April 20, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

CAREY OUT No one expected Mariah Carey to stay at Columbia once her contract expired, given her breakup with Sony Music honcho Tommy Mottola and her public griping about the label. But why did Columbia let the singer, who announced she’d signed with Virgin on April 2, walk away with one album still remaining on her contract and the ’80s-themed soundtrack for her upcoming movie All That Glitters nearly complete? Well, they may not have. The Glitters disc will come out on the Virgin imprint (Carey reportedly paid $7 million to $10 million to buy back rights to the album). However, Sony — which declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing artists’ contracts — will apparently share the wealth. ”Sony drove a very hard bargain with her in terms of her early exit,” says a source familiar with the conditions for Carey’s release. ”If All That Glitters does well, even though the soundtrack will be on her new label there are considerable moneys in royalties to be paid to Sony.” It’s a win-win situation: Columbia looks good by allowing Carey to go gracefully and avoids shelling out big bucks for promotion and distribution. And Mariah is sure to enjoy aggressive support from Virgin, which is reportedly coughing up as much as $20 million per album, one of the richest record deals ever. With those kinds of stakes, All That Glitters had better be gold.

— Rob Brunner

MOB TIE-INS? Last season, Tony Soprano had nightmares set on the Asbury Park boardwalk, and later sent childhood pal Big Pussy to sleep with the fishes. But lately it seems there’s a different Atlantic obsessing The Sopranos. To wit, the March 25 episode, which featured no fewer than three references to artists on Atlantic Records. First, Christopher grouses to Tony, ”I told him I’d take those Duncan Sheik records and shove ’em up his a– .” Next, Meadow Soprano sings along to the Corrs’ ”Breathless” on her Walkman. Finally, Tony visits Fountains of Wayne, a house-and-garden outlet that’s also a band name. What gives? ”It’s so coincidental; you have no idea,” says Sopranos coexec producer Ilene Landress. Fountains of Wayne is ”like a Jersey landmark,” and thus a no-brainer, while the Corrs are part of ”the wallpaper of our lives.” As for Duncan Sheik, she allows, ”Well, we’ve taken some potshots before.” For its part, Atlantic claims to know nothing about the somewhat backhanded product placement. Hmm…maybe they’ve all taken an omerta.

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