Flashback: Even though Mariah Carey herself had to pay off a number of plagiarism lawsuits during her days at Sony, she was also ripped off at one point. Here’s a story I published on April 4, 2002, a year after Mariah had a nervous breakdown over the failed movie and soundtrack to “Glitter.”
from April 4, 2002: Mariah ‘Ripped Off’ Twice on Same Record
The situation is worse than I thought. In the below story, which we published yesterday, rap impresario Irv Gotti conceded for the first time that Mariah Carey had her work on Glitter lifted for Jennifer Lopez‘s J.LO album.
It turns out however that before it was released Glitter was pilfered from not once but twice by Lopez.
Not only was a song sample Carey intended to use taken from Glitter, but a concept as well.
All of this has to do with Lopez’s hit song, “I’m Real,” which in fact is two different songs. Confused? Welcome to pop music in 2002.
On Lopez’s album J.LO, “I’m Real” appears as an upbeat dance number. There’s no rapping or male vocal accompaniment. The record does sample the old disco song, “Firecracker.” The songwriting credits for that version of “I’m Real,” list Martin Denny (who wrote “Firecracker”) as well as Lopez and three producers. J.LO was released on July 24, 2001.
The remixed “I’m Real,” which was released a few weeks later, is quite different. It’s a slow give and take duet between Lopez and rapper Ja Rule. Denny’s name is gone from the credits, replaced by Ja Rule (real name Jeffrey B. Atkins). This version became Lopez’s hit single. Two songs, one title.
For Glitter, Mariah Carey had found the “Firecracker” sample and recorded it on her soundtrack as “Loverboy.” For another Glitter track called “If We,” she and Ja Rule recorded a slow give and take vocal. On J.LO, the upbeat “I’m Real” ripped off Carey’s planned — and subsequently scuttled version — of “Loverboy.” The remixed version of “I’m Real” — which Irv Gotti referred to in his XXL interview — copied the style and substance of “If We.” Creatively, Carey — who’d worked hard on Glitter for a year in secret — could say she was plundered twice. Wouldn’t that be enough to drive anyone crazy?
Thanks to the Internet, Carey’s fans can make the “If We”/”I’m Real” scandal a party game simply by logging on to cdnow.com which features audio clips of all three songs — “If We” plus the two “I’m Real” versions. It’s fun, free entertainment!
Mariah Carey may finally have been vindicated. It seems that there was more than a little truth in her accusations last summer that someone was out to get her.
In the new issue of a rap magazine called XXL, record executive Irv Gotti admits that Tommy Mottola, Carey’s ex-husband and the head of Sony Music, instructed him to make a record for Jennifer Lopez that sounded exactly like one Gotti’s company had made with Carey for her movie, Glitter — even though Glitter was not finished and Lopez would beat Carey to the punch and undermine a project she was recording for Sony.
In XXL, Gotti is asked by writer Keith Murphy: “Is it true that Tommy Mottola asked Murder Inc. [Gotti’s production company] to do the remix of [Jennifer Lopez’s] “I’m Real” after hearing a song Ja Rule did with Mariah Carey on the Glitter soundtrack?”
Gotti replies: “Ja wrote a song with him and Mariah singing back and forth on the title track. I get a call from Tommy Mottola, who I have a great relationship with, and he’s like, ‘I need you to do me a favor. I want you to do this remix for Jennifer Lopez. I want you to put Ja on the record.’ Immediately I knew what he was doing because we just finished the Mariah record.”
The Mariah record Gotti refers to is “Loverboy,” from the movie Glitter. Carey had picked out a sample from Yellow Magic Orchestra‘s recording of “Firecracker” to be the basis of the song. She and Ja Rule worked on it, and the song was included on daily viewings from the filming of Glitter.
But Glitter was a Sony Pictures release, which is a sister company of Sony Music. Mottola, according to sources who worked on the movie, was surreptitiously viewing footage of Glitter while his ex-wife was shooting it.
“Mariah was so paranoid about the music getting out that we had another singer sing the temporary versions,” says a Glitter insider.
“When Jennifer Lopez’s record came out, and had the exact same song, we knew she had a right to be paranoid. We couldn’t believe it.”
Indeed, Gotti’s statement to XXL suggests that once Mottola heard Carey’s song — and knew Glitter was months away from completion — he stole the idea and gave it to Lopez for the remix of her song, “I’m Real.”
The hit version of “I’m Real” with Ja Rule was released after Lopez’s album was already out. It’s substantially different from the original version.
Murphy, the reporter who interviewed Gotti, said yesterday that the rap music executive told him that Mottola wanted Ja Rule to make a record “in the same style” for Lopez that he’d already made for Carey. “It was exactly the same style — with Mariah and Ja talking back and forth, just the way he does with Jennifer on I’m Real.”
But here’s a key revelation: the music publisher of “Firecracker” — the sample that Ja Rule used first with Carey and then with Lopez — told me yesterday: “Mariah Carey called us to license a sample from “Firecracker” first. Then, within a month, Jennifer Lopez also called for it.”
The publisher of “Firecracker” also pointed out that the composition, by Martin Denny, had never been sampled before Mariah Carey called about it.
Sony Music spokesperson Patricia Kiehl said yesterday: “One song has nothing to do with the other. This is absolutely untrue.”
When the possible theft of “Firecracker” was brought up in Talk magazine last fall, Mottola and Lopez’s producers immediately invoked that idea that it was a coincidence that the sample was used twice, though — a different defense altogether.
Ironically, the “Firecracker” case found Carey getting a taste of her own medicine when she — and not Lopez — had been Mottola’s darling. During Carey’s 11 years at Sony Music, she, Sony, and Mottola were sued at least three times for plagiarism. Each case was settled out of court for roughly $1 million, with Carey making no admission of guilt. In one instance, Randy Hoffman — Mottola’s business partner and Carey’s then manager — wore a hidden tape recorder to a meeting with a witness hoping to get him to change his testimony.
Just as other songwriters had once been affected by having their songs swiped, the impact on Carey of losing the “Firecracker” sample for Glitter was deep. The singer was forced to quickly change the sample on “Loverboy” from “Firecracker” to Cameo‘s old hit, “Candy.”
“We had to work fast,” says a Glitter source, “because we had to find music that would fit what was already filmed.” Nevertheless, the damage was done. When “Loverboy” was released it was savaged by music industry trade paper Billboard in an unusually harsh review.
Carey — exhausted from working on the project and then knocked out by the scathing reaction — snapped and became the subject of public derision.
Insiders speculate the Mottola-Lopez theft may have had a silver lining. Carey was able to use it to free herself and Glitter from Sony, even though she still owed them an album on her contract. One source told me: “Mariah and her lawyer, Don Passman, went to Tommy and told him that if they didn’t let her go, she’d let the higher-ups at Sony know what he’d done to her-and to a Sony project.”
The speculation is that Mottola had to make Glitter look as bad as possible to Sony’s Japanese honchos, who loved Carey and wanted to keep her as an artist. Ironically, Glitter still sold like crazy in Japan.
Carey wound up taking Glitter to EMI/Virgin as the first record on an $80 million deal. When the album tanked, EMI panicked and paid her a total of $49 million to cancel her contract. Carey is now fielding offers from Universal Music Group, J Records, and Warner Music Group for new contract.