The first book to critically examine the legacy of pop superstar Mariah Carey.
When it comes to Mariah Carey, star power is never in doubt. She has sold hundreds of millions of albums and cut more chart-topping hits than any other solo artist—ever. And she has that extraordinary five-octave vocal range. But there is more to her legacy than eye-popping numbers.
Why Mariah Carey Matters examines the creative evolution and complicated biography of a true diva, making the case that, despite her celebrity, Carey’s musicianship and influence are insufficiently appreciated. A pioneering songwriter and producer, Carey pairs her vocal gifts with intimate lyrics and richly layered sonic details. In the mid-1990s, she perfected a blend of pop, hip-hop, and R&B with songs such as “Fantasy” and “Honey” and drew from her turbulent life to create the introspective masterpiece Butterfly. Andrew Chan looks beyond Carey’s glamorous persona to explore her experience as a mixed-race woman in show business, her adventurous forays into house music and gospel, and her appeal to multiple generations of queer audiences. He also reckons with the transcendent ideal of the voice that Carey represents, showing how this international icon taught artists around the world to sing with soul-shaking intensity and a spirit of innovation.
Andrew Chan writes regularly about music, film, and books for 4Columns. His work has also been published by the Criterion Collection, Film Comment, NPR, the New Yorker, and Reverse Shot.
The most exciting new book on a popular artist I have read in quite some time. Andrew Chan pays close—even devotional—attention to Mariah Carey’s work, but maintains the critical distance needed to evaluate and historicize it. Combining the passion of the superfan with the analytical wit of our best cultural critics, Chan illuminates Carey’s art and legacy while raising the bar for future appraisals of women in pop.
~Emily J. Lordi, Vanderbilt University, author of The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and Resilience since the 1960s
Virtuosos are the trickiest subjects: as they bespell you they shut you down, they put you on your hands and knees. Andrew Chan's criticism stands straight up. He reveres, but he also explains, connects, analyzes, elaborates; he helps us see Mariah Carey as a tradition, a code, and a curriculum.
~Ben Ratliff, author of Coltrane: The Story of a Sound
Andrew Chan deconstructs the powerhouse that is Mariah Carey through exceptionally intimate writing, breaking her talent into its most fundamental elements. This book is an invaluable, deeply researched document of Carey as a pop anomaly, vocalist, songwriter, and creator in her own right.
~Clover Hope, author of The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop
In expansive prose . . . , Chan proves that despite a smooth-edged commercial exterior, Carey’s style “foregrounds the ways singing can activate something irrational and untamed within us.” It’s a satisfying tribute to a dynamic and influential singer.
Required reading for Lambs worldwide: In Why Mariah Matters, Andrew Chan looks beyond Mariah Carey’s undeniable glamour and incredible five-octave vocal range to examine the diva to explore her life as a mixed-race woman in music, her adventurous forays into gospel and house music, and her appeal to multiple generations of queer audiences.
Why Mariah Carey Matters makes the case for Mariah Carey’s place in the pantheon of great musical artists and it’s hard to disagree with its central argument, that for all her accolades, mainstream success and her over-the-top camp persona, we have overlooked the nuance and artistry underneath.
~The Queer Review
[Andrew Chan strikes] an elegant balance of tone and writing as a critic, a reporter, and a memoirist all at once . . . when Carey’s effect on audiences poses a phenomenological hurdle, he spins illuminating personal narratives only to then pivot towards rigorous close-readings of her lyrics, voice, and performances worthy of Barthes’s Mythologies.
Chan's beautiful descriptions of Carey's songs, lyrics, and performances aid in the difficult task of bringing sound to life solely through words...An excellent look at a great artist. Readers will likely find themselves YouTubing the Carey performances described in this book.
Chan gives nuance in Carey’s work, persona, and legacy...Across 168 pages, Chan humanizes Carey’s world renowned impact in music, also connecting the artist’s poignant lyrics and five-octave singing delivery to his experiences as a queer Chinese-American.
What stands out the most about this book is the intimacy of the author’s writing. . .Chan’s focus stays fixed on Carey’s extraordinary voice, her metamorphosis from ambitious ingenue into a showbiz heavyweight and the impact her music has on legions of loyal lambs, the latter of which is most poignantly displayed in the final passages of the book.
1. A Call to Worship
2. What a Voice Means
3. Other Sounds, Other Realms
4. Out of the Chrysalis
5. Between Laughter and Lament
6. Back at Number 1
7. A Timeless Diva Through Time
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