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Mariah Carey

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Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey WBLS 2018 Interview 4.jpg
Carey in November 2018
Born(1969-03-27)March 27, 1969 or 1970 (age 50–51)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
  • record producer
  • director
  • television judge
  • entrepreneur
Years active1989–present
Net worthU.S. $300–$520 million[1][2]
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Associated acts
Mariah's signature.png

Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1969 or 1970)[3] is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Renowned for her five-octave vocal range, melismatic singing style, and signature use of the whistle register, Carey is referred to as the "Songbird Supreme" by Guinness World Records. She rose to fame in 1990 after signing to Columbia Records and releasing her eponymous debut album, which topped the U.S. Billboard 200 for eleven consecutive weeks. Carey became the only artist ever to have their first five singles reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, from "Vision of Love" to "Emotions".

In 1993, Carey married Sony Music head Tommy Mottola, the man who signed her to Columbia. She achieved worldwide success with follow-up albums Music Box (1993), Merry Christmas (1994), and Daydream (1995). These albums spawned some of Carey's most successful singles, including "Hero", "Without You", "All I Want for Christmas Is You", "Fantasy", "Always Be My Baby", as well as "One Sweet Day", which peaked at number one in the U.S. for 16 weeks and became Billboard's Song Of The Decade (1990s Decade). After separating from Mottola, Carey adopted a new image and incorporated more elements of hip hop into her music with the release of Butterfly (1997). Billboard named her the country's most successful artist of the 1990s, while the World Music Awards honored her as the world's best-selling recording artist of the 1990s, and the best-selling female artist of the millennium.

After eleven consecutive years charting a U.S. number-one single, Carey parted ways with Columbia in 2000 and signed a $100 million recording contract with Virgin Records. However, following her highly publicized physical and emotional breakdown, as well as the critical and commercial failure of her film Glitter (2001) and its accompanying soundtrack, her contract was bought out for $50 million by Virgin and she signed with Island Records the next year. After a relatively unsuccessful period, she returned to the top of music charts with The Emancipation of Mimi (2005), the world's second-best-selling album of 2005. Its second single, "We Belong Together", topped the U.S. charts for 14 weeks and became Billboard's Song Of The Decade (2000s Decade). In 2009, she was cast in the critically acclaimed film Precious, which won her Breakthrough Actress Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Throughout her career, Carey has sold more than 200 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. With a total of 19 songs topping the Billboard Hot 100, Carey holds the record for the most number-one singles by a solo artist, a female songwriter, and a female producer.[4] According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the second-highest-certified female artist in the United States, with 66.5 million certified album units.[5] In 2012, she was ranked second on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music. In 2019, Billboard named her the all-time top female artist in the United States, based on both album and song chart performances.[6] Aside from her commercial accomplishments, Carey has won five Grammy Awards, nineteen World Music Awards, ten American Music Awards,[7] and fifteen Billboard Music Awards.[8] An inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame,[9] she is noted for inspiring other artists in pop and contemporary R&B music.[10]

Early life

Mariah Carey was born in Huntington, New York,[11][12] on March 27, 1969 or 1970.[3] Her name was derived from the song "They Call the Wind Maria", originally from the 1951 Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon.[13][14] She is the third and youngest child of Patricia (née Hickey), a former opera singer and vocal coach of Irish descent, and Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer of Afro-Venezuelan lineage.[15] The last name Carey was adopted by her Venezuelan grandfather, Francisco Núñez, after he emigrated to New York.[16][12] Patricia's family disowned her for marrying a black man.[16] Racial tensions prevented the Carey family from integrating into their community. While living in Huntington, neighbors poisoned the family dog and set fire to their car.[16] After her parents' divorce, Carey had little contact with her father, and her mother worked several jobs to support the family. Carey spent much of her time at home alone and began singing at the age of three, often imitating her mother's take on Verdi's opera Rigoletto in Italian. While her elder sister Alison moved in with their father, the singer and her older brother Morgan remained with their mother.[17][18]

During her years in elementary school, she excelled in the arts, such as music and literature. Carey began writing poetry and lyrics while attending Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York,[19] where she graduated in 1987.[20] Carey began vocal training under the tutelage of her mother. Though a classically trained opera singer, Patricia never pressured her daughter to pursue a career in classical opera. Carey recalled that she had "never been a pushy mom. She never said, 'Give it more of an operatic feel.' I respect opera like crazy, but it didn't influence me."[19][21] In high-school, she was frequently absent because of her work as a demo singer; her classmates consequently gave her the nickname Mirage.[21] Her work in the Long Island music scene gave her opportunities to work with musicians such as Gavin Christopher and Ben Margulies, with whom she co-wrote material for her demo tape. After moving to New York City, Carey worked part-time jobs to pay the rent, and she completed 500 hours of beauty school.[22] Carey moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, which she shared with four other female students.[23] She landed a gig singing backup for Puerto Rican freestyle singer Brenda K. Starr.[24][25]


1988–1992: Career beginnings, Mariah Carey and Emotions

Carey exiting Shepherd's Bush Empire after promoting her single "Vision of Love" on Wogan in 1990

In December 1988, Carey accompanied Starr to a CBS record executives' gala, where she handed her demo tape to the head of Columbia Records, Tommy Mottola.[26][27] After listening to the tape during the ride home, he immediately requested the driver turn around. Carey had already left the event, and in what has been described as a modern-day Cinderella story, he spent the next two weeks in search of her.[26] Another record label expressed interest in the singer, and a bidding war ensued. Mottola signed Carey to Columbia and enlisted the talents of top producers Ric Wake, Narada Michael Walden and Rhett Lawrence.[26] Columbia marketed Carey as the main female artist on their roster, competing with Arista's Whitney Houston and Madonna of Sire Records.[28] Columbia spent upwards of $1 million promoting the singer's debut studio album, Mariah Carey.[29] After a slow start, the album eventually topped the Billboard 200 for eleven consecutive weeks, after Carey's exposure at the 33rd Annual Grammy Awards, where she won the award for Best New Artist, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her single "Vision of Love."[30][31] The album's singles "Vision of Love", "Love Takes Time", "Someday", and "I Don't Wanna Cry" all topped the US Billboard Hot 100.[32] Carey became the only artist to have their first five singles reach number one on the Hot 100.[33] Mariah Carey was the best-selling album in the United States in 1991,[34] and achieved worldwide sales of 15 million copies.[35]

