Mariah’s Thing

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‘My thing is that I have to be myself and if that means that in that moment I don’t hear you, I don’t see you and you don’t exist to me at this moment, then that’s what it is.’

Mariah Carey, best person singer in the world, may have accidentally articulated how we (or just I) should feel about peoples and things that need rebuking off of our aura, when the quarrelings with Nicki Minaj led to things such as this quote which she eloquently and generously elucidated in an ET interview.

My interpretation of this is: Be yourself. If within yourself something doesn’t exist in your specific moment which can be totally whatever, don’t exhaust any of your senses by hearing, seeing or smelling something that is not existing in your moment. And then let it be.

A practical application of this is: instead of making a ‘Whateveeeeeeer!’ comment in any of your social networks “‘friends’s” posts, which you have to admit the internal struggle to not do can sometimes seem so insurmountable, you just nonchalantly block everything off because, hello, you have just been guided by Mariah’s non-existent beings moment management. Learn.

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It is Britney, bitch.

I read Steve Dennis’s ‘Inside the Dream’ aka the Britney Spears biography, and I’m feeling no shame at all. Maybe just a little, tiny bit. I wouldn’t have felt the need to say that I have no shame in reading Britney Spears’s biography if I hadn’t sensed a bit of heckling in the tone of certain friends who maybe thought that reading Britney’s biography is an affront to all that is tasteful in the world. They shall not worry because it must be known that sometimes I read the occasional David Foster Wallace, which is truly for me the height of highbrow, ahem.

As a matter of undeniable fact I’m just really the kind of person who would read a Britney Spears biography. If the opportunity presents itself I wouldn’t think twice about the Sharon Stone biography and the Lindsay Lohan and the Jeff Buckley. It is wholly non-uncharacteristic of me to be reading those.

You should know that reading Britney’s biography gives you deeper appreciation for and life lessons from the international superstar kind of life, not that you will ever have an immediate need for those. I haven’t read that many pop star biographies but I’m guessing there’s not much to find in lesser stars’s biographies that I wouldn’t already read about in Brit’s, no? But as I’ve said, no lowly, ‘unartistic’ book is beneath me, so that maybe if I see Natalie Imbruglia’s or any of the All Saints girls’ memoir in Book Sale, maybe I can find it in my indiscriminate heart to grab and pick valuable superstar lessons from.

Predictably, the Britney biography begins with her humble beginnings in a small Louisiana town. As you know, humble beginnings are almost all the same even if you’re Britney Spears. If I wasn’t so patient I would have skipped this part altogether because I already know all about superstar humble beginnings via the one and only Vondie Curtis Hall classic, Glitter.

The thing to remember when reading about superstars, I now realize is, it is imperative to separate your non-famous self’s circumstance from the superstars’ because the worlds you and the superstar inhabit are not and never will be the same. With that mindset, you will be ready to accept the fact that being hounded by paparazzi while you get out of your Mercedez, underperforming your latest hit single in the MTV Video Music Awards, and getting into child custody battles with hot ex-husbands are things worthy of the common man’s sympathy.

So Britney went through tough times in her life because her family, like yours and mine, wasn’t all that together, just like any other dysfunctional family in the world. In fact Britney’s family was so dysfunctional her mom had to write two books about it. I went through those obligatory chapters to get to the meatier parts fast. And the meaty parts are indeed meaty. Or maybe I’m just starved for celebrity scandals and our lack of E! and The Biography channels needs serious addressing.

In all honesty (as opposed to ‘In all dishonesty’) there is not much you will read here that you will not have already read, heard or seen elsewhere. What makes Steve Dennis’ rendering of the Britney kind of life special is it’s coherent although occasionally factually erroneous telling of the rise and fall and rise and fall of Britney.

I’m not a fan of Britney’s but she’s compelling in a way that the likes of Willa Ford, Nicole Scherzinger, Cheryl Cole, Gwen Stefani and other pop starlets are not. Plus I like her songs and I have no shame in that, too. Precisely five years ago, during the Circus era, I could never understand why Britney Spears is consistently Yahoo search’s #1 topic. I could never truly appreciate Britney’s popularity that people would always go searching for her latest escapades. Maybe she’s less relevant in Google search? Maybe it’s because she really is the Marilyn Monroe/Princess Diana figure of our time? Whatever, the answer does not lie in this biography. The answer is in the intro of ‘Gimme More’. It’s simply because ‘It’s Britney, bitch.’

My Madonna playlist…

…is better than yours.

