When one of the greatest selling artists of all time, vocal goddess and chart legend Miss Mariah Carey releases a new album, anything less than stellar first week sales and a top 3 placement is undoubtedly disappointing.
With the enigmatic diva’s 14th studio effort, ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse‘ arriving in stores last week, one would have expected at least decent first week sales on the basis of her name alone – given that the severely delayed project had failed to produce a preceding hit single (apart from a moderately successful top 20 hit ‘#Beautiful‘ with Miguel a year ago).
The album did arrive at # 3 on this week’s Billboard 200 Albums Chart, but it’s the first week sales of the project that have shocked many. With 58,000 units sold in the US, ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Eternal Chanteuse‘ becomes the songstress supreme’s lowest selling effort of all time as far as first week sales go. Is that considered shocking for someone of Mariah’s stature? Yes indeed.
Am I surprised? Not really.
Firstly, I’ve been a Mariah fan – a lamb as they’re called – since eternity. The thing is, I’m not a delusional one. I’m definitely not surprised at the lowly numbers (although I’m definitely shocked at HOW low they are – I was expecting at least a 90 to 100,000 plus) the album has managed to pull in its first week. Why am I not surprised, one would ask – especially since the album has generally received favorable reviews from critics and fans. And I’ll be happy to provide them my humble views, the ‘Breakdown‘ (REFERENCE) as I call it.
Lets head back to the triumphant (REFERENCE) summer of 2012 for starters.
Firstly, and most importantly, the innumerable delays since the announcement of the new project in 2012. Mariah’s camp made a blunder by announcing her new era approximately four times since 2012’s release of ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)‘, a poorly received song (and yet one of my all time faves by her actually) that was conveniently given the ‘buzz’ single status after it failed to chart anywhere at all.
By the time 2013’s ‘#Beautiful‘ with Miguel became a sizable hit, the biggest blunder was made by Mariah herself – delaying the project for a second time by making a rather silly announcement on how she got so deeply involved with the project that she had to make it perfect. Interest in Mariah’s music was on a major rise, thanks to ‘#Beautiful‘, and had the album dropped back then, her 7th # 1 album would have been inevitable.
Another major reason to release the album back then – American Idol. There’s a reason why Jennifer Lopez is a much loved household name who earned the biggest hit of her career, ‘On The Floor‘ while being a judge on AI. One might argue Miss Lopez of not selling too many albums as compared to her singles – thing is, even her flop singles garner her enough positive promo to keep her afloat. The last time I checked, her last two singles ‘Live It Up‘ and ‘I Luh Ya Papi‘ – considered flops by J Lo standards – both charted higher than anything released off ‘Me. I Am Mariah‘ – both inside and outside the US. Not that J Lo’s voice or career matches up or is comparable to Mariah’s (the woman has sold 200 million plus records for crying out loud and her voice slays generations of J Lo’s), but it just shows the impact of AI and how the vocally less gifted Miss Lopez still manages to stay ahead of the game lately by making some classic, calculated moves. Big mistake Camp Mariah, the combination of AI and ‘#Beautiful‘ was all that was required for Mariah to have her second emancipation- oh well.
‘#Beautiful‘ played out on the charts, and Mariah disappeared for almost half a year (with a shoulder injury to blame as well), only to appear in November to unveil her new single and the title of her new album ‘The Art Of Letting Go‘, which was premiered with much fanfare on Facebook, announcing her new era for the third time. The hurdle this time? The song itself. Classic Mariah, but a majority of lambs failed to connect with the same Mariah formula of a lovelorn ballad, especially after ‘#Beautiful‘ hinted at becoming the next ‘It’s Like That‘ from the Emancipation era. And with cringe-worthy lyrics like ‘Letting go ain’t easy, oh it’s just exceedingly hurtful‘, radio support for the song remained absent, not winning her any new fans in that process. The result? The song missed out on the Hot 100 completely.
By February 2014, Camp Carey announced that the new album would drop on May 6th, and the album title would no longer be ‘The Art Of Letting Go‘. The lead single of the ‘new’ yet unnamed project was ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)‘, a stellar ballad that combined elements of her ginormous hits ‘We Belong Together‘ and ‘Don’t Forget About Us‘. The issue here? Mariah doing Mariah. ‘You’re Mine‘ would go on to be loved by her worldwide legion of lambs – but the audience at large remained unmoved by the new single, accompanied by a remixed version featuring Trey Songs along with countless promo pushes. Radio remained unmoved with Mariah’s new offering as well, unsurprisingly. We’ve already heard a ‘We Belong Together‘ and a ‘Don’t Forget About Us‘ – after 3 push-backs if you release a song that’s a combination of the two songs that have already been heard countless times, after all the hoopla of making the album perfect – it’s not enough to get radio airplay on your side. ‘You’re Mine‘ managed to spend a lone week at # 88 on the Hot 100, and fell off the radar faster than a Rebecca Black single.
With the 6th of May arriving fast, there was no confirmation yet from Camp Mariah about the album’s release as well as the new project’s name – and that dealt the final blow to the new era. Clearly, fans as well as the general population started losing interest in the project which had been dragging on for over 2 years by then.
And then two revelations and the subsequent mess that followed rendered the project DOA – the announcement of the album name, and again, Mariah being Mariah.