The following year, Carey co-wrote, co-produced and recorded her second studio effort, Emotions.[36][37] Described by the singer as a homage to the Motown soul music, Carey employed the help of Walter Afanasieff, who only had a small role on her debut, as well as Robert Clivillés and David Cole, from the dance group C+C Music Factory.[38] Carey's relationship with Margulies deteriorated over a songwriting royalties dispute. After he filed a lawsuit against Columbia's parent company, Sony, the songwriting duo parted ways.[37] Emotions was released on September 17, 1991. Though critics praised the album's content and described it as a more mature effort, the album was criticized as calculated and lacking originality.[39] While the album managed sales of eight million copies globally, Emotions failed to reach the commercial and critical heights of its predecessor.[40]

Carey would once again refuse to embark on a world tour to promote the album.[41] Although she credited stage fright and the vocally challenging nature of her material, speculation grew that Carey was a "studio worm," and that she was incapable of producing the perfect pitch and 5-octave vocal range for which she was known.[42][43] In hopes of putting to rest any speculation of her being a manufactured artist, Carey booked an appearance on MTV Unplugged.[44] The show presented artists "unplugged" or in a stripped setting and devoid of studio equipment.[44] Days prior to the show's taping, Carey and Afanasieff chose to add a cover version of The Jackson 5's 1970 song "I'll Be There" to the set-list. On March 16, 1992, Carey played and recorded an intimate seven-song show at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York.[45] The acclaimed revue was aired more than three times as often as the average episode.[46] It established Carey as a viable live act, with critics heralding it as a "vocal Tour de force".[47] Carey's live version of "I'll Be There" became the singer's sixth chart-topping single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Sony capitalized on its success and released it as an EP. It earned a triple-Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA),[48] and earned Gold and Platinum certifications in several European markets.[49]

1993–1996: Music Box, Merry Christmas, and Daydream

After Emotions failed to achieve the commercial heights of her debut album, Carey's subsequent release was to be marketed as adult contemporary and pop-friendly. Music Box was produced by Carey and Afanasieff, and began a songwriting partnership that would extend until 1997's Butterfly.[50] The album was released on August 31, 1993, and was met with mixed reception from music critics. Carey's songwriting was derided as clichéd and her vocal performances were described as less emotive and lazy in their delivery. In his review of the album, AllMusic's Ron Wynn concluded: "sometimes excessive spirit is preferable to an absence of passion."[51] In promotion of the album, Carey embarked on her debut tour, a six date concert-series aptly titled the Music Box Tour.[52] Music Box's second single, "Hero", became the singer's eighth chart topper in the United States and would later be recognized as her signature song. Her cover of Badfinger's "Without You" experienced a commercial breakthrough in Europe, becoming the singer's first number one single in Germany,[53] Sweden,[54] and the United Kingdom.[55] Music Box remains Carey's highest-seller and one of the best-selling albums of all time, with worldwide sales of over 28 million copies.[56]

In the summer of 1994, Carey recorded and released a duet with Luther Vandross; a cover of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's "Endless Love".[57] In October of that year, Billboard announced that the singer would release a holiday album later that year.[57] Released on November 1, 1994, Merry Christmas became the best-selling Christmas album of all time, with global sales of over 15 million copies.[58][59][60] The album's lead single, "All I Want for Christmas Is You", was heralded as a "holiday standard"[61] and came to be widely considered "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon."[58] By December 2018, it became the world's 10th best-selling single in modern music.[62]

Carey's fifth studio album, Daydream, found the singer consolidating creative control over her career, leading to tensions with Columbia. The album featured a departure from the singer's allegiance to pop and gravitated heavily towards R&B and hip hop.[63] Critically, the album was described as Carey's best to date. The New York Times named it one of 1995's best albums and concluded: "[the album] brings R&B candy-making to a new peak of textural refinement [...] Carey's songwriting has taken a leap forward and become more relaxed, sexier and less reliant on thudding clichés."[64] The album's second single, "One Sweet Day", a collaboration with R&B group Boyz II Men, remained atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 16 consecutive weeks, becoming the longest-running number-one song in history.[65] Daydream became her biggest-selling album in the United States,[66] and her second album to be certified Diamond by the RIAA, after Music Box.[48] The album continued Carey's dominance in Asian music markets and sold in excess of 2.2 million copies in Japan alone and over 20 million copies globally.[67][68] Daydream and its singles were nominated in six categories at the 38th Grammy Awards.[69] Though a considered a favorite to win the top awards of the evening, Carey was shut out, prompting her to comment "What can you do? I will never be disappointed again."[70] In the Spring of 1996, the singer embarked on her first international string of concerts, the Daydream World Tour. Its seven dates spanned three in Japan and four throughout Europe.[71] Carey set records when all 150,000 tickets for her three shows at Japan's largest stadium, Tokyo Dome, sold out in under three hours, breaking the previous record held by The Rolling Stones.[71]

1997–2000: New image and independence, Butterfly, and Rainbow

Carey's subsequent musical releases followed the trend that began with Daydream. The singer's music began relying less on pop and adult contemporary-tinged balladry and instead incorporating heavy elements of hip-hop and R&B. On Butterfly, Carey collaborated with a bevy of producers other than Afanasieff, such as Sean Combs, Q-Tip, Missy Elliott and Jean Claude Oliver and Samuel Barnes from Trackmasters.[72] In mid-1997, after four years of marriage, Carey and Mottola separated. The singer described Mottola as increasingly controlling, and viewed her newfound independence as a new lease on life.[73] In the booklet of her twelfth studio album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (2009), Carey wrote that she considers Butterfly her magnum opus and a turning point in both her life and career. Butterfly introduced a more subdued style of singing, with critics noting Carey's incorporation of breathy vocals.[74] Some viewed her lack of propensity to use her upper range as a sign of maturity,[75] while others questioned whether it forebode waning vocal prowess.[76][77] The music video for the album's lead single, "Honey", her first since separating from Mottola, introduced a more overtly sexual image of the singer.[78] Butterfly became Carey's best reviewed album, with attention placed on the album's exploration of more mature lyrical themes. In their review of the album, Rolling Stone wrote "[It's] not as if Carey has totally dispensed with her old saccharine, Houston-style balladry [...] but the predominant mood of 'Butterfly' is one of coolly erotic reverie."[79] AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine described Carey's vocals as "sultrier and more controlled than ever," and felt the album "illustrates that Carey continues to improve and refine her music, which makes her a rarity among her '90s peers.'"[80] Though a commercial success, the album failed to reach the commercial heights of her previous albums, Music Box and Daydream.[81]

