Feature: Mariah Carey

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DETROIT, June 24 (UPI) -- Mariah Carey's lesson for 2003; her fans would rather see her keep things small, even if it means less of them can actually see her.

So that's why Carey, the world's top-selling female musical artist of all time, decided to downscale her summer tour of North America from amphitheaters and arenas to theaters, eliminating a number of cities in the process.


Carey -- who recently kicked off a series of dates in South Korea and Japan before starting her North American tour on July 26 in Las Vegas -- says it was a chance encounter with a fan at an amusement park that convinced her to make the change. "She told me she'd seen me before in concert, but she didn't really feel the experience because the place was too big," Carey, 33, recalls.


"When you do those really big arenas, they fill it up with corporate people, so you've got the front rows being given to the people with the most money or influence or power. That's beyond my control.

"So I moved to the smaller places so the fans can feel like they've really had the experience of being there with me and having an intimate evening."

Carey -- who boasts of a "really, really close, interactive relationship with my fans" -- also gave her devotees the opportunity to vote on her web site for what songs they wanted to hear her play. And while the top choices were established hits such as "Hero" and "Through the Rain," Carey says there have been some surprises from deep in her 11-album catalog.

"There's obscure songs from my first album, like a song called `Sent From Above'; I never thought that anybody would even vote for stuff like that," she says. "Basically I'm trying to incorporate as much as I can from the list into my concerts."

That's no easy task given Carey's successful track record. She's placed 15 No. 1 singles atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has spent more cumulative time at No. 1 than the Beatles. With two Grammy Awards to her credit, she received Billboard's Artist of the Decade award for the `90s and the World Music Award as the Best-Selling Female Artist of the Millennium.


Carey -- who was married to former Columbia Records chief Tommy Mottola from 1993-97 -- hopes this year's tour will remind fans of those accomplishments and put the shine back on a career that was tarnished by 2001's "Glitter," her disastrous feature film debut plowed under by harsh reviews and a feathery box office. The songstress exacerbated the damage with erratic public behavior -- including lengthy, suicidal messages on her Web site -- that she chalked up to exhaustion.

Carey rebounded by switching record companies, issuing a successful album -- last year's "Charmbracelet," which has sold more than 3 million copies. The album is being reissued this summer to add several new songs, including "I Know What You Want," her hit collaboration with Busta Rhymes and Flipmode Squad.

She hasn't abandoned acting, either. But Carey has switched her ambitions into smaller, independent outings such as "Wise Girls" with Mira Sorvino.

Looking back, Carey notes that "Lest we forget, the `Glitter' thing came out the week of September 11. I think it really got a bum rap because of that."

But, she adds, "Do I like the movie myself? No, I wasn't happy with it, and it wasn't what I set out to do. But now I learned some lessons -- do things on a smaller scale, you don't have to be the star of the show all the time, and surround yourself with a supporting cast that can handle it."


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