Mariah Carey on the 25th Anniversary of ‘Butterfly,’ and Bonding With Meghan Markle and Prince

One might think that on the 25th anniversary of her seminal 1997 album “Butterfly” and this week’s release of her new butterfly-themed Chopard jewelry collaboration with Caroline Scheufle, Mariah Carey will be celebrating butterflies, the beauty of winged flight and Transitional- Transformational Metaphor.

Mariah Carey is not that bad.

More from diversity

“You know, when I was a kid I didn’t have a thing with butterflies,” she says during a phone interview. “I wasn’t one of those little girls who had a fascination with butterflies, although I knew kids who did. This is just what happened. When I made that album, I was leaving a point in my life that was very stagnant and I had to go through a real transformation to become a grown woman who was strong enough to get out of that situation. It was me breaking free, so free to fly.”

The “pressure” Carey is referring to is her marriage to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola, whom she married in 1993 (when she was 23 and he was 43) and divorced five years later. . Although Mottola guided the five-octogenarian singer-songwriter through chart-topping success (Carey was the first artist to have her first five singles reach #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, from “Visions of Love” to “Emotions”). , she also kept the singer on a diet of sunny pop and with a buttoned-up, girl-neckless-door image throughout her marriage and her early career.

While working on “Butterfly” she split from Mottola and began infusing her bright R&B with hip-hop and collaborative elements with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Missy Elliott and the Trackmasters production crew. For her rough version of soul, Carey’s “Butterfly” was certified five times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the US, and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide since its 1997 release. Copies were sold.

“You know, there were random situations with butterflies at the time, like leaving the house we last lived in — a place I call ‘Sing-Sing’ — while writing the song ‘Butterfly’ and butterflies. I left watching. It was like when someone passes away and you see something symbolic,” she adds. “I was leaving a very difficult period, a reality that was very difficult to go through while wearing a public persona…. happy face.”

Carey says that such symbolism, seeing butterflies departing from the worst part of her life, is filled with meaning for her audience. “It’s something that my fans and I share without saying,” she says, “one that’s representative of an era that’s unspoken between us.”

She allows that this week’s butterfly theme represents the end of one era and the beginning of another.
“It’s a diamond creation for me, a big butterfly necklace — and immortalizing that precious, important moment in the music of that moment,” she says. “It was then and there that I was able to gain my freedom. There is no price you can put on it. Nothing is more precious than freedom.”

Recalling how the music of “Butterfly” “primarily” represents liberation, the excitement he felt during the first writing and recording sessions for his sixth studio album at Hit Factory Studios in New York City is distinct. “If you’re listening to ‘Honey,’ it’s a celebration,” she says, pointing to the first track, “Butterfly.” “Before I did ‘The Emancipation of Mimi,’ you could hear the emancipation there [her 2005 comeback album]. This album, ‘Butterfly’, contains fragments of my life at that time.

Talking about one of the extras on “Butterfly,” an a cappella version of “Outside,” Carey says a recent listening session to add to the 25th anniversary package made for great playback.

“I hadn’t heard that in years,” she says. “When I’m mixing my records, layering my own background vocals, which is one of my favorite things to do as a producer, layer after layer, texture after texture — I’m in the moment. . Listening to it now, thinking that my lyrics are primarily about being an outsider, growing up biracial, and that it’s the bane of my existence in many ways—that was the first specific song that I wrote and sang about that subject. “

Carey went on to say how many fans and friends have embraced her differences with her song “Outside”, and how they relate to its emotional undertones. “I’ve since heard that people have tattooed its lyrics on their bodies, and become deeply attached to it, so when I listened back a cappella, you could really hear the pain in it. I don’t feel that pain anymore, but I can hear its root, its core, coming through its lead.”

“Butterfly 25” also included a new version of that album’s track “The Roof”, this time with Brandy, “a singer who, like me, likes to mix great background vocal arrangements and vocal lyrics together. ,” and who Carrey says she plans to work with again soon.