Carey at the Edwards Air Force Base during the making of the "I Still Believe" music video in December 1998

After concluding her Butterfly World Tour, Carey partook in the VH1 Divas benefit concert on April 14, 1998, where she sang alongside Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan, and Carole King.[82] Carey began conceptualizing a film project All That Glitters, later re-titled to simply Glitter (2001),[83] and wrote songs for other projects, such as Men in Black (1997) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000).[84] After Glitter fell into developmental hell, Carey postponed the project, and began writing material for a new album.[84] Sony Music executives insisted she prepare a greatest hits collection in time for the holiday season.[85] The album, titled #1's (1998), featured a cover of Brenda K. Starr's "I Still Believe" and a duet with Whitney Houston, "When You Believe", which was included on the soundtrack for The Prince of Egypt (1998).[86] #1's became a phenomenon in Japan, selling over one million copies in its opening week, making Carey as the only international artist to accomplish this feat.[87] It sold over 3.25 million copies in Japan in its first three months on sale, and holds the record as the best-selling album by a non-Asian artist.[87]

With only one album left to fulfill her contract with Sony, and with a burning desire to separate herself professionally from the record label her ex-husband still headed, Carey completed the album in a period of three months in the summer of 1999.[88] Titled Rainbow, the album found the singer exploring with producers which she had not worked with before. Rainbow became Carey's first album to not feature a collaboration with her longtime writing partner, Walter Afanasieff, instead choosing to work with David Foster and Diane Warren. The album's lead single, "Heartbreaker", featured guest vocals from rapper Jay-Z and a remix produced by DJ Clue?.[89] Rainbow was released on November 2, 1999, to the highest first week sales of her career at the time, however debuting at number two on the Billboard 200.[90] Carey's tense relationship with Columbia grew increasingly fractious; Carey began posting messages on her website, sharing inside information with fans on the dispute, as well as instructing them to request "Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)" on radio stations.[91] Ultimately, the song was only given a very limited and low-promotion release.[92] Critical reception of Rainbow was generally positive, with the general consensus finding: "what began on Butterfly as a departure ends up on Rainbow a progression – perhaps the first compelling proof of Carey's true colors as an artist."[93] Though a commercial success, Rainbow became Carey's lowest selling album at that point in her career.[94]

2001–2004: Personal and professional struggles, Glitter and Charmbracelet

Carey received Billboard's Artist of the Decade Award and the World Music Award for Best-Selling Female Artist of the Millennium,[95] and parted from Columbia Records. She signed an unprecedented $100 million, five-album recording contract with Virgin Records (EMI Records) in April 2001.[96] Glitter was a complete musical departure from any of her previous releases, focusing heavily on recreating a 1980s post-disco era to accompany the film, set in 1983. Carey was given full conceptual and creative control over the project.[96] The singer that Columbia had regarded her as a commodity, with her separation from Mottola exacerbating her relations with label executives. The singer's three-year relationship with Latin singer Luis Miguel ended.[97] In July 2001, Carey suffered a physical and emotional breakdown. She began posting a series of disturbing messages on her official website, and displayed erratic behavior on several live promotional outings.[98] On July 19, 2001, Carey made a surprise appearance on the MTV program Total Request Live (TRL).[99] As the show's host Carson Daly began taping following a commercial break, Carey came out pushing an ice cream cart while wearing a large men's shirt, and began a striptease, in which she revealed a tight yellow and green ensemble.[99] Days later, she posted irregular voice notes on her website: "I'm trying to understand things in life right now and so I really don't feel that I should be doing music right now. What I'd like to do is just a take a little break or at least get one night of sleep without someone popping up about a video. All I really want is [to] just be me and that's what I should have done in the first place ... I don't say this much but guess what, I don't take care of myself."[99] Following the quick removal of the messages, Berger commented that Carey had been "obviously exhausted and not thinking clearly" when she posted the letters.[100]

Carey performing "Hero" during her Charmbracelet World Tour in September 2003

On July 26, Carey was hospitalized, citing "extreme exhaustion" and a "physical and emotional breakdown."[101] She was admitted to an undisclosed hospital in Connecticut, and remained under doctor's care for two weeks, followed by an extended absence from the public.[101] Virgin Records and 20th Century Fox delayed the release of both Glitter, as well as its soundtrack of the same name.[100][102] Carey credited the project's poor performance on her state of mind during the time of its release, its postponement, as well as the soundtrack having been released on September 11.[103] Critics panned Glitter and its accompanying soundtrack; both were unsuccessful commercially.[104] The soundtrack became Carey's lowest-selling album to that point. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dismissed it as "an absolute mess that'll go down as an annoying blemish on [her] career."[105] Carey's $100 million record deal with Virgin Records was bought out for $50 million.[96][106] The singer flew to Capri, Italy for a period of five months, where she wrote material for a new album.[98] She described her time at Virgin "a complete and total stress-fest [...] I made a total snap decision which was based on money and I never make decisions based on money. I learned a big lesson from that."[107] She signed a contract with Island Records, valued at more than $24 million,[108] and launched the record label MonarC. Carey's father, Alfred Roy, with whom she had little contact since childhood, died of cancer that year.[109] In 2002, the singer was cast in the independent film, WiseGirls, alongside Mira Sorvino and Melora Walters, who co-starred as waitresses at a mobster-operated restaurant. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and received generally negative critical response, though Carey's portrayal of the character was praised; Roger Friedman of Fox News referred to her as "a Thelma Ritter for the new millennium," and wrote, "Her line delivery is sharp and she manages to get the right laughs."[110] Carey performed the American national anthem at the Super Bowl XXXVI at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.[111]

