The story of Mariah Carey’s secret ’90s alternative rock album
For the album packaging, Carey turned to Sony’s art department. “I wrote the headline with pink lipstick on a Polaroid photo Tommy took of a giant cockroach that died in Italy,” Carey writes in her memoir. “I told them to add a pop eyeshadow makeup palette.” Tracy Boychuk, then junior art director at Sony, remembers Sony A&R Michael Goldstone asking her to design the Chick cover using Carey’s Polaroids. She never met or spoke to the singer during the process, but her marching orders were clear: make her look “rock”.
“The direction was that I was trying to take a blurry photo that wasn’t very interesting and made it look like something deliberate,” Boychuk explained via email. “The rest of the album was just pictures of her friend [Dane]… It all sounded a bit dishonest to me, but I understood that the label was not going to risk a huge pop hit with a bad rock record. It was not very convincing. It was just another mission that I sometimes think back on and shake my head.
Someone’s ugly daughter arrived in September 1995 with little fanfare. His two singles, “Demented” and “Malibu”, brooded in different ways: the first focused on the tortured repetition of the phrase “I Crave you”, while the second was more pop-punk-ish, with bratty lines. Like, “If I was Malibu Barbie and you were tan Ken / I would probably kick your ass for GI Joe because he’s macho, yeah.” None of the songs are listed on Billboard, and although “Malibu” aired smoothly on MTV (including rude commentary from Beavis and Butt-Head), he failed to gain ground. In retrospect, both videos contained references to Mariah’s verse, from a close-up of a butterfly on Dane’s neck in “Demented” to a cameo of Carey’s dog in “Malibu.”
“We were working on records on alternative radio, but they didn’t think it was an alternative,” says Hilary Lerner, then vice president of radio promotion at 550 Records. “The first single didn’t go well. But we come out with yet another. Obviously, this was a “draft priority list”. In other words, the label made an effort to push the singles. But would the media have responded better if Carey was publicly associated with the project?
“Sony just wanted it gone,” says Chappelle. “Maybe they felt like it was a threat to pop sales. Maybe they felt it would confuse people. It’s a feat that Carey released the record. “Mariah can be… She’s a very strong person and she can be very influential,” Chappelle adds. “It was there for a minute, but I think it was too much for Sony. It’s too different from Mariah, the pop star.
Fans are wondering if Carey will ever re-edit the project seamlessly. “I just found the version with my vocals, but I need to find the mixes for the card at the time,” Carey told Lowe. For her part, Cirimelli would like others to hear what the album is like with Carey’s voice taking center stage. “God, it would be great to hear her voice again and more,” says Cirimelli. “As far as I know, we were the only ones who heard this.”
The Chick album was a sign of what Carey could do without management interference. His split from Tommy Mottola during the 1997 recording Butterfly gave her room to pursue hip-hop and R&B collaborations, and she reached new heights on “HoneyWith producers Puff Daddy, Q-Tip and Stevie J at the wheel. She would gradually take more control over her creative direction, leading albums like her comeback in 2005, Mimi’s emancipation. It’s unclear if the stars will ever line up to have Carey ditch her alternative rock album the way she wanted, but if she ever does, this time around, it will be on her terms.