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Carey has winning formula in ‘E=MC2’

Glenn Gamboa

Get ready for Mariah mania.

In case you’ve missed Mariah Carey on MTV’s premiere party for “The Hills” or on the “American Idol” charity event “Idol Gives Back” or “Saturday Night Live” or on the new heavy-rotation Macy’s ad, the singer would like you to know she has a new album, “E=MC2” (Island Def Jam), in stores on Tuesday.

She’ll be on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Monday and back on “Idol” Wednesday to remind you, in case the countless airings of her new No. 1 single, “Touch My Body,” on radio and the video channels somehow doesn’t.

What a difference a hit makes.

When Carey rolled out “The Emancipation of Mimi” in 2005 after a run of underperforming albums, everyone was far more cautious, with high-profile gatekeepers all taking a wait-and-see attitude. That album became a multiplatinum smash, though, and now it seems everyone is jumping on the Mimi bandwagon faster than you can say “We Belong Together.”

It’s the kind of launch that hasn’t been seen in the music industry in years, one that makes the recent campaign for Carey’s labelmate Janet Jackson or for Madonna’s upcoming “Hard Candy” album later this
month seem tiny by comparison.

“She is saying, `No, really, I am back,’ that `Mimi’ was no fluke,” says Ann Donahue, the Billboard senior editor who interviewed Carey for the trade magazine’s current cover story. “`Mimi’ was the biggest selling
album of the year when it came out, and she and her people anticipate that this album could be in the running for this year. They’re willing to do whatever it takes.”

Island Def Jam Music Group chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid says Carey is driven by her “will to be the greatest.”

“I love her commitment to her career,” Reid says. “She really works hard _ day and night. She writes and records songs day in and day out. I really love that about Mariah.”

It’s a whole lot of serious business for an album that the Long Island native says is about having a good time.

“This is a fun record, probably the most fun record I’ve ever had, and that’s tough to say after `The Emancipation of Mimi,’” Carey says, with a smile, “but in my opinion, it really is.”

It’s a vibe that definitely comes across on the lighthearted video for “Touch My Body,” which features Jack McBrayer from “30 Rock” as a geeky, fantasizing cablemodem repairman. Carey says she worked with numerous co-writers, performers and producers – from the Dirty South’s T-Pain (“Migrate”) to reggae royalty Damian Marley (“Cruise Control”) to her longtime pal Da Brat (“O.O.C.”) – to make sure the album
reflected her life.

“This is such an extension of me,” Carey says. “I put so much into it.”

The results have been well-received so far.

“This is her doing what she does best, her fitting into fashion,” says Bill Crandall, AOL Music editor-vice president. “She has always been able to get on the latest pop trend and do it capably.”

“Touch My Body” hit No. 1 after less than two months on radio and one week of availability in Internet stores, setting a record for most download sales in a week.

That success moved Carey into second place in music history for the most No. 1 singles with 18, passing Elvis Presley and putting her within striking distance of The Beatles.

It’s a record that has left many casual music fans scratching their heads, though even Carey takes it in stride. “I really can never put myself in the category of people who have not only revolutionized music,
but also changed the world,” Carey told the Associated Press. “That’s a completely different era and time. … I’m just feeling really happy and grateful.”

AOL’s Crandall says longevity may be what puts Carey, still only 38 after 17 years in the business, in such rarefied company and what may ultimately get her the record.

“It is hard to put her in the same category with the Beatles and Elvis,” he says. “She never defined a generation. Mariah has not had that impact on the culture. You can’t necessarily run off a bunch of her songs. Does she have a great voice? Yes.”

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