In the winter of 2002, Carey released her ninth studio album Charmbracelet, which she said marked "a new lease on life" for her.[112] Sales of Charmbracelet were moderate and the quality of Carey's vocals came under criticism. Joan Anderson from The Boston Globe declared the album "the worst of her career, and revealed a voice [that is] no longer capable of either gravity-defying gymnastics or soft coos,"[113] while AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote, "Mariah's voice is shot, sounding in tatters throughout the record. She can no longer coo or softly croon nor can she perform her trademark gravity-defying vocal runs."[114] In April 2003, Carey announced that she would be embarking on a world tour in support of the album. The Charmbracelet World Tour: An Intimate Evening with Mariah Carey, spanned across North America and East Asia over three months.[115] The United States leg of the tour were booked in theaters. She described the show as "much more intimate so you'll feel like you had an experience. You experience a night with me."[116] While smaller venues were booked throughout the tour's stateside leg, Carey performed in stadiums in Asia and Europe, playing for a crowd of over 35,000 in Manila, 50,000 in Malaysia, and to over 70,000 people in China.[117] In the United Kingdom, it became her first tour to feature shows outside London, booking arena stops in Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester.[118] The tour garnered generally positive reviews from music critics and concert goers, with many complimenting the tour's production and the quality of Carey's vocals.[119]

2005–2007: Resurgence with The Emancipation of Mimi

Carey, pictured with former Island Records head L.A. Reid in 2005, at the release party for The Emancipation of Mimi

Carey tenth studio effort, The Emancipation of Mimi, found the singer working with producers The Neptunes, Kanye West and Carey's longtime collaborator, Jermaine Dupri. She described the album as "very much like a party record [...] the process of putting on makeup and getting ready to go out [...] I wanted to make a record that was reflective of that."[120] The Emancipation of Mimi topped the charts in the United States, becoming Carey's fifth number-one album and first since Butterfly (1997), and was warmly accepted by critics. Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian defined it as "cool, focused and urban [... some of] the first Mariah Carey tunes in years which I wouldn't have to be paid to listen to again,"[121] while USA Today's Elysa Gardner wrote, "The [songs] truly reflect the renewed confidence of a songbird who has taken her shots and kept on flying."[122] The album's second single, "We Belong Together", became a "career re-defining"[123] song for Carey, after a relatively unsuccessful period and a point when many critics had considered her career over.[124] Music critics heralded the song as her "return to form,"[125] as well as the "return of The Voice,"[125] while many felt it would revive "faith" in Carey's potential as a balladeer.[120] "We Belong Together" broke several records in the United States and became Carey's sixteenth chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100.[126] After staying at number one for fourteen non-consecutive weeks, the song became the second longest running number one song in US chart history, behind Carey's 1996 collaboration with Boyz II Men, "One Sweet Day".[126] Billboard listed it as the "song of the decade" and the ninth most popular song of all time.[127] The song broke several airplay records, and according to Nielsen BDS, and gathered both the largest one-day and one-week audiences in history.[128]

During the week of September 25, 2005, Carey set another record, becoming the first female to occupy the first two spots atop the Hot 100, as "We Belong Together" remained at number one, and her next single, "Shake It Off", moved into the number two spot (Ashanti had topped the chart in 2002 while being a "featured" singer on the number two single).[126] On the Billboard Hot 100 Year-end Chart of 2005, the song was declared the number one song, a career first for Carey.[129] Billboard listed "We Belong Together" ninth on The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs and was declared the most popular song of the 2000s decade by Billboard.[130] The album was re-released as The Ultra Platinum Edition.

The Emancipation of Mimi earned ten Grammy Award nominations: eight in 2006 for the original release (the most received by Carey in a single year),[131] and two in 2007 for the Ultra Platinum Edition (from which "Don't Forget About Us" became her seventeenth number-one hit). Carey won Best Contemporary R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for "We Belong Together".[131] The Emancipation of Mimi was the best-selling album in the United States in 2005, with nearly five million units sold. It was the first album by a solo female artist to become the year's best-selling album since Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill in 1996.[132] At the end of 2005, the IFPI reported that The Emancipation of Mimi had sold more than 7.7 million copies globally, and was the second-best-selling album of the year after Coldplay's X&Y.[133][134][135] To date, The Emancipation of Mimi has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.[136] In support of the album, Carey embarked on her first headlining tour in three years, named The Adventures of Mimi after a "Carey-centric fan's" music diary.[137] The tour spanned 40 dates, with 32 in the United States and Canada, two in Africa, and six in Japan.[138] It received warm reception from music critics and concert goers, many of which celebrated the quality of Carey's vocals.[139][140] A live recording titled The Adventures of Mimi DVD was released in the winter of 2007.

2008–2009: E=MC², Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, and Precious

By spring 2007, Carey had begun to work on her eleventh studio album, E=MC², in a private villa in Anguilla.[141] Although E=MC² was well received by most critics,[142] some of them criticized it for being very similar to the formula used on The Emancipation of Mimi.[143] Two weeks before the album's release, "Touch My Body", the record's lead single, reached the top position on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Carey's eighteenth number one and making her the solo artist with the most number one singles in United States history, pushing her past Elvis Presley into second place according to the magazine's revised methodology.[144] Carey is second only to The Beatles, who have twenty number-one singles. Additionally, it gave Carey her 79th week atop the Hot 100, tying her with Presley as the artist with the most weeks at number one in the Billboard chart history."[145]

Carey at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, displaying her engagement ring

E=MC² debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 463,000 copies sold, the biggest opening week sales of her career.[146] In 2008, Carey also played an aspiring singer named Krystal in Tennessee[147] and had a cameo appearance in Adam Sandler's film You Don't Mess with the Zohan, playing herself.[148] Since the album's release, Carey had planned to embark on an extensive tour in support of E=MC².[149] However the tour was suddenly cancelled in early December 2008.[150] Carey later stated that she had been pregnant during that time period, and suffered a miscarriage, hence she cancelled the tour.[151][152] On January 20, 2009, Carey performed "Hero" at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball after Barack Obama was sworn as the first African-American president of the United States.[153] On July 7, 2009, Carey – alongside Trey Lorenz – performed her version of The Jackson 5 song "I'll Be There" at the memorial service for Michael Jackson.[154]

In 2009, she appeared as a social worker in Precious, the movie adaptation of the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire. The film garnered mostly positive reviews from critics, also for Carey's performance.[155] Variety described her acting as "pitch-perfect."[156] In January 2010, Carey won the Breakthrough Actress Performance Award for her role in Precious at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.[157] On September 25, 2009, Carey's twelfth studio album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, was released. Reception for the album was mostly mixed; Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called it "her most interesting album in a decade,"[158] while Jon Caramanica from The New York Times criticized Carey's vocal performances, decrying her overuse of her softer vocal registers at the expense of her more powerful lower and upper registers.[159] Commercially, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, and became the lowest-selling studio album of her career.[160] The album's lead single, "Obsessed",[161] debuted at number eleven and peaked at number seven on the chart, and became Carey's 27th US top-ten hit, tying her with Elton John and Janet Jackson as the fifth most top-ten hits.[161] The album's follow-up single, a cover of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is", managed to break airplay records in Brazil. The song spent 27 weeks atop the Brasil Hot 100 Airplay, making it the longest running song in the chart's history.[162]

