Mariah Carey just released her 15th studio album (and first full-length LP in four years), Caution. It’s garnering great reviews, and we will soon find out where it lands on the charts. But the elusive chanteuse can already claim to have a current No. 1 album, because her less-than-favorably reviewed Glitter soundtrack has finally topped iTunes’ album chart, 17 years after its disastrous release.
And this happened entirely organically, thanks to Carey’s “Lambily” fanbase launching the viral #JusticeForGlitter online campaign.
So, for those of you who were not watching MTV’s Total Request Live back in 2001, the media blitz for the retro-’80s musical rom-com Glitter, Carey’s first movie, was massive — and, as Yahoo Entertainment chart expert Paul Grein recalls, “People in her camp hoped it would do for the pop diva what The Bodyguard had done for Whitney Houston nine years earlier.” But, Grein notes, “it didn’t come close. In fact, Glitter was such an epic bomb that it hurt her career momentum for a few years.”
The low point of the publicity campaign for the critically disparaged film was Carey’s bizarre July 19, 2001, “surprise” appearance on TRL, when she ambushed host Carson Daly while pushing an ice cream cart, then did an awkward striptease act. “Mariah Carey has lost her mind!” Daly exclaimed. A week after this stunt, Carey was hospitalized for “extreme exhaustion” and a “physical and emotional breakdown.” Carey recently revealed that her erratic behavior on TRL and at other promotional appearances during that period was linked to a bipolar disorder diagnosis from that same year. But in an era of less awareness and empathy regarding mental illness, Carey quickly became a tabloid joke in 2001.
These incidents caused Carey’s new label, Virgin Records, to delay the Glittersoundtrack’s release from Aug. 21 to Sept. 11, 2001 — one of the most tragic days in American history — and the album understandably got lost in the shuffle of the 9/11 news cycle. Virgin eventually canceled Carey’s $100 million contract and dropped her. (This was supposed to be a five-album deal, but Glitter was the only album Carey ended up releasing on Virgin.) It seemed that Carey’s career was over.
“The soundtrack spent just 12 weeks on the Billboard 200, by far her worst showing to that point,” says Grein. “The only grace note of the soundtrack — until now, that is — is that it produced a big-selling single, ‘Loverboy.’ But the two follow-up singles didn’t even make the Hot 100.”
Carey’s career, of course, was far from over. She rebounded thanks to a new deal with Island Records, and her second album for Island, 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi, sold 10 million copies worldwide. A single from that album, “We Belong Together,” held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks and became one of the longest-running No. 1 songs in U.S. chart history. (It holds a tie for second place with several other songs, including, ironically, Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard soundtrack smash “I Will Always Love You.”) But Carey fans still didn’t think Glitter ever got the acclaim it deserved.
“People often think [Glitter is] a bad album because they associate it [with] its movie, but it’s actually really good and underrated,” one French fan involved in the #JusticeForGlitter campaign told Rolling Stone. “Glitter is a very special release with a whole context. It wasn’t necessarily a happy moment in Mariah’s life. But it’s definitely iconic.”
Triumphantly revisiting the Total Request Live set this week to ostensibly promote Caution, Carey seemed thrilled, if shocked, that justice had finally been served. “That was the last thing that I expected, coming back to TRL today!” she said of Glitter’s chart rebound.
“Sometimes you’re ahead of your time, and you don’t know it till 17 years later,” TRL host Sway said with a smile.
One emotional member of Carey’s Lambily, Romeo Santos, posted on Instagram, “Mariah Carey going back to TRL, the origin site of her breakdown that led to her bipolar diagnosis, while simultaneously having Glitter, the album that turned her into a punching bag also causing her breakdown, #1 on iTunes is so beautiful and poetic in so many ways.”
“It’s kind of sweet that the #JusticeForGlitter campaign made Glitter go to No. 1 on iTunes 17 years after it flopped,” says Grein. “Carey has loyal fans who have supported her through the ups and downs that are inevitable in a career that is approaching 30 years.”