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Mariah Carey Talks New Audible Podcast and Muni Long Remix

Mariah Carey Talks New Audible Podcast and Muni Long Remix

It’s new Mariah Carey music week. 

The singer dropped her remix to Muni Long’s viral TikTok hit, “Made for Me,” on Wednesday and, a day later, she is releasing Portrait of a Portrait: Words + Music, the Audible Original podcast where the star unpacks her deeply personal 2018 song, “Portrait,” and unveils a new dance remix to the track.

“I love ‘Portrait’ and I just never thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to remake this song as a ‘dance’ remix.’ That was never on my mind. It was a very sad song, very much about where I was at in my life at that moment,” she says. “We did a remix that was very different from the original version. It was very much peppy and happy, all the while still being kind of morose. I think it definitely gives new life to the song.”

Carey is one of music’s best-selling singers and holds the record for most No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — 19 — by a soloist. She’s only behind the Beatles, who have launched 20 chart-topping hits.

Carey wrote all of those No. 1s — except her cover of Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” — and in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the icon talks about her songwriting process, not always getting the credit she deserves as a lyricist, never taking the SATs, the 30th anniversary of her Christmas staple and more.

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“Portrait,” from your Caution album, includes the deep lyrics: “Somewhat desensitized/Still that same hopeful child.” What was it like writing that? Was it therapeutic or cathartic, hard or easy?

It’s therapeutic and writing that — “somewhat desensitized, still the same hopeful child” — I was by myself in my bedroom, just really focusing on what I was trying to say. And I don’t know — “haunted by those severed ties/pushing past the parasites” — that was a favorite [line]. But with a song like that, it’s really all about what you are personally going through. I hadn’t written something like that in a long time, and that’s why it was also great to be able to do the remix.

Do you remember when you wrote your first lyrics as a child and what inspired that?

I don’t know that I knew that they were lyrics when I was writing them. I thought, “OK, I’m writing a poem, I’m writing a story.” And then I would hum around the house, and that sort of led me to know that I wanted to write my songs. And as I grew up a little bit more, I realized, “Oh, all artists don’t write their own songs,” because I never knew that. As far as I was concerned, everybody wrote their songs. But that wasn’t the situation. And when I was in, I don’t know, middle school and experiencing life differently, I really realized, “OK, this is what I want to do. I want to write songs. I want to explore melodies and things like that.” So I guess it was kind of then.

You’ve always written your own music, but was there ever a point that you wanted to record a song that someone gave you? Or do you feel like you only want to record what you write because it’s your story?

Some people will say, “Hey, listen to this song. Isn’t this great?” And blah, blah, blah. And I’m kind of like, “Yes, I like it a lot,” but it’s not speaking from my heart. So I prefer to write my own songs even though it’s a longer process.

A couple of my friends always joke that you must have loved English classes in school because your vocabulary game is so strong. Even when I think about “Heartbreaker,” we remember looking up words like “incessantly” and “euphoric” at the time, not knowing exactly what that meant. It’s like you’re the queen of the SAT words.

Funnily enough, I never took the SATs (laughs).

Both my parents had really strong vocabularies and I would just always kind of go to those words. And I was in honors English, and I think people didn’t expect to see me there when they opened the door, because I was in remedial math. So just having that background of being able to have the vocabulary that I had as a kid, it drew me to write the way that I write.

Have you ever wanted to write songs and give them to other people?

Not really. I do love writing songs and it’s an amazing thing to be able to do, but to say I love writing songs and that’s all I’m going to do right now. That’s just not who I am. I love writing songs and I love combining singing and writing, and it’s just been an amazing time for me.

You’ve always been recognized as an amazing vocalist, and I wonder if being inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame felt extra special because they were specifically honoring your songwriting abilities?

It definitely did. I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” And especially because I don’t know if you ever saw any of the memes that were going around that were like — “As a songwriter, as a songwriter, as a songwriter” — that I would say. Did you ever see those?

Yes.

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So I guess it was just something where it was like, people weren’t really giving me the credit for what I was doing my whole life, so I was running around talking about it, “As a songwriter.” But no, I really feel like it was an amazing gift to receive.

Did you ever have any theories as to why people weren’t giving you the proper credit for writing all of your songs?

I don’t know what other people think, because it’s a difficult thing to try to unravel. But at a certain point you’re like, “OK, they don’t like the song I wrote, they do like the song I wrote. I don’t really care.”

Like “Portrait,” your Caution album also includes “A No No,” which you wrote with Priscilla Renea aka Muni Long. And now you’re collaborating with her on the “Made for Me” remix — what was it like working on that?

I love Muni Long/Priscilla Renea, and I loved working with her on “A No No.” And then when this song came around, “Made for Me,” I was like, “Wow, she’s doing so great.” And of course, Jermaine Dupri [who co-wrote and co-produced “Made for Me”] is a very good friend of mine, so he was just like, “You should do this, you should do this.” And I didn’t know what to do, but I went into the studio and messed around and did some harmonies and some notes and a bunch of things. And [Muni] just sent me flowers last night, which was so sweet.

It’s the 30th anniversary of “All I Want for You Is Christmas,” which is a gift that keeps on giving. What comes to mind when you think of celebrating the holidays each year as this song comes back to life? Especially when it’s hard to make a new Christmas classic, which you’ve done.

I think it’s a difficult task. Look, here’s the thing. I love Christmas so much, and this year I’m doing a lot of other things that are not Christmas related. You know, these shows in Vegas, I’m going to Brazil. There’s so many things to do that it’s exciting. But Christmas? I’m already sitting here thinking about, “OK, what am I doing? Where am I going? Where are we staying?” It’s amazing. And it’s not just the music. It is the music. I have to have a playlist going on and on and on the entire Christmas season. But no, it’s just something that I always love, something that when you’re a kid you love and you never grow out of it.

How has the residency in Las Vegas been?

They’ve been really fun and we’re going back in July. It’s been something that I didn’t really expect to happen, but then it did, so it was kind of like a little bit of a shocker.

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