On December 31, 2009, Carey embarked her seventh concert tour, Angels Advocate Tour, which visited the United States and Canada and ended on September 26, 2010.[163][164] A planned remix album of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel; titled Angels Advocate was slated for a March 30, 2010 release, but was eventually cancelled.[165]

2010–2014: Merry Christmas II You and Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse

Following the cancellation of Angels Advocate, it was announced that Carey would return to the studio to start work on her thirteenth studio album.[166] It was later revealed that it would be her second Christmas album, and follow-up to Merry Christmas.[59] Longtime collaborators for the project included Jermaine Dupri, Johntá Austin, Bryan-Michael Cox, and Randy Jackson, as well as new collaborators such as Marc Shaiman.[167] The release date for the album, titled Merry Christmas II You, was November 2, 2010;[168] the track list included six new songs as well as a remix of "All I Want for Christmas Is You".[169] Merry Christmas II You debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 with sales of 56,000 copies, becoming Carey's 16th top ten album in the United States.[170] The album debuted at number one on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, making it only the second Christmas album to top this chart.[171]

In May 2010, Carey dropped out of her planned appearance in For Colored Girls, the film adaptation of the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, citing medical reasons.[172] In February 2011, Carey announced that she had begun writing new material for her upcoming fourteenth studio album. Carey recorded a duet with Tony Bennett for his Duets II album, titled "When Do The Bells Ring For Me?"[173] In October 2011, Carey announced that she re-recorded "All I Want for Christmas Is You" with Justin Bieber as a duet for his Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe.[174][175] In November 2011, Carey was included in the remix to the mixtape single "Warning" by Uncle Murda; the remix also features 50 Cent and Young Jeezy.[176] That same month, Carey released a duet with John Legend titled "When Christmas Comes", originally part of Merry Christmas II You.[177]

Carey performing on Good Morning America in May 2013

On March 1, 2012, Carey performed at New York City's Gotham Hall; her first time performing since pregnancy.[178][179] She also performed a three song set at a special fundraiser for US President Barack Obama held in New York's Plaza Hotel. A new song titled "Bring It On Home", which Carey wrote specifically for the event to show her support behind Obama's re-election campaign, was also performed.[180] In August 2012, she released a stand alone single, "Triumphant (Get 'Em)", featuring American rappers Rick Ross and Meek Mill and co-written and co-produced by Carey, Jermaine Dupri, and Bryan-Michael Cox.[181][182] Carey joined the judging panel of American Idol season twelve as Jennifer Lopez's replacement, joining Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.[183][184] In November 2013, she explained about hating to work at American Idol adding, "It was like going to work every day in hell with Satan," referring to her on-set squabbles with Minaj.[185][186] Carey appeared in Lee Daniels' 2013 film The Butler, about a White House butler who served eight American presidents over the course of three decades.[187][188] Carey made guest voice-star as a redneck character on the adult animated series American Dad! on November 24, 2013.[189][190]

In February 2013 Carey recorded and released a song called "Almost Home", for the soundtrack of the Walt Disney Studios film Oz the Great and Powerful. The video was directed by photographer David LaChapelle.[191][192] News started coming around about the singer's fourteenth studio album.[193] Some of the people that Carey worked with on the album included: DJ Clue?, Randy Jackson, Q-Tip, R. Kelly, David Morales, Loris Holland, Stevie J, James Fauntleroy II, Ray Angry, Afanasieff, Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, James "Big Jim" Wright, Hit-Boy, The-Dream, Da Brat, and Rodney Jerkins. Carey told Billboard: "It's about making sure I have tons of good music, because at the end of the day that's the most important thing... There are a lot more raw ballads than people might expect...there are also uptempo and signature-type songs that represent [my] different facets as an artist."[194]

The lead single, "Beautiful" featuring singer Miguel, was released on May 6, 2013, and peaked at number 15 on the Hot 100.[195] Carey taped a performance of "Beautiful" along with a medley of her greatest hits on May 15, 2013; the taping aired on the American Idol finale the following day.[196] On October 14, 2013, Carey announced that the album's former title track has been chosen as the second single; it premiered via Facebook on November 11, 2013. During a Q&A session following the song's release, Carey gave an update about the album, stating: "Now I've been inspired to add two more songs, so we're almost there. I can't even express this properly but I feel like this is gonna be my favorite album."[197] Following another song release, "You're Mine (Eternal)",[198] it was announced that The Art of Letting Go would no longer be the title of the album.[199] After the final name was announced, Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse was released on May 27, 2014.[200]

In October 2014, Carey announced All I Want For Christmas Is You, A Night of Joy & Festivity, an annual residency show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.[201] The first leg included six shows, running from December 15–22, 2014.[202] Carey announced the second leg in October 2015.[203] The second leg ran for 8 shows, from December 8–18, 2015.[204]

2015–2017: Las Vegas residency, television and film projects

On January 30, 2015, it was announced that Carey had left Universal Music Group's Def Jam Recordings to reunite with L.A. Reid and Sony Music via Epic Records.[205][206][207] Carey also announced her new #1 to Infinity residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas the same month.[208] To coincide with the residency, Carey released #1 to Infinity, a greatest hits compilation album containing all of her eighteen Billboard Hot 100 number one singles at the time, along with a new recording, "Infinity", which was released as a single on April 27.[209] In 2015 Carey had her directorial debut for the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie A Christmas Melody, in which she also performed as one of the main characters. Filming for the project took place during October 2015.[210] In December 2015, Carey announced The Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour which spanned a total of 27-dates beginning in March 2016, marking the first time the singer had done a significant tour of mainland Europe in 13 years. Four stops included shows in South Africa.[211] The tour grossed 30.3 million dollars.[212]

