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Not Your Mama’s Mariah

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This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience. 

by Zacch Estrada-Petersen

"You look at me and see the girl who lives inside the golden world. But don't believe that's all there is to see. You'll never know the real me." ~ Mariah Carey, "Looking In"

With the release of E=MC2, I knew one thing early on: this was not the Mariah Carey my mother would recognize from almost twenty years ago.

In the early days when Mariah first debuted, she collaborated with top-tier crooners like Boyz II Men and Luther Vandross. Today's barely-clothed "impostor" lays tracks with "flavor-of-the-week" artists instead.

The old Mariah held long-term relationships with Derek Jeter and Luis Miguel. This new chick is still in the honeymoon phase of a marriage to a man 10 years her junior, whom she dated for only several weeks.

By most accounts Mariah Carey has undergone a complete transformation.

Keyword: most.

Author Lynn Hall put it best: "We didn't change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves." Mariah has always been Mariah, but on a very public road to self-discovery, every deviation from what is expected is often a cause for concern.

Mariah cuts her hair: panic.

Mariah wears jeans one day and a skirt the next: state of emergency.

I can still remember when the nightgown she wore in the "I Don't Wanna Cry" video was such a big deal. Now it appears that less has become her standard.

While this phony "carbon copy" may not seem like the same Mariah, very few people can say they were the same person three years ago, let alone 20.

Mariah's metamorphosis – from soft-spoken songbird to scantily-clad diva – wasn't sudden or drastic. Rather, the "change" we see is the same natural progression of growth, maturity, and self-realization that everyone experiences at some point.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Although biblical in context, the same concept applies. Mariah was barely out of her teens when she first entered the music scene, and that's how she behaved. In 1990, she was understandably vulnerable and very new to the cut-throat game of show business. After learning some very tough lessons, she had to modify her approach and adapt. Now, at the age of 38, she has (thankfully) embraced the evolution that comes with adulthood.

In retrospect, all of her "changes" were gradual, and for the most part, quite natural.

In 1997, she warned us of her "Breakdown" long before it happened, and "Butterfly" officially declared her release from the binding personal and professional relationship she held with Tommy Mottola, her former husband and Sony Music executive.

Her confessions continue to this day. On "Side Effects," she admits that she is "still a little protective about the people that [she lets] inside" and "still a little defensive thinking folk [will try to] run [her] life."

So essentially, very few of her actions should take anyone by surprise. Mariah is one of the few mainstream artists who pen the majority of their lyrics, and for twenty years, this has allowed for a very personal look into her life. Anything you needed to know could always be found in her music – if only you were paying attention.

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