Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter!!

May 21, 2010

Okay. I’m going to get out some words about Mariah Carey.

I recently restumbled upon the video for Dreamlover. I’ll post it below.

Here’s what I need to point out, which can be observed as a consistent attribute in the following other two ‘official’ music videos I’ll be posting.

Mariah Carey (not the Mimi we’ve come to utterly disregard in the aughts) is a brave, brilliant, beautiful creature. Because of this bravery, because she insisted on co-writing her songs and delivering a vision of what Music means to her – in a world fresh outta the 80s* (*this is not an analysis founded on firsthand experience, just on imagination and lightly-educated guessing) when a woman’s role was either an outrageous crazy chick or a beautiful, mute muse – everything changed. There aren’t many things that are as depressing and enraging as being pigeonholed by your gender into being mute, however veiled with praise the role may be. I will say this once and for all:

    Mariah Carey was anything but Mute

A brief interview during her Emotions release, 1991:

With the birth of Mariah’s career, everything changed. For me at least and I’m only realizing the depth of just how much changed now, in 2010, at 23 years old. She wrote songs that taught my 10 year old self the words “rapture” and “sublime”. This was no small influence on a girl who loved the conclusiveness of a Story, but adored more the exquisite wonder of Words. Philology set deep in my soul, and Mariah fucking Carey was a keening, brilliant wind who came to me. She was the East wind who helped me mold a backbone while releasing holds on my heart, and created for me a world in which a girl could aspire to be herself. Or a woman who liked soft, simple materials and didn’t care about being cool.
In Dreamlover, she sings these words:

    “I need somebody uplifting to take me away,”

Totally posi, right? She also will make no exceptions – she doesn’t pray out for a lover who displays super cool attributes or has some reputation for their more shallow ‘achievements’,

    “I don’t want another pretender to disillusion me one more time/ Whispering words of forever, playin with my mind”

and in what plenty would consider “OVERT SENTIMENTALITY,” Mariah stays true to what she wants and feels she deserves, unapologetically,

    “I need someone to hold on to, the kind of love that won’t fly away. I just want someone to belong to: Everyday!
    Of my life! Always! So come and take me away!

If cartoonish embarrassing images of a decidedly NOT feminist, UN liberating MC come to mind from the past decade, please rewind to the simplicity of wanting to be known for who you are. This is then followed by the desire to achieve TRUST, and the purely Good vulnerability which is accessible once you find the security of being “known”. You do want that right? Well. I do. And haven’t been able to settle otherwise. Thanks Mariah.

    “I want a lover who knows me, Who understands how I feel inside / Someone to comfort and hold me, through the long lonely nights till the dawn – Why don’t you take me away?”

Back to the Dreamlover video — she has long natural hair, and rollicks about in a field with flowers and her ‘good friends’ (I think that’s the storyline..??). It’s obvious how comfortable she is with them, not only because she sings about her ‘dreamlover’ being someone who knows her.. but also because instead of trying to look ‘disinterested’ or ‘ironic’ or ‘cool’ (our number one vice in generation iPod, wouldn’t you say??), she strikes GOOFY poses with her friends, who reciprocate and smile and laugh.

Mariah Carey (her 1990 debut album) brought the first dose of commercial success, and experience working with producers chosen by her label. As we all become professionals, I think we realize more and more what we can live with, and what we are not willing to compromise. According to wikipedia’s MC article and common sense, Emotions marked a conception closer to Mariah’s taste, including co-producing and co-writing it!
That shit is ballsy. I hardly speak up when people crowd me on the subway, this girl was killing it at her work. That’s that spirit I mentioned earlier.
Rolling Stone described Emotions as

    “more of the same, with less interesting material […] pop-psych love songs played with airless, intimidating expertise.”

It’s interesting to consider – but in a current climate of our pop “love” (barely) songs that kill it (in a financially traceable success-airplay-general awareness way) that glorify partying and not giving a fuck – because at least her ‘pop-psych love songs’ were heard and could be sonically read like a solid book of poetry. Pick one at random, not a “this poet is the greatest and I’ll write my dissertation on why” type – but just a damn good book you read, and could sit with – and own that joy of relating to someone’s thoughts, feelings, dreams.
Don’t forget the airless, intimidating expertise. That really just tickles my funny bone. I love it. She’s a fucking badass.

The public eye on her attempts at fulfilling an artist’s shoes only makes her triumphs more poignant. Re: MTV Unplugged 1992,

    “… the set list was released on the EP MTV Unplugged, which Entertainment Weekly called ‘the strongest, most genuinely musical record she has ever made […] Did this live performance help her take her first steps toward growing up?.’

Moving along into Music Box (which you may or may not recall had Babyface in its corner), Rolling Stone congratulated it as

    “heart-piercing […] easily the most elemental of Carey’s releases, her vocal eurythmics in natural sync with the songs”.

True.

Her follow up album found her confidence moving along and the music still coming when she called, still inspired by that confessional and surprisingly plain lyric (I’m referring to lyric as in words, never her music or phrasing!)


    “Lying beside you here in the dark, Feeling your heart beat with mine / Softly you whisper, you’re so sincere, How could our love be so blind?”

Killing it with Open Arms:

In Fantasy, — wait, side note!!!!–
Though I appreciate the merits and implications of Dreamlover moreso as an adult [is that what I am?], as a wee lass, my all time favorite was Fantasy, followed closely by Always Be My Baby. Outside of her singles, my ultimate dreamy bliss track that taught me all about how to love someone was the second song on Daydream, “Underneath the Stars.”

