A Brief History of Mariah Carey Refusing to Acknowledge Time

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Sure, Mariah Carey celebrates her birthday every year like the rest of us, but other than that she’s eternal. Many are obsessively fearful about the aging process and Carey is surely no exception, but unlike most people, she refuses to admit that time exists in any traditional sense. Besides, in Being Famous years she’s only, like, 30.

Just this week, Carey’s infamous holiday ballad “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which has been around for decades, finally topped the charts at No. 1. On this occasion the diva deigned to give an interview to the New York Times, during which she remarked that when she first wrote the song she was “in the womb, darling.”

It’s not the first time Carey has been an emotional hero for humans who are growing older, which happens to be all of us. Here are some of the best things she’s said about aging and the impossibility of time.

The Eternal Tween

Carey told Variety in October that although she at times feels infantilized by her fame, it’s not as if she doesn’t indulge her childlike instincts: “I do need someone to be like, ‘Ok, we’ve got to go; you’re running late,’” she told the publication. “Yeah, I am like a petulant child. But my true fans know this. I’m eternally 12.”

There Is No Time, Only Well-Timed Tweets

We’re all too old to remember, but last year was actually remarkably like this year in that people were sharing pictures of themselves now versus ten years ago to mark the passage of time. Not Mariah Carey though! She participated in the trend by posting the same picture of herself twice, writing, “I don’t get this 10 year challenge, time is not something I acknowledge.”

Age Is Just a Number Determined by Mariah Carey

In 2015, Carey made an appearance on “Carpool Karaoke” and revealed that unlike age, the amount of No. 1 songs earned over a lifetime is not just a number. About two minutes into the roving interview, host James Corden asks Carey the ultimate softball question: “How many No. 1 [singles] have you had? Eighteen?” Carey replies, “Yes, 18, that’s why my age stays 18. We’ll celebrate my 18th birthday with the face that I’ve had 18 No. 1s.”

In that case: happy 19th birthday, Mariah!

The Artist As Child

There is also a sense in which Carey’s disallowing of time is not exclusively the providence of a diva but also of diva-as-artist. The collapsibility of time is a notion essential to her art. In youth we are perhaps more raw, tempestuous, experimental, and these can also be the artist’s gifts, Carey famously wrote many of her most famous songs, and that material needs to come from somewhere.

Last year, Pitchfork asked the singer why her songs sometimes have a “childlike quality,” referencing the track “8th Grade” off her 2018 album Caution. Carey responded, at length:

That’s not a happy song. Eighth grade was one of the lowest points of my life. The year before, I had dyed my hair orange by mistake. I shaved my eyebrows. I had no clothes. Somebody once said in the hallway to me at school, “Oh, she got three shirts in rotation.” It was mortifying. But that’s because my mom chose to live in predominantly white neighborhoods, where people had more money than us, and I didn’t fit in there. Or in an all black neighborhood when my parents were together; as a mixed couple, they had problems there. So there was not one safe place. But eighth grade was also me being like, “Oh, my gosh, I like this kid, and he doesn’t like me. That’s the end of the world!” You know that feeling. When we were writing that song, I just had this melancholy thing in me, and it still felt young. I just know what I felt like.

The  prospect of remaining intimate with one’s middle-school self sounds absolutely terrifying. As always, I am grateful for Mariah Carey.

A Brief History of Mariah Carey Refusing to Acknowledge Time