Before we delve into the album name, it needs to be mentioned that Mariah Carey has been in the game for almost 25 years, and when you’re on course to notch your 17th top 10 album, you may very well call it ‘My Erotic Nasal Mucous‘ or ‘Rectal Ulcers, Smelly Farts‘ – you’ve earned it. These basic bitches struggling to go Gold in their 5th year of stardom have nothing on you. That said – ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse‘ – was over the top by even Mariah standards, and especially when her last album ‘Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel‘ failed to impress on the charts. Narcissism, or simply Mariah being Mariah, the world at large wasn’t impressed at an album title that would have best suited a Khia mixtape.
Simultaneously, the Letterman show appearance did not help AT ALL, and Mariah’s sudden announcement that the album would be a stealth release (Beyoncé style) with no first single cuz she wanted people to ‘listen to the album as a body of work’ – fell flat with Def Jam announcing the release date on 27.06.2014, the fourth and final push-back, along with singles being available on iTunes. And finally on the release week – Mariah pushed a lot of wrong buttons by pushing back the World Music Awards by four hours, resulting in the show not being aired at its scheduled time. Major, major loss of promo.
The eventual result? 58,000 units in first week sales for ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse‘, trumped by massive second week tumbles by Coldplay and Brantley Gilbert who hold on to the # 1 and # 2 spots for a second week in a row.
And not just the US, it’s the same situation in the UK as well, with the album limping in at # 14 with 6,500 units this week – of course with no promo whatsoever.
In retrospect, who is to be blamed for the stellar mess that was the promotional campaign of the album? Firstly, the artist herself. It’s 2014, not 1994. Her diva histrionics (both in her music as well as her lifestyle) seem to getting more and more over the top with every passing era – and the resulting sales reflect the general audience’s response. Mariah does not need to stoop low to compete with the Rihannas and the Katy Perrys of this generation. The clothes and the image does not agree with her at all – she’s done it successfully before and now is not the right time or age to do it again. Let the Rihannas rule, while you carry it on with class as a woman of substance. That photoshopped album cover? You’re a grown woman who has blazed a trail for millions of artists to follow and worship. Photoshop is fine. A photoshop Hyper-Platinum membership is pushing the envelope too far. Girl, NO.
Secondly, her team. The song ‘You Don’t Know What To Do‘ should very well be directed at them. Jermaine Dupri has given Mariah some of her biggest hits, but the man, who is partially responsible for ruining Janet Jackson’s career (her nipple ruined the rest), is messing things up lately. The promo, her musical direction, the release – it was all a colossal mess. Get your act together?
Lastly, the album is stellar return to form for Mariah Carey – and there lies the problem. Mariah returns with an album that’s classic Mariah – incorporating elements from her ground-breaking discography, especially the iconic ‘Butterfly‘ and ‘The Emancipation Of Mimi‘ eras. ‘Me. I Am Mariah‘ is directed specifically for her worldwide legion of lambs – and the general audience easily miss out on what a solid body of work the album is – solely cuz they don’t get it. ‘Faded‘, ‘Dedicated‘, ‘Make It Look Good‘ etc are classic Mariah songs – but singles on mainstream radio? I doubt.
One might argue that Mariah’s already 25 years into her game – so sales are bound to be lower than what she has generally seen. But a drop from 168,000 (for ‘Memoirs‘) to 58,000 units? Um, NO. Also, I present Miss Celine Dion – who arrived with 77,000 units sold with ‘Loved Me Back To Life‘ in the US, with no promo whatsoever, not even an official video for the lead single! The album’s headed for the 2 million mark globally as of now. Mariah’s contemporaries as well as seniors, from Mary J Blige to Madonna to Cher – all managed to pull in at least decent numbers of late. The point here is that the name sells. And in Mariah’s case – 58,000 is way, way too low. And one has only her team and her to blame – not the times, not the iTunes era, not the arrival of Rihanna or Ariana Grande (child, please).
With a half a billion dollars under her crystal butterfly sequinned belt, Mariah could give approximately zero fucks about the performance of her new album, or her lifestyle. Madonna did the same for her hot mess ‘MDNA‘ as well, after it snared one of the biggest debuts of the year. As a lamb, I’m angry. I’m disappointed. And I’m pissed at the management for this era. The album brings back classic Mariah for me, and for her millions of fans – and I guess that’s all I’m happy about. But who wouldn’t want Mariah – arguably the queen of comebacks – to be back on top of her game? And in hindsight, Mariah wants the same – the album wouldn’t have been pushed back a gazillion times had she not wanted it.
25 years, 18 number one singles, 200 million plus records, 6 number one albums, 17 top 10 albums, 5 Grammy’s and an unmatched legacy later – Mariah Carey is still very much a legend, and no # 3 peaking album can’t take that away from her (REFERENCE) achievements. ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse‘ can easily grow legs and slay like her previous projects with the right kind of promo. ‘You Don’t Know Want To Do‘ is an instant summer anthem waiting to roar up the charts, and with a bona-fide smash, the album could easily hold on until the inevitable re-release with some special duets that require Mariah to push the envelope outside her comfort zone. Mary, Madonna and Janet have all done the same and have succeeded – it’s time for Mariah to think outside of her discography. Check out Mary for starters – duets with Disclosure, Sam Smith and even Mariah – before her new soundtrack album ‘Think Like A Man Too‘ drops soon. Clearly, she knows what she’s doing, as all her albums seem to grow legs over a period of time. Her last studio effort ‘My Life II‘, her lowest charting studio album in almost 2 decades (# 5), has crossed the 800,000 mark in the US alone, with barely one song (‘Mr Wrong‘) denting the Hot 100.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for how this era unravels – and if Mariah inevitably notches her 19th number one hit soon. Until then, I’m just gonna keep it festive daaaahlings, and play ‘You’re Mine‘ on repeat.