As Mariah Carey gets ready to release the fifth ("Say Somethin'") and sixth ("Fly Like a Bird") singles from her multiplatinum smash album, "The Emancipation of Mimi," next week, the actions of her former record company, EMI, seem even more foolish.
In 2001, EMI paid Carey a reported $80 million to release her next five albums, including a $21-million signing bonus before she released one song for the company. On Sept. 11, 2001, she released the soundtrack to her movie "Glitter," which flopped - in part, because the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., shifted the pop-culture landscape away from everything lightweight and, in part, because it was pretty awful.
In January 2002, EMI's new chairman and CEO, Alain Levy, decided it would make more sense to pay Carey another $28 million to leave the company, instead of taking on the additional expense and risk of releasing another record from her. Rather than taking Carey aside and helping her create another massive hit (which was, you know, kind of their jobs), the EMI brain trust, like so many execs these days, decided that cutting costs was easier than expanding the business.
They embarrassed her by publicly asking her to leave. However, living well is the best revenge. Since leaving EMI, Carey picked up her 16th and 17th No. 1 singles, tying her with Elvis Presley for second place behind the Beatles in career No. 1's. She has returned to Grammy-winning, multiplatinum form, making tons of cash for EMI rival Island Def Jam. Wonder who's crying now?