Mariah Carey’s been called quite a few things through the years. Diva. Grammy Winner. Charttopper. Artist of the Decade. Probably a few things that aren't printable.
But never a road dog.
Carey has certainly done some touring during her 16-year recording career, but in a limited fashion.
“I would’ve liked to have done more than I’ve done,” confesses the 36-year-old singer, whose “The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour” stops this weekend at The Palace of Auburn Hills marks her first fledged concert ever in the Detroit metro area.
“I have to be very careful with my voice,” explains Carey, whose classically trained, seven-octave voice boasts a piercing upper register that detractors sometimes liken to a dog whistle. “It’s not like I can do it like some people who stay on the road for two years. I can’t do that. I’m not built that way.”
It’s fair to say that relative lack of live performances hasn’t hurt Carey, however. She’s sold 160 million albums. She’s also had 17 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 — tied with Elvis Presley for second place all-time, and the Beatles’ leading mark of 20 is well within her sights. Billboard magazine named her Artist of the Decade for the ’90s, and she also received a World Music Award as the World’s Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium. Meanwhile, Carey’s 10th studio album, “The Emancipation of Mimi,” was the topseller of 2005 with 9 million copies worldwide and won three Grammy Awards — including Best Contemporary R&B album and two for the single “We Belong Together.” When Carey has failed, however, it’s been as spectacular as her successes. Her marriage and subsequent divorce from Columbia Records chief Tommy Mottola was prime tabloid fodder in the mid- and late-’90s. Then her 2001 fi lm “Glitter” bombed with both critics and moviegoers, and Carey, who had a brief fling with Detroit rapper Eminem, exacerbated the damage with erratic public behavior — including lengthy, suicidal messages on her Web site — that she chalked up to exhaustion.
Looking back, Carey — the Long Islandborn daughter of opera singer Patricia Carey — blames part of “Glitter’s” failure on its release date, three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But she acknowledges it didn’t exactly put her best cinematic foot forward, either.
“Do I like the movie myself? No, I wasn’t happy with it, and it wasn’t what I set out to do,” says Carey, whose subsequent fi lm roles include independent features such as “Wisegirls” and “Death of a Dynasty.”
“I learned a lesson — do things on a smaller scale,” she says. “You don’t have to be the star of the show all the time, and you should surround yourself with a supporting cast that can handle it.”
Carey is unquestionably the star of “The Adventures Of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, The Tour,” but she also has a desire to make things seem a bit smaller than the large arena venues she’s playing and the outsized, two-tier stage she performs on for 90 minutes.
“I have a really close, interactive relationship with my fans,” explains Carey, whose previous area stops have included singing at a Detroit Pistons NBA playoff game in 1990 and performing at halftime of the Detroit Lions’ 2005 Thanksgiving Day game.
“I want ... the fans to feel like they’ve really had the experience of being there with me and having an intimate evening. And it’s not like I take myself too seriously out there, either.”
She did take putting the show together seriously — and so did Randy Jackson, the “American Idol” judge who helped produce it.
“We wanted to show her as the great singer-songwriter that she really is, straight-up, and as the fun person that she really is, too,” explains Jackson, who was Carey’s musical director on previous tours and has worked on several of her albums, including “Mimi.”
“You listen to all these songs and you go, ‘I know she had some hits, but oh my God ...’ We just made an environment that let her be free to be herself. This show defi nitely gives you a good breath of what’s really, really cool and happening about her.”
Carey says having Jackson on board gave her great confidence in the show.
“He’s been my ‘dawg’ for years,” she explains, “but now he’s world famous. Sometimes that can be a weird experience that sometimes changes people, but he’s the exact same person.”
Carey herself is no “Idol” watcher, however, although she’s frequently told that many of the contestants, particularly female, mimic her sweeping, swooping vocal style.
“I’m like, ‘Do they really try to sing like me?’ ” she says. “I guess that’s flattering. I just think the whole reality-TV thing has just taken over the world, which is kind of bizarre. But if it gives people a shot, that’s kind of a good thing.”
Carey’s next shot in the studio — which theoretically also will give her a shot at tying or topping the Beatles’ No. 1 hit mark — will come after the “Mimi” tour wraps in late October in Hong King. Carey isn’t sure exactly what will happen on her next album, but she plans to be ready when it’s time.
“I’m always eyeballing my next album,” she explains. “I’m always writing songs, even when I’m not in songwriting mode. But I go away to write songs; I go to a different, exotic places where I feel like I’m having a vacation and doing what I love.
“So getting away and doing that is something I might look to again. I think it helps me a lot.”
CAREY MADE FIRST TV APPEARANCE AT THE PALACE
The Palace of Auburn Hills holds a special place in Mariah Carey’s history.
The singer, fresh off the release of her self-titled debut album, delivered her first-ever television performance during the 1990 NBA Finals, singing “America the Beautiful.” The booking came from a bit of corporate synergy; CBS, which was broadcasting the Finals that year, and Columbia Records, Carey’s label, were owned by the same company, and Columbia chief Tommy Mottola, who accompanied her to Auburn Hills, also had a romantic interest in the singer; they married in 1993 and divorced four years later.
Carey’s performance aired during the broadcast, which was unusual at the time but an indication of how much was staked in the singer, who received the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1991. Her concert Saturday at The Palace will be her first time back there since.
Mariah Carey and Sean Paul perform at 8 p.m. Saturday (September 9th) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $129.50, $89.50, $59.50 and $39.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit
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