How Prince Defended Mariah Carey Against Meddling Label Bosses
The personal recollections come via Carey’s new autobiography, The Meaning of Mariah. As most fans know, Prince embraced his role as a musical mentor, offering sage advice to those whom he deemed worthy. He also wasn’t afraid to stand up for artists he believed in, as was the case for Carey.
By 1997, the pop star had sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, becoming one of the most bankable recording artists on the planet. Still, that didn’t stop label executives from criticizing the singer’s decisions.
Carey’s ‘97 LP Butterfly featured more hip-hop influences than any of her previous material. Around the time of its release, an unnamed executive prodded Prince for his thoughts. “Why is she trying to be so urban?,” the record label employee reportedly asked. “What is she doing?”
Refusing to slander a fellow musician’s artistic choices, Prince matter-of-factly responded: “I think that’s just her shit. That’s what she really likes.”
Butterfly would go on to sell more than five million copies in the U.S., becoming yet another hugely successful release for Carey. The album also featured a cover of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones,” with Carey joining forces with R&B group Dru Hill for the updated rendition.
Listen to Mariah Carey's Version of "The Beautiful Ones"
Prince and Carey would go on to become friends, with the Purple One often stressing the importance for young artists to maintain ownership of their creations.
“Prince was one of the best people I’ve met,” Carey explained to Complex in 2016. “He didn’t care about the big system. I was always like, at any time Prince could write a No. 1 song, because he’s that talented, but he chooses to do what he wants. I respect that. He actually helped me through a lot of situations with his knowledge.”
In her book, Carey recalled her first visit to the Paisley Park compound, describing the legendary property as “a whole ‘notha world.” While there, the two artists worked on a song idea together, though their collaboration would never see the light of day. Still, Carey gleaned a lot of insight creating alongside the Purple One. “Protect your ideas, protect your music, was the message I got from that trip to Paisley Park.”
The duo remained close, with Prince even offering words of support when Carey struggled following Glitter, the pop singer's 2001 feature film and soundtrack project which became a massive critical and commercial failure. “His wise words soothed me," the pop star confessed. "He gave me encouragement, like the big brother I never had.”
Carey was on tour in Paris on the day Prince died. Though she initially intended to cancel her concert, the singer took the stage that evening as scheduled. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to come out here and put on a show and be festive, but I said, ‘I’m in Paris and that’s what Prince would actually want me to do,’ the pop star explained. "I think he would actually want me to get through it and, rather than just make everything bleak, to turn it into a moment and take him and honor him. Because he was a friend to me too, and he talked me through some times I really, really needed somebody.”