The Meaning Of Mariah, by Mariah Carey with Michaela Angela Davis
It must have been a difficult task for the co-author of this book to take the scattered and not very chronological tea dished out by Mariah Carey and to turn it into a readable if somewhat scattered memoir. One thing that shines through in this book is Mariah’s commitment to self-improvement, as a lot of elements of her career make a lot more sense when one understands the back story of her life. As someone who is at least somewhat of a fan of Mariah’s music, if not all of it, there has long been a great deal of a lot of tension relating to the influence of her personal life and her musical output. Some of my own favorite songs of Mariah Carey relate to the recognition of outsider status (like “Looking In”) or the author’s desire for love that is freely chosen not coerced (“Butterfly”) or the author’s longing for heroism (“Hero”) as well as genuine friendship (“Anytime You Need A Friend”). The author’s frequent attempts to perform hip-hip as a way of paying tribute to her complex identity and her success with adult contemporary ballads that she sings well but without a lot of enthusiasm also make a lot more sense here and make Mariah a far more tragic figure than anyone with nineteen #1 hits and tens of millions of records sold really needs to be.
This book is between 300 and 350 pages long and it is divided into four parts that are mostly but not entirely chronological. The first part of the memoir consists of the author’s discussion of her childhood (I) and its importance to her psyche and struggles, and there are a lot of struggles to be found, including a broken family divided against itself, the author’s facing racism as well as family that lacked love and support among itself. After the author details her efforts to claw into the music industry, she then spends a substantial portion of the book talking about the details of her troubled marriage to Sony CEO Tommy Mottola, as well as the inevitable struggles over her musical direction and over her fondness for hip-hip and desire to make more music influenced by it. The third part of the book discusses her desire for “justice” for Glitter and Charmbracelet in a period of her life where she shows a great deal of paranoia against Tommy and against her family. The fourth part of the book then talks about the success of Emancipation, without providing a lot about her career beyond that. She talks about her relationships with Derek Jeter, Luis Miguel, and Nick Cannon (but sadly not Eminem), as well as her respect for divas of generations past and present, and her hostility to being pit against other women like Whitney Houston.
What is the meaning of Mariah, after having read this book? Mariah herself as a person appears to be deeply interested in astrological beliefs (she comments often about being an Aries, for example) as well as beliefs about the importance of energy in being with others. Her own personal meaning is a complex one given her bi-racial background that has left her being too black to pass as white and too white to fit in with black culture. Her discussion about her mom demonstrates a high degree of hostility about a sense of privilege that Mariah beliefs is inherent to her mother as a white woman that she does not possess. Her own dysfunctional family background and the way that her success has not led to relatives of hers appreciating her any more for her generosity to them as well as a toxic history of bad and/or short relationships shines through here as well. If Mariah’s ambition can certainly be lauded, and she tells a compelling story about her struggle to break through the music business and deal with its treachery and darkness, Mariah’s scars are also pretty evident here, and it is an open question whether the author can ever be expected to find the sort of happiness that she would hope for hope against, considering her ambivalence with regards to marriage but her obvious attraction to darkly passionate men. Mariah comes off here as a troubled but sincere and ambitious woman, and if there is clearly more to the story than is being said, this book at least should help people understand Mariah’s complex identity and motivations, and that is a considerable achievement.