Carey during the 2016 Academy Awards party

On March 15, 2016, Carey announced that she was filming Mariah's World, a docu-series for the E! network documenting her Sweet Sweet Fantasy tour and her wedding planning process. Carey told The New York Times, "I thought it would be a good opportunity to kind of, like, show my personality and who I am, even though I feel like my real fans have an idea of who I am... A lot of people have misperceptions about this and that."[213] The series premiered on December 4, 2016.[214] Carey guest starred on the musical drama Empire, as a superstar singer named Kitty and sung the song "Infamous" featuring Jussie Smollett.[215] On December 5, 2016, Carey participated in the VH1 Divas Holiday: Unsilent Night benefit concert, alongside Vanessa Williams, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, and Teyana Taylor.[216] On December 31, 2016, Carey's performance on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve in Times Square received worldwide attention after technical difficulties caused Carey's in-ear monitors to malfunction, resulting in what The New York Times referred to as a "performance train wreck."[217] The singer cited her inability to hear the music without in-ear auditory feedback as the cause for the mishap.[218] Carey's representatives and Dick Clark Productions placed blame on each other.[219]

On February 3, 2017, Carey released the single "I Don't" featuring YG.[220] Later that month, she voiced the Mayor of Gotham City in the animated film The Lego Batman Movie.[221] In July 2017, Carey made a cameo in the comedy film Girls Trip, starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Regina Hall.[222] The same month, Carey embarked on a tour with Lionel Richie, titled, All the Hits Tour.[223] Carey was also featured in the official remix for French Montana's single "Unforgettable", alongside Swae Lee.[224] In October 2017, she released a new soundtrack single, "The Star", for the movie of the same name.[225] Carey also developed an animated Christmas film, titled Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, for which she recorded an original song called "Lil' Snowman." The film was released direct-to-video on November 14, 2017.[226][227] In the same month, the singer resumed her All I Want for Christmas Is You, a Night of Joy and Festivity concert series, which for the first time visited other countries including England and France.[228] On December 31, 2017, the singer returned to perform on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve after the technical difficulties that hindered her previous performance, in what The New York Times described as a "made-for-television act of pop culture redemption".[229]

2018–present: Caution, Merry Christmas 25 and Songwriter's Hall of Fame induction

Carey in a video for Glamour in May 2018

In 2018, Carey signed a worldwide deal with Live Nation Entertainment.[230] The first commitment out of the deal was her new Las Vegas residency, The Butterfly Returns, which was launched in July 2018 to critical acclaim.[231][232] Its first 12 shows in 2018 grossed $3.6 million, with dates later extending into 2019 and 2020.[233] Following the residency, Carey embarked on her Mariah Carey: Live in Concert tour in Asia and returned to Europe with her All I Want for Christmas Is You concert series.[234][235] While on tour, a representative from Sony Music Asia Pacific presented Carey with a certificate for achieving 1.6 billion sales units in Asia Pacific.[236] She also released professional live footage of her performance of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" during one of her European Christmas tour shows on YouTube.[237]

In September 2018, Carey announced plans to release her fifteenth studio album later in the year.[238][239] The project was announced alongside the release of a new song titled "GTFO",[240] which she performed on September 21, 2018, when she headlined the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival.[241] The album's lead single, "With You", was released in October and performed for the first time at the American Music Awards of 2018.[242] The single became Carey's highest-charting non-holiday song on the US Adult Contemporary chart since "We Belong Together",[243] and the third highest-charting song of her career on the Adult R&B Songs chart,[244] and became a top 10 single in Hungary.[245] A second single, "A No No", was released in March 2019 and peaked at number 17 at US R&B Digital Song Sales.[246][247] The album, titled Caution, was released on November 16, 2018, and received universal acclaim from critics.[248] Caution was described as a "fine-tuning" of Carey's previous work[249] and was praised for its freshness which made it "pleasingly defiant."[250] By December 2018, the album had been featured on numerous year-end lists by music critics and publications.[251]

In February 2019, Carey commenced the Caution World Tour in support of the album.[252] Reviewing the singer's three-day residency at the Royal Albert Hall, Michael Cragg from The Guardian described Carey's "incredible, playful performances" as a testament to her status as a "gold-plated pop diva".[253] Similarly, Kate Solomon from The Daily Telegraph acclaimed the shows as being a "a surreal but wildly enjoyable showcase of a brighter, more fun side of the pop icon".[254] The singer also engaged in a series of both business and television ventures. On May 29, 2019, the film Always Be My Maybe, inspired by the song "Always Be My Baby", was published on Netflix.[255] The film received generally favorable reviews from critics and was a commercial success, having been viewed by over 32 million households within its first four weeks of release.[256] On August 25, 2019, Carey signed a $12 million contract with the Walkers crisps brand as part of their Christmas campaign.[257] Carey also appeared in a Walkers commercial, which was released on November 2, 2019; it was praised by critics for its humor.[257][258] In addition to this, Carey released "In the Mix", the theme song for the TV series "Mixed-ish" on September 18, 2019.[259] It received widespread acclaim for the "uplifting message" of Carey's song-writing, with the critic Amanda Mitchell describing the track as being "a love letter to her biracial identity".[260]

On November 1, 2019, Carey re-released her holiday album Merry Christmas for its 25th anniversary. The album package included the original album and another disc which include live performances from Carey's 1994 concert at St. John the Divine Church, several tracks from Merry Christmas II You, as well as other standalone singles such as "Lil Snowman" and "The Star".[261] In conjunction with this, she organized a gift guide with Amazon,[262] and partnered for an exclusive Christmas ornament with Swarovski.[263]

On December 5, 2019, it was announced that a mini-documentary charting the creation and subsequent cultural legacy of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was to be produced and broadcast on Amazon Music; it aired later that month.[264] Peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time the same year, the song ended up giving Carey her nineteenth chart-topper in the USA, which not only extended her record as being the solo artist with the most number one singles on the Hot 100, but also made the singer the only artist in history to have a number-one song in four consecutive decades.[265] In January 2020, it was announced that Carey would be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame during that year's ceremony on June 11, 2020 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.[266] That same month, it was revealed that the singer would release her memoirs, titled I Had A Vision of Love, on September 17, 2020, with the book being distributed through both Pan Macmillan and Henry Holt and Company.[267][268] On March 29, 2020, Carey was one of the headliners for the iHeart Living Room Concert for America hosted by Elton John, where she performed her song "Always Be My Baby". The event raised over $8 million in the fight against COVID-19[269]