Maybe it’s an asian thing. Apparently the Japs loved it too! Here’s Underneath the Stars in Tokyo, 1996:

Why does this matter? I’ll wrap up with two videos and a confession from my youth. I think by now you should understand why I feel Mariah Carey is a wonderful blessing, who had the bravery to run with her own blessings in life. If you’re reading this blog entry, there is no doubt you are blessed with at least a healthy dosing of dumb luck to be born into relative luxury. You know what you can do with luxury, besides take it for granted? You can love the world from the safety of your life.
We have stories and the kindest/purest of art for one reason, once you pass the politics, the lock-breaking, the pain-relieving, joy-luxuriating mess.
Nothing undermines a human struggle (one could easily argue The Human Struggle) as wholly as feeling Wonder. A reverence and a joy, because this is what happened: we are alive!
My Polish grandfather Czeslaw Milosz asked,

    as a REASON TO WONDER, “Which elements gave us song to praise birth?”

The world is full of burning machines and despite all of our wires, we’re rarely plugged in. This is not the kindest and most respectable of species, of self-imposed history. I know. I know. When has there been a good time for unicorns? No, our guns or our gods haven’t been able to save us. Ever. BUT: we have never been alone, and we are not devoid of worthy elements. We were gifted with music. More, we were gifted with senses. That we (in my culture at least) don’t require for our basic survival. Our senses are alive, and somewhere inside our noble little minds, we care.

Milosz also wrote,

    “There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor earth.”

Mariah Carey matters in my finite universe, and to undermine her work is a disservice to us all.

In the following videos, you can hear her. You can understand instinctually what song means, and are privy to her clipped sentimental lyrics of young love, of a fire in your belly, and a freedom that happens with expression. This is called honesty! Remember that not-interested-in-being-cool Dreamlover aesthetic? She’s summertime and roller coasters and friendship in Fantasy. A girl with feelings on roller skates!! COME ON!!!

In Always Be My Baby, Mariah gifts us with water and love, set inside a camp with fire and friends. Tell me that’s not enough for you!

If you care more for a dry appraisal, you may be interested to know that with the ODB remix of Fantasy:

    “Columbia reacted negatively to her intentions for the album: “Everybody was like ‘What, are you crazy?’. They’re very nervous about breaking the formula.”[50] The New Yorker noted that “It became standard for R&B stars, like Missy Eliott and Beyonce, to combine melodies with rapped verses.” John Norris of MTV News has stated that the remix was “responsible for, I would argue, an entire wave of music that we’ve seen since, and that is the pop-hip-hop collaboration. You could argue that the ‘Fantasy’ remix was the single most important recording she’s ever made.” Norris echoed the sentiments of TLC’s Lisa Lopes, who told MTV that it’s because of Mariah that we have “hip-pop.””

Later down the road, when her album #1s was released, some obsolete publication (NME?) had a bone to pick with the Mariah Carey who proposed songs like Hero, as

    “a purveyor of saccharine bilge like ‘Hero’, whose message seems wholesome enough: that if you vacate your mind of all intelligent thought, flutter your eyelashes and wish hard, sweet babies and honey will follow.”

I can’t remember for sure if at that time intelligence and optimism were mutually exclusive, but as I gain life experience, it is apparent to me that they are not.

Also- DEAR NME, IF YOU EQUATE THE TIME HONORED ARCHETYPE OF A HERO WITH SWEET BABIES AND HONEY, YOU MISSED SOMETHING.

Someone please pass Mariah’s Hero on to the armies of young girls whose growth-pains cannot be salvaged by any Lady Gagas or Hannah Montanas. It’s okay to be a girl. Remember the problem of having to choose between crazy cool chick and mute muse? ….Well. I’d rather be responsible for melting that sorrow away, with or without sprouting honey and puppies.

Even Pavarotti agrees 😉

As a last hurrah, I’ll toss you out with a confession from my toy-playing childhood. I’m not gonna lie. Let me paint you a quick picture: I was in, what, 3rd, 4th grade? So at about 10 years of age, I still really enjoyed playing with my little horse figures. (I had stuffed animals too.) Because he was awesome and happens to like making things, my dad built a 12-stall stable complete with a side room for congregating, and a tack room for… tack.
I would play that record (it was really a cassette, but I think the former sounds cooler) on album-repeat every day, so I don’t think it bothered my parents that it was on all night.
Really, I wouldn’t ever go right to sleep, I’d turn on a secret book light over my stables. Between that and the various nightlights I could accrue, the stage was set for some serious in-horse (get it.. house.. horse.. ehh) drama. For story structure I’d blend Lord of the Rings with the necessity of relationships and pop-psych that MC taught me about.

Kailana the horse telling her barnyard friends about her beau, "Laughing, we hurried beneath the sky to an obscure place to hide that no one would find,"

As the bridge on Underneath the Stars approached, those horse friends of hers would nicker amongst themselves and give the old wide eyes “turn around” to Kailana. Her beau would appear on the ‘hill’ or in the ‘cove’ (I always made water bodies while playing with them…) and the song would become a duet.

"But the time went sailing by, reluctantly we said goodbye and left our secret love so far behiiindd!!"

(DISCLAIMER: The above is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of a specific instance – just to give you an idea!)

I’d stay up for hours dreaming up a cabaret of Daydream songs that the play horses could act out. Afterwards, I’d put them to sleep, their conflicts of the heart SOMEWHAT resolved, and get in bed, satisfied and heart full of stories, and yes: joy and laughter.

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