Celebration
Gang Bang
Get Together
Revolver
Girl Gone Wild
Sky Fits Heaven
Shanti/Ashtangi
Impressive Instant
Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
What It Feels Like For A Girl
The Power of Goodbye
Rain
Nobody Knows Me [Live]
Erotica [Live]
Like a Virgin [Live]
Cherish
Express Yourself
Jump
Vogue
Isaac
Like a Prayer
Die Another Day
Hollywood
She’s Not Me
Runaway Lover
Miles Away
I’ll Remember
Live to Tell

Greatest Hits and Misses

I want to have all of Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits albums because I fear the total shut down of CD-selling is nigh. CDs are always going to be a part of me, they’re a part of me indefinitely, although I’ve been reassessing the importance of CDs in my life since it seems like such a huge waste of money to buy several greatest hits album of an artist whose individual albums I already own. Besides, how greedy should a record label be to release not one, not two, but five Greatest Hitses for a single artist to sell me, the unwise consumer? More importantly, how greedy am I for wanting to have everything of hers? Very greedy, it would appear, and I don’t mind. I never knew how much greedier I could get with an iPod since owning one only caused me to want even more albums. I therefore conclude that greed recognizes no format.

I only ever felt this need for Mariah whose Greatest Hits I got recently. It is a sloppily packaged CD and there are no thank yous to be found, not so much as a Hi, not even the type of hasty i-love-you-fans type of message that artists feel the need to say to fans for their contribution to their already insanely vast riches via album purchases and general acts of worship. As a practicer of such worship, I don’t feel sorry for contributing to certain singers’ riches as it is their due for being so aspirational and generally just fabulous in every way and for being so great at making people feel this blinded but ultimately satisfactory sense of satiation, and for being so skilled at promising lifelong fanaticism to them that creates within a fan/lonely-consumer-who-finds-meaning-in-material-things a true sense of fulfillment and joy that’s quite hard to explain although easy to be repetitive and be such a bore about. Greatest Hits is quite the obligatory Sony release and its fuss-free booklet is such a shameful act of obligation fulfillment since this is the least suspicious greatest hits of hers and couldn’t they have at least got a nice, crazy quote from her. In a perfect world this would have remixes, b-sides, live performances, rock versions and remakes which we will never tire of.

This collection claims to be ‘the ultimate Mariah Carey album. From the infectious Dreamlover through to Fantasy and Underneath the Stars all the songs on this album are certified Mariah classics‘ which may or may not be right depending on which particular consumer is consuming this product. This is simply something that can be said of any of her compilation albums including The Remixes and #1s. The sequence doesn’t do the randomness of the songs any favor. This compilation is for the very casual Mariah Carey consumer and the album is happy just to be sold.

The inclusion of Fantasy ODB Remix in The Remixes, although already included in two previous compilation albums, is not this album’s only sin. Here is finally a remix album with which the geniuses at Sony can finally shelter the remixes of her great remixes [I Still Believe (Damizza Remix), Breakdown (Mo Thugs), Honey (Bad Boy Remix), to name a few ] and what do the geniuses do? They not only exclude the remixed version of the songs, they include the previously released album versions, probably with the mindset that consumers who have yet to discover the very obscure Mariah Carey discography will learn that a song called Breakdown exists in its chaste form, that is, non-remixed, even though it is in a REMIX ALBUM, and it will be so much better to leave it untouched and stack said songs with actual remixes. Concept schmoncept, sales is king. Also a sin? Uglifying Charmbracelet’s Yours featuring a guest verse from BIG sound alike Bone Crusher. Another sin is editing I Know What You Want right to the part where Busta Rhymes says J Records. This album needs to confess.

And because the world needs another Mariah Carey love songs compilation (and maybe it seriously does), Sony, the milkingest record label of all time, releases The Ballads. Mariah is pure cash cow at this point. She’s been milked so thoroughly, you have to wonder if there’s any left for her babies. I’m sorry, that was sinister. But Sony is sinisterer. This is actually not a completely worthless product if you ask the laziest playlist maker in the world. This proves useful when you don’t feel like making your own Mariah ballads playlist, except the playlist is still quite limited and repetitive. If I were to make my own ballads playlist, I’d include unreleased and rare stuff such as Slipping Away and There for Me because I’m not from Sony music. Record Label Geniuses think differently. What is another Hero, Vision of Love, My All in yet another Mariah Carey greatest hits of sorts collection? Cash and time spared from a well thought-out playlist, is what.