Other activities

Declining offers to appear in commercials in the United States during her early career, Carey was not involved in brand marketing initiatives until 2006, when she participated in endorsements for Intel Centrino personal computers and launched a jewelry and accessories line for teenagers, Glamorized, in American Claire's and Icing stores.[270] During this period, as part of a partnership with Pepsi and Motorola, Carey recorded and promoted a series of exclusive ringtones, including "Time of Your Life".[271] She signed a licensing deal with the cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden, and in 2007, she released her own fragrance, "M."[272] The Elizabeth Arden deal has netted her $150 million.[273] On November 29, 2010, she debuted a collection on HSN, which included jewelry, shoes and fragrances.[274]


Carey is a philanthropist who has been involved with several charitable organizations.[275] She became associated with the Fresh Air Fund in the early 1990s, and is the co-founder of a camp located in Fishkill, New York, that enables inner-city youth to embrace the arts and introduces them to career opportunities.[275] The camp was called Camp Mariah "for her generous support and dedication to Fresh Air children," and she received a Congressional Horizon Award for her youth-related charity work.[276] Carey has continued her direct involvement with Camp Mariah, and by 2019 the executive director of The Fresh Air Fund reported that "...the kids who have gone to Camp Mariah have higher graduation rates out of high school and college.[277]

Carey also donated royalties from her hits "Hero" and "One Sweet Day" to charities.[278] She is well-known nationally for her work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in granting the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, and in November 2006 she was awarded the Foundation's Wish Idol for her "extraordinary generosity and her many wish granting achievements."[279][280] Carey has volunteered for the Police Athletic League of New York City and contributed to the obstetrics department of New York Presbyterian Hospital Cornell Medical Center.[281] A percentage of the sales of MTV Unplugged was donated to various other charities.[281] In 2008, Carey was named Hunger Ambassador of the World Hunger Relief Movement.[282] In February 2010, the song, "100%", which was originally written and recorded for the film, Precious,[283] was used as one of the theme songs for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with all money proceeds going to Team USA.[284] Carey is also a supporter and advocate for the LGBT community, and was honored with the "Ally Award" at the 27th GLAAD Media Awards in May 2016. The award is presented to media figures who have "consistently used their platform to support and advance LGBT equality and acceptance".[285] In December 2017, PETA rewarded Carey with the 'Angel for Animal's Award' for "encouraging families to adopt from their local shelter” in her animated Christmas film, titled Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You. [286]

One of Carey's most high-profile benefit concert appearances was on VH1's 1998 Divas Live special, during which she performed alongside other female singers in support of the Save the Music Foundation.[82] The concert was a ratings success, and Carey participated in the Divas 2000 special.[82] In 2007, the Save the Music Foundation honored Carey at their tenth gala event for her support towards the foundation since its inception.[287][288] She appeared at the America: A Tribute to Heroes nationally televised fundraiser in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and in December 2001, she performed before peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.[289] Carey hosted the CBS television special At Home for the Holidays, which documented real-life stories of adopted children and foster families.[290] In 2005, Carey performed for Live 8 in London[291] and at the Hurricane Katrina relief telethon "Shelter from the Storm."[292] In August 2008, Carey and other singers recorded the charity single, "Just Stand Up" produced by Babyface and L. A. Reid, to support Stand Up to Cancer.[293]


In 2008, Carey performed in a New Year's Eve concert for the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, something she later claimed to "feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in."[294] In March 2011, Carey's representative Cindi Berger stated that royalties for the song "Save The Day", which was written for her fourteenth studio album, would be donated to charities that create awareness to human rights issues to make amends for the Gadaffi error. Berger also said that "Mariah has and continues to donate her time, money and countless hours of personal service to many organizations both here and abroad."[278] "Save The Day" was never released.

In 2013, human rights activists criticized Carey for performing in a concert for Angola's "father-daughter kleptocracy" and accused her of accepting "dictator cash."[295]

In January 2019, Carey controversially performed in Saudi Arabia. In the United Kingdom, Owen Jones of The Guardian found her agreement to perform there questionable as "Carey has famously always had a devoted gay fanbase: in Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by death."[296] Prior to this, Carey was under pressure to cancel this performance not only because of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but also because of the country's imprisonment of feminists.[297] In a statement to the Associated Press, Carey's publicist stated that when “presented with the offer to perform for an international and mixed gender audience in Saudi Arabia, Mariah accepted the opportunity as a positive step towards the dissolution of gender segregation. [...] As the first female international artist to perform in Saudi Arabia, Mariah recognizes the cultural significance of this event and will continue to support global efforts towards equality for all.”[298]



Carey has said that from childhood she has been influenced by Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and R&B and soul musicians such as Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin.[299] Her music contains strong influences of gospel music, and she credits the Clark Sisters, Shirley Caesar and Edwin Hawkins as the most influential in her early years.[299] When Carey incorporated hip hop into her sound, speculation arose that she was making an attempt to take advantage of the genre's popularity, but she told Newsweek, "People just don't understand. I grew up with this music."[300] She has expressed appreciation for rappers such as the Sugarhill Gang, Eric B. & Rakim, the Wu-Tang Clan, The Notorious B.I.G. and Mobb Deep, with whom she collaborated on the single "The Roof (Back in Time)" (1998).[301] Carey was heavily influenced by Minnie Riperton, and began experimenting with the whistle register due to her original practice of the range.[301] She has also called Marilyn Monroe one of her idols.

During Carey's career, her vocal and musical style, along with her level of success, has been compared to Whitney Houston, who she has also cited as an influence,[302] and Celine Dion. Carey and her peers, according to Garry Mulholland, are "the princesses of wails [...] virtuoso vocalists who blend chart-oriented pop with mature MOR torch song."[303] Author and writer Lucy O'Brien attributed the comeback of Barbra Streisand's "old-fashioned showgirl" to Carey and Dion, and described them and Houston as "groomed, airbrushed and overblown to perfection."[303] Carey's musical transition and use of more revealing clothing during the late 1990s were, in part, initiated to distance herself from this image, and she subsequently said that most of her early work was "schmaltzy MOR."[303] Some have noted that unlike Houston and Dion, Carey writes and produces her own songs.[304]

