Nov 02 2010

USA TODAY: Making Merry With Mariah

Don't expect to see less of Mariah Carey now that she's pregnant.

"Actually, I suppose that you'll be seeing more of me -- when you see me," Carey quips. The singer laughs easily, shortly after confirming what had long been rumored: that she is, at 40, expecting her first child.

Carey and her husband of 2 ? years, America's Got Talent host Nick Cannon, 30, broke the news in an interview that aired Thursday in part on Today. Though it has been reported that she is about four months along, all Carey will say is that she's expecting in the spring. 'We don't know the sex yet," she adds. "I guess we should find out. But people didn't used to find out, you know."

Carey does allow that she already was pregnant while working on Merry Christmas II You, which she delivers TODAY. It's her second holiday album and features a new version of All I Want for Christmas Is You, her smash hit from 1994's Merry Christmas. The original version is No. 2 on Billboard's holiday chart, while the similarly bubbly new single Oh Santa--one of four new tunes on II You-- is at No. 1.

"I was recording up to the last minute it was due" -- the album, that is. "It was down to the wire," she says.

"I was staying up 24 hours a day, doing Auld Lang Syne in one take. I just shot a video last night with my mom," former opera singer Patricia Carey, whose lustrous mezzo-soprano graces a medley of O Come All Ye Faithful and The Hallelujah Chorus.

"I've spoken about my mother's influence my whole life," Carey says. "So this was like coming full circle." And there's still more work to do: This weekend, Carey will tape a holiday TV special, Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas to You, to air Dec. 13 on ABC.

Asked if morning sickness or exhaustion has complicated all this activity, Carey says: "It's more this constant feeling of ugh. There's always a little bit of nausea, but throwing up is bad for your voice -- the reflux is terrible -- so I've been trying to just keep calm, get through it."

Keeping a secret is 'stressful'

Carey concedes in a phone conversation that she had some anxiety about making her pregnancy public. "I can't remember the last time I was that nervous before an interview. I never get that way. But I had all this promotion (for the album) coming up, and it was like, how do we keep not saying anything? Honestly, I would have much rather waited before I had a party with the world about this. But you can only keep a secret for so long; it becomes stressful."

Carey had suffered a miscarriage, and "after our experience, Nick and I were careful to not just go off and call everybody the first time we took a pregnancy test." But her reluctance owed more generally to a desire for privacy. "I like to keep personal things personal. But I've learned there's not much that's personal in this business."

Dina Sansing, entertainment director for Us Weekly magazine, observes that Carey's condition "was the worst-kept secret out there. People had been speculating for months."

Sansing expects that the press will document this mom-to-be's progress as avidly as they have that of any expectant celeb lately. "Mariah is beloved by many, and she's had this crazy life that we've all followed. We're excited to see her take this next step, and we want to be a part of it."

Sansing adds that the pregnancy could make Carey, who has sold more than 63 million albums in her career, "more relatable. With someone who's such a superstar, there's always a question of, is she a diva, or one with the people? This makes her one of us. And it solidifies Nick and her as a couple."

Carey says her marriage to Cannon was a huge factor in her decision to have a baby.

"I would have never done this if I wasn't in a strong, grounded relationship. I know you can do it by yourself. I've seen that, and it's fine if it works for you," she says. "But I want my child to experience having a mother and father who live together and love each other, to feel secure in that."

Decorating a nursery will not be a problem for Carey, who is known for her love of butterflies and other fun, frolicsome things.

"Come on, this is me. I already have a Hello Kitty bathroom," she says.

But she says she's not unconcerned about the cosmetic changes that pregnancy brings. "It's hard when you have to be in the public eye, and everybody's a size 2 or a size 0. And you're like, 'Oh, I remember those days!' "

A creative outlet

Then there's the simple matter of resting. "That's the plan, to relax after the holidays. But as Nick says, it's just not realistic to try to get me to not do anything." This month she will launch a lifestyle collection on the HSN, featuring shoes, jewelry and a fragrance. "I was looking at the boots, and they're really hot. So that will be an outlet for me, a way that I can keep being creative."

She's also keen to promote the new album. Its holiday predecessor has sold more than 5 million copies in 16 years. Carey executive-produced this successor with label chief and longtime creative associate Antonio "L.A." Reid. Track producers include other colleagues such as Jermaine Dupri and American Idol's Randy Jackson.

Jackson introduced Carey to another key member of the II You team: composer/lyricist/arranger Marc Shaiman, a prolific and witty veteran of theater, film and television. Shaiman co-wrote two tracks with Carey, Christmas Time Is in the Air Again and One Child, and was a principal force in shaping the arrangements and orchestrations.

Shaiman and Carey bonded in part over a mutual affection for the Woody Allen movie Bullets Over Broadway. "I'd be quoting all the characters, doing all the voices," Carey recalls. "Marc is just hilarious. His e-mails are not to be believed. He's Jewish, and when we did One Child, I said I wanted to make it about the Nativity. And at one point, he was like, 'Wait a minute -- there's a king involved here?' "

When she first met Shaiman, "I told him that I was going for a classic feeling. I wanted the music to feel timeless, so that you couldn't pinpoint it as 2010."

For music critic J.D. Considine, a contributor to Canada's Globe and Mail, this approach is in keeping with the sensibility that made Carey's Merry Christmas "a classic holiday album -- and there have been very few recorded in the past 30 years. Where so many artists try to avoid tradition and just make the Christmas carols sound like their current work, Mariah made an album that people would want to play at Christmas."

The holiday's true meaning

Carey says that flavor is even more pronounced on II You.

"It's festive and fun, but a lot of it is also spiritual in content. I wanted to address the real meaning of Christmas, with songs like The First Noel and O Little Town of Bethlehem," she says. "I think some people are scared to discuss what the holiday really means. I'm not trying to convert anybody (to Christianity). I'm just saying, this is me, this is what I feel."

In fact, the New Testament is cited in the album notes, with two excerpts from the Gospel of Luke.

The first begins, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." The second reads simply, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

The baby is Jesus, of course. But the second quote, Carey allows, has special resonance, attached to the infant she'll soon be bundling up herself.

"I always love this time of year," she says. "Whether it's a good time or a bad time, I'm never just going to mope around on Christmas. But this year will be exceptionally meaningful. I'm just so grateful for everything."

MERRY CHRISTMAS II YOU, the new holiday album from Mariah Carey is available in-stores today!


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