The greatest greatest hits in my humble opinion is the modestly titled, #1s. In its liner notes, Mariah screams, No! This is not yet the Greatest Hits! Too early for that! although it may as well have been. This is a remarkable collection that reminds of the time when Mariah albums are both product and art, however meaningless being either entailed. And it’s just what we needed: a fairly sized number 1 hits collection that begins with a foreboding of things to come, image and soundwise. It begins with the sexy Sweetheart with Jermaine Dupri, followed by prestige duets When You Believe with Whitney Houston and Whenever You Call with Brian McKnight, which if songs were representations of our diva, is exactly how I like my Mariah: sexy and prestigious. It begins with the recent hits and winds down to the earliest, offering a trip down memory lane, tracing the progression/regression from the skimpy outfitting, helicopter ho posturing-Mariah to the Boyz II Men dueting, tights-loving Mariah of the Sony Mottola years. It was a lovely era of great, almost minimalistic album covers (#1s, Butterfly, Daydream) and rap guest verse-heavy R&B which is really what made me go crazy about her. Not long after this gorgeous era, she got a little crazy herself. But the hits that resulted from the insane era, also great. And with bated breath, I/we await the 00s Mariah’s greatest hits., Glitter things very much included.

Madonna

In high school, I borrowed a Ray of Light cassette from someone whose taste in music I should have trusted more, whose tape collection I should have tried to duplicate, whose non-classification of music I should have tried to emulate. She sits Sixpence None the Richer, Smash Mouth, Mariah Carey, All Saints, Sugar Ray, Barenaked Ladies, Fatboy Slim, TLC, New Radicals and Spice Girls amongst each other, gathers them around in her stack like unassuming kindergarten pupils, unaffected by each other’s differences. I liked most of what’s in Ray of Light especially Shanti Ashtangi which was nothing I’ve heard before, Sky Fits Heaven, and Power of Goodbye, one of her bestest ballads, but ended up not buying it, the album, because when you’re a teenage boy in high school, buying a Madonna album was just weird and gay. And to me then as it is now, buying an album is crucial to the appreciation of an artist’s music.

It’s not that I was afraid somebody’d shoot me if I was seen buying a Madonna album, it’s that it was inconceivable to me then as a high school boy to obtain one. I’m shallow like that. It’s irrelevant to point out that I still didn’t buy Ray of Light in college because there are other things to buy and pursue, one diva seemed enough, and college is all indie/alternative music time, without the slightest idea what indie/alternative music even means, but yes, I still didn’t get any of her albums during this period, the phony period.

Although there’s still no point in celebrating the day I finally got Ray of Light, its purchase was the moment that I learned how to get over myself and stop fussing over the purchase of a CD. If this sounds like a dishonest and contrived nothing admission, let me just say how I used to buy more than one buffer CD every time I trek to the church to get whatever diva albums are out, which looking at my stack, were a lot, because I’m ashamed to be handing over Tower Records cashier people with discernible smirks on their faces the new Mariah/Tori/Aaliyah. So I have now, rotting and molding in their respective areas of the CD rack, copies of probably never again to be played albums of Coldplay, Basement Jaxx, Death Cab for Cutie, and all other sorts of diva album buffer. So I mean, I’m not just saying, ‘Look at me getting over musical taste sophistication issues by buying Madonna’s Ray of Light!’ The purchase of this album was really somewhat momentous. You can say, it came to me like a ray of light.

I didn’t like all of Ray of Light, however, because my youthful perception of her gravitated towards the drag queen idea of her and this perception was magnified ten times over by Frozen wherein she ups the drag queen persona/gay icon ante in the video, which looking back on it now, was a really good-looking, understated video. But this is something I would never have admitted or known in high school because it’s high school. Besides, I didn’t know understated. For some reason, you never come off as gay or weird if you had a Mariah album. I know several jocks/big boys in HS who had Butterfly and Number Ones. But it’s quite a different matter with Celine Dion, Tina Arena and Madonna, and so I steered clear. Clearly, I had conflicts with certain issues during high school.

Maybe it was William Orbit’s production that hooked me, but I wasn’t aware of songwriters or producers during the time I was starting to get a taste of her. All I knew was that these are beats that are so weird and pretty, and I recall really liking most of them. Shanti Ashtangi was just too gorgeous to me.

For years, I rolled my eyes so hard over the idea of Madonna. I didn’t like her singles (Music, Frozen, Ray of Light, 4 Minutes), and I only bought her albums in a non-committed, obligatory way you buy certain albums, which was how I bought Something to Remember. When she released Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was still out of obligation that I bought it, but then I thought it turned out to be one of her most enjoyable albums, and that was when I started to enjoy her music as the creatures that they are. It’s puzzling to me though how I chose to begin with Something to Remember over any of her albums, it being a ballad collection and ballads not being her strongest suit, to start off with the Madonna discography discovery.

My appreciation of her began with Confessions on a Dance Floor and more then by the Confessions Tour DVD. When I watched this super freak concert, I understood why people go crazy over her, in spite of the nasty things said of her, in spite of her self-absorbed/self-important reputation, which was something of a turn-off to me. But fuck that already. I’m pleased to have discovered her before it’s too late. I loved the Confessions-era Madonna and I hope she never ages. I hope she stops aging for a while. She will age of course but I hope she never acts it.