It's been a long road to Mariah Carey's 14th album -- a project she first began working on in 2010, before the birth of her nearly three-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe -- that has been stalled over the years after stiff-performing singles and numerous tweaks to the track listing.
But, as Billboard exclusively reveals in its latest cover story, Carey will be taking a surprise approach to the project by revealing her new album's title, track listing, artwork and music all at once via to-be-announceddigital partners (a physical release at retail is expected the following week.) "I have to be the one that announces this, especially the title," Carey says, noting that the album takes its name from a "personal possession of mine that's part of an entity that I've had almost all my life."
Though Carey doesn't mention other artists in describing her strategy, it's clear she's taking a page out of the "Beyoncé" playbook. It's a particularly direct parallel when you consider that Beyoncé herself was coming off an underperforming album (2011's "4") before opting to go the surprise route -- much in the way that Carey's last album, 2009's "Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel," produced just one top 10 hit ("Obsessed") and sold a disappointing 549,000 copies, low enough to cancel a planned remix album. Though last summer's Miguel duet "#Beautiful" was a bonafide hit, peaking at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and selling 1.2 million downloads, a string of other singles ("Triumphant," "Almost Home," "Eternal [You're Mine]") have failed to catch fire along the way.
In the Billboard cover story, out Monday, Carey and her new manager Jermaine Dupri talk candidly about the rocky road to the album's launch – from the failed singles to her drama-plagued stint on "American Idol" in 2013 to the shoulder injury that nearly derailed her plans altogether ("I really downplayed that incident.")
Here's five more things we learned:
SHE'S ASSEMBLED A DREAM-TEAM OF COLLABORATORS. Frequent collaborators Rodney Jerkins and Dupri are back for Album No. 14, but so is a surprisingly diverse roster that ranges from of-the-moment producers like Hit-Boy and Mike Will Made It, guest features from Wale, Nas and Trey Songz and even contributions from veteran arranger Larry Gold and the Love Unlimited Orchestra. There's also "a special guest star that I'm not allowed to reveal," Carey teases.
SHE'S AWARE OF THE FAILED SINGLES. Carey will cop to a few of the pre-release singles not doing as well as past hits, pausing to note that 2013's Stargate-produced "Almost Home" was intended for the "Oz, Great and Powerful" soundtrack. "You would think I would be all about the singles-driven situation, and I am in a way, but with this particular album I want my fans to hear it as a body of work," she says. "This is my life since we last left off. Just picture a dot dot dot, and then here's the album."
THE NEW ALBUM WON'T BE HER LAST. Despite recent comments to Bravo's Andy Cohen on "Watch What Happens Live" ("If this were to be my last album, people would hear everything they needed to hear"), Carey is not calling it quits anytime soon. "I will always make music. When I said it could be my last, that's because tomorrow's not promised to anyone."
EXPECT BIG BALLADS AND UPTEMPO BANGERS. After immersing herself in her own catalog ("a friend of mine made me a playlist with 1,000 of my songs on it called 'The Ultimate MC Audio Collection,'" she says), Carey explored her feel-good, hip-hop/R&B side as well as her more introspective moments that could give her fans the best of all worlds.
SHE MAY SOON RETURN TO TELEVISION. Her rocky stint with Nicki Minaj on "American Idol" last year notwithstanding, Carey says she'd like her next reality-competition venture to be something where she was executive producer. "I have another project that I'm so very excited about that's finally coming to fruition."