You Most at Christmastime to myself. Those were lonely times.

When Daydream hit the airwaves I was a little more grown up, finally letting myself have some fun, shaking off the past and all it had done to me, and the first single and video, Fantasy, reflected that. When I hear that song, I remember watching the video premiere, going to carnivals, dancing at weddings... Good times when I was beginning to be a little more independent. Butterfly represented her break from the control of her ex-husband, and for me it represented my breaking away from the false self I had created. I was in my first relationship, I was living life on my own terms, and I was beginning to accept myself as I was instead of constantly trying to be someone else.

Rainbow came at age 18, the year directly following my glittery phase (everything glittered, literally--eyelids, lips, cheeks, hair--I was trying to express all the sparkle that I had repressed, but in hindsight it was a bit much!) and defiant to everyone and everything. And there was Mariah, proclaiming her independence yet again on that album cover. Straight-on pose defying what they told her about only taking photos from her "good side," hair pushed back off her supposedly "too big" forehead... All the things that they told her to imbue her with insecurities had been washed away, and I was empowered by that.

Lisa and I headed down to Chicago on a spur of the moment trip to meet her at Virgin Megastore. It was an adventure. We were too young to get a hotel room and didn't know it, so when we got down there late at night and couldn't find a place to stay, we had to be resourceful. We asked around everywhere. Even tried the YMCA. Finally we told our woeful tale (lol) to a valet parking attendant, and he sympathetically called someone that he knew at a nearby hotel. We went in, mentioned his name, and were checked in without them asking for ID. The room cost everything that we had... the number $233 sticks in my head, pretty sure that was it... so my uncle had to call the hotel the next day and fax their credit card info over to pay for the next night. (He always bails me out!)

The next morning we waited from 4AM to 11PM to meet her, met wonderful fans who brought coffee and blankets for everyone (it was freezing), and then finally met the diva herself. She was down to earth and sweet. We made eye contact and held it through the entire conversation even when she was signing my CD. The woman is an expert at signing without looking down. We said "hi" to each other back and forth for at least 30 seconds, I swear. We were both clearly exhausted yet in an amped up state at the same time. She said, "I like your shirt. Where did you find that?" It had butterflies encircling a heart, with one breaking free from the circle to find its own path. I told her I'd had it forever but that I wore it because I thought she might like it. Then we rehashed the repeated greeting by doing a repeated goodbye--"Thank you," I said. "Thank you," she said. And I think we did that a few times. Seriously. lol...

As awkward as it sounds, it wasn't at all. It felt like meeting a kindred spirit. Yes, I was the kid with a dream who hadn't worked for it at all, and she was the woman who had worked her ass off 100 percent to get where she was. But I knew that as artists we viewed the events in our lives in a similar way, and since there were no other artists in my life, that was really the first time that I had connected, even remotely, with someone who was like me. (I hope I don't sound conceited to say that Mariah Carey is like me--you know I don't mean it that way.) But I walked away feeling a lot more human and a lot more normal, because I knew there was one other person in the world who I could relate to.

Continuing the chain of albums... I'll respectfully skip Glitter, but the album is a S.G.S.H.W. (if you don't know what that is, I know you're not a lamb!) no matter what you have to say about the movie. :) Charmbracelet was her dipping her toes back into the water after the single less-than-stellar release in her career. Some people hate on this album because she used falsetto so heavily on it, but I love that part of her voice and I'm happy to have a whispery, ethereal, soft sounding album from someone who is naturally a powerhouse vocally. We went down to Chicago again, this time with no hopes to meet her, but she was doing a fan party in a secluded club downtown, and we thought we could stand outside and catch a glimpse of her. We were down there, chilling in the hotel room, and just about to leave to go stand outside the joint--literally walking out the door--when I got an email saying we were on the list. That's an OMG moment if there ever was one!

So we went down there and chilled out with the fans for a while before Mariah got there, having some hors d'oeuvres and enjoying the amazing atmosphere. Mariah got there with Da Brat who is always fun (she was at the Chicago stop of the Rainbow tour too, which we had gone to a couple years prior). At the time I was running a mailing list for Mariah fans, and I brought her a bundle of letters from them in rainbow colored envelopes, tied together with a stuffed Hello Kitty on top. This time I was able to speak! I told her how much I loved her and how important her music had been in my life. I got a couple of autographs from her, one that says "To Kelley--Love, Mariah" and one that says, "I love you--Love, Mariah." Then we went to sit down and listen to the album for the first time. Hearing My Saving Grace was extremely emotional--to hear that for the first time with her in the room? That song still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes when I sing it even today. I'm not even beginning to express how incredible that night was! There are no words for it.

Then of course there's The Emancipation of Mimi and E=MC² era, when she finally reclaimed her throne. This girl's never NOT been on top of the world, no one can outsell her. So I'm not sure why people counted her out just because of one bad movie, or because she decided to become more playful with her sensuality and sexuality. The world is always so accepting of a man who is overtly sexual, but so uncomfortable with a female expressing her sensuality. But whatever. She just kept on going, kept on being herself. From my perspective, these two albums were when she started to be more visual with her lyrics, really taking it to the next level and writing songs that the whole world could relate to rather than just the artsy dreamers like me. :) What I've heard of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel really continues that and kicks it up a few decibels. As for how this one applies to my life? She's found love, and I've rediscovered it. I've learned how to receive love, but also how to give it. And I have a reason to be grateful and joyful again.

I think I'm going to wrap this up by saying that Mariah Carey finally found true love, hopefully for keeps, by being herself. She continued to be "eternally 12" as she says, continued to be a kid, continued to be playful and sensual and coquettish, continued to laugh and have fun... all the things that people put her down for, but the things that are so naturally her. Her husband, Nick Cannon, is the same way. He's a kid at heart, yet a massively successful entertainer. They both achieved their success by being themselves. The world will constantly try and break you, and even those who love you will tell you to change. But I think the ultimate success is found when you embrace the person that you've always been. Nurture that person, take care of that person, and celebrate that person.

So, I'm waxing poetic on this singer/songwriter who I freaking ADORE, because that new album is coming out in just a little over a week, and I am in total Mariah mode. I need to get in total Kelley mode and get my OWN album out to you in 2010, but this release is just going to inspire me more to do just that. I'm excited to inject a little more of my personality into the blog, and I'm throwing up as much of my real personality as I can right now, because I'm tired of trying to be the stuffy boring poet! Gotta get back to my stuffy WORK right now, but stay tuned for more good stuff--hopefully shorter stuff!--tomorrow. Thanks for hanging in there through this post! Goodnight! xo

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