In addition to freeing herself, lyrically, to express the hidden, hidden feelings of being trapped in a marriage, Carey’s liberation, musically, with Diddy and Missy Elliott in “Butterfly” is a 90s hip- The hop vibe involves more and deeper bending. Considering that her albums prior to “Butterfly” were littered with hints of her ex-husband’s songs (like Journey and Badfinger covers), Diddy’s slick street chic of Bad Boy rap was a welcome tonic for Carey.

“That music is what was going on in the world, and at the time, New York was the center of it all,” she says. “Even if you weren’t from New York City, if a record was big in New York, it was guaranteed to break all over the country. That, to me, was just normal. So when everybody looked at me weird, like It wasn’t strange to me why I had to write with Missy or the records I did with Bad Boy. [People] Certainly did not expect my cooperation with ODB [the late Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard] Before my ‘Butterfly’ on the ‘Fantasy’ remix, but that could have given them a hint. At the time, no one who was considered a ‘pop’ artist was working with ol’ Dirty Bastard. But what I was listening to at the time was cutting edge, new artists and writers or radio stations like WBLS. [in New York]. I was interested, at the time, in doing what I felt. And growing up in New York, being in New York, I loved hip hop. But corporate did not. “

Thankfully, corporate doesn’t win when it comes to hip-hop and “butterfly.”

Another personal triumph for Carey and the 1997 “Butterfly” album came with her cover of good friend Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” in collaboration with hip-hop-soul vocal unit Drew Hill. Although Carey had been a longtime fan of Prince before, she didn’t realize how much the Purple One generally hated other artists covering his work.

“He didn’t like it [covers], nor did he believe in the concept,” she says. “I only found out years later, when I was doing ‘Glitter,’ when he told me so. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God’ – but then Prince told me how much he loved my song ‘Honey’ and I was dying. He also knew that this song was important to me. Also, at the time of ‘Butterfly’, he defended me recording to executives who didn’t understand my decision to make such an album. The management did not understand me moving away from a successful formula. But Prince understood.

Speaking of royalty, just a week before Queen Elizabeth II died, Kerry was a guest on an episode of Meghan Markle’s “Archetypes” podcast on Spotify, titled “The Duality of the Diva.” Joining the podcast together, Carey and Markle discussed in depth what it means to be called the “tough” version of a diva and their shared experiences of being practical women.

“I don’t know that I should have authority over anyone but myself, but to preface my answer – I haven’t met the Queen,” she says. “However, I am obsessed with the show ‘The Crown’. And the podcast with Meghan, I felt, was a pivotal moment and one that I really enjoyed — taking her on things, her journey and mine. There are some similarities, such as being biracial. I try to focus on that topic because I can’t finish it. It’s always a thing, whether I bring it up or someone else does. I guess that’s why it was interesting for him and me to talk for his podcast. There are so many misconceptions about him and me – you can’t even fathom how many misconceptions there are.

On that note, Carey would like to make one thing clear — her long-discussed fairy tale book, “The Christmas Princess” (co-written with Mikaela Angela Davis, who worked with Carey on it) on Nov. 1 C) in preparation for release. 2020 memoir “The Meaning of Mariah Carey,” and directed by Fujii Takashi) – has the full “Queen of Christmas” tag that has given other holiday-music producers pause.
Yes, Carey’s version of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was ranked No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Holiday 100 Songs of 2021 chart. No, Kerry didn’t call herself the “Queen of Christmas.”

“I haven’t earned the title, but it’s become a thing,” she says with a laugh. “Other people have said this to me and about me. And the book is about a little girl who discovers she has a connection to Christmas.

But aside from Prince, Queen and Christmas, Carey is most happy to hear how the original “Butterfly” helped change the sonic and social landscape, and helped create something that is now mainstream: pop. , the album to connect R&B and hip-hop together.

“It wasn’t a conscious thing I did,” she says. “It was just music I wanted to make. To be able to talk about the butterfly – as a symbol – symbolized what I had to fight for: my freedom. It was a very tough business, a male-dominated business, which I joined as a teenager and had to fight to get through. I had to fight before, during, after and for my freedom still

“So, people tell me that ‘Butterfly’ paved the way for rap and pop collaborations,” he concluded. “But at the time, I didn’t think so; I thought this music was perfectly normal. Why would I want to live in a box?”

The best varieties

Sign up for Variety’s newsletter. For latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Leave a Comment