Musical style

Carey performing on Good Morning America on May 24, 2013

Love is the subject of the majority of Carey's lyrics, although she has written about themes such as racism, social alienation, death, world hunger, and spirituality. She has said that much of her work is partly autobiographical, but Time magazine wrote: "If only Mariah Carey's music had the drama of her life. Her songs are often sugary and artificial—NutraSweet soul. But her life has passion and conflict," applying it to the first stages of her career. He commented that as her albums progressed, so too her songwriting and music blossomed into more mature and meaningful material.[305] Jim Faber of the New York Daily News, made similar comments, "For Carey, vocalizing is all about the performance, not the emotions that inspired it. Singing, to her, represents a physical challenge, not an emotional unburdening."[306] While reviewing Music Box, Stephen Holden from Rolling Stone commented that Carey sang with "sustained passion," while Arion Berger of Entertainment Weekly wrote that during some vocal moments, Carey becomes "too overwhelmed to put her passion into words."[307] In 2001, The Village Voice wrote in regards to what they considered Carey's "centerless ballads," writing, "Carey's Strawberry Shortcake soul still provides the template with which teen-pop cuties draw curlicues around those centerless [Diane] Warren ballads [.....] it's largely because of [Blige] that the new R&B demands a greater range of emotional expression, smarter poetry, more from-the-gut testifying, and less [sic] unnecessary notes than the squeaky-clean and just plain squeaky Mariah era. Nowadays it's the Christina Aguileras and Jessica Simpsons who awkwardly oversing, while the women with roof-raising lung power keep it in check when tune or lyric demands."[308]

Carey's output makes use of electronic instruments such as drum machines,[120] keyboards and synthesizers.[309] Many of her songs contain piano-driven melodies,[310] as she was given piano lessons when she was six years old.[17] Carey said that she cannot read sheet music and prefers to collaborate with a pianist when composing her material, but feels that it is easier to experiment with faster and less-conventional melodies and chord progressions using this technique.[17] While Carey learned to play the piano at a young age, and incorporates several ranges of production and instrumentation into her music, she has maintained that her voice has always been her most important asset: "My voice is my instrument; it always has been."[81] Carey began commissioning remixes of her material early in her career and helped to spearhead the practice of recording entirely new vocals for remixes.[311] Disc jockey David Morales has collaborated with Carey on several occasions, starting with "Dreamlover" (1993), which popularized the tradition of remixing R&B songs into house records, and which Slant magazine named one of the greatest dance songs of all time.[312] From "Fantasy" (1995) onward, Carey enlisted both hip-hop and house producers to re-structure her album compositions.[70] Entertainment Weekly included two remixes of "Fantasy" on a list of Carey's greatest recordings compiled in 2005: a National Dance Music Award-winning remix produced by Morales, and a Sean Combs production featuring rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard.[313] The latter has been credited with popularizing the R&B/hip-hop collaboration trend that has continued into the 2000s, through artists such as Ashanti and Beyoncé.[311] Combs said that Carey "knows the importance of mixes, so you feel like you're with an artist who appreciates your work—an artist who wants to come up with something with you."[314]

Voice and timbre

Carey possesses a five-octave vocal range,[315][316][317] and has the ability to reach notes beyond the 7th octave.[318][319] Referred to as the "songbird supreme" by the Guinness World Records,[304] she was ranked first in a 2003 MTV and Blender magazine countdown of the 22 Greatest Voices in Music, as voted by fans and readers in an online poll. Carey said of the poll: "What it really means is voice of the MTV generation. Of course, it's an enormous compliment, but I don't feel that way about myself."[320] She also placed second in Cove magazine's list of "The 100 Outstanding Pop Vocalists."[321]

Regarding her voice type, Carey said that she is an alto, though several critics have described her as a Coloratura soprano.[322][323][324] The singer claims that she has nodules in her vocal cords since childhood, due to which she can sing in a higher register than others. However, tiredness and sleep deprivation can affect her vocals due to the nodules, and Carey explained that she went through a lot of practice to maintain a balance during singing.[301][325]

Jon Pareles of The New York Times described Carey's lower register as a "rich, husky alto" that extends to "dog-whistle high notes."[326] Additionally, towards the late 1990s, Carey began incorporating breathy vocals into her material.[327] Tim Levell from the BBC News described her vocals as "sultry close-to-the-mic breathiness,"[327] while USA Today's Elysa Gardner wrote "it's impossible to deny the impact her vocal style, a florid blend of breathy riffing and resonant belting, has had on today's young pop and R&B stars."[328]

Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker adds her timbre possesses various colors, saying, "Carey's sound changes with nearly every line, mutating from a steely tone to a vibrating growl and then to a humid, breathy coo. Her wide vocal range allows Carey to take melodies from alto bottom notes to coloratura soprano upper register."[58] Carey also possesses a "whisper register." In an interview with the singer, Ron Givens of Entertainment Weekly described it this way, "first, a rippling, soulful ooh comes rolling effortlessly from her throat: alto. Then, after a quick breath, she goes for the stratosphere, with a sound that nearly changes the barometric pressure in the room. In one brief swoop, she seems to squeal and roar at the same time."[329]

Her sense of pitch is admired[326] and Jon Pareles adds "she can linger over sensual turns, growl with playful confidence, syncopate like a scat singer... with startlingly exact pitch."[326]


Carey performing "Hero" live during the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball for President Obama

Carey's vocal style, as well as her singing ability, have significantly impacted popular and contemporary music. She has consistently been cited as one of the greatest and most influential vocalists of all time. As music critic G. Brown from The Denver Post wrote, "For better or worse, Mariah Carey's five-octave range and melismatic style have influenced a generation of pop singers."[330] According to Rolling Stone, "Her mastery of melisma, the fluttering strings of notes that decorate songs like 'Vision of Love', inspired the entire American Idol vocal school, for better or worse, and virtually every other female R&B singer since the Nineties."[331] Jody Rosen of Slate wrote of Carey's influence in modern music, calling her the most influential vocal stylist of the last two decades, the person who made rococo melismatic singing.[332] Rosen further exemplified Carey's influence by drawing a parallel with American Idol, which to her, "often played out as a clash of melisma-mad Mariah wannabes. And, today, nearly 20 years after Carey's debut, major labels continue to bet the farm on young stars such as the winner of Britain's X Factor show, Leona Lewis, with her Generation Next gloss on Mariah's big voice and big hair."[332] New York Magazine's editor Roger Deckker further commented that "Whitney Houston may have introduced melisma (the vocally acrobatic style of lending a word an extra syllable or twenty) to the charts, but it was Mariah—with her jaw-dropping range—who made it into America's default sound." Deckker also added that "Every time you turn on American Idol, you are watching her children."[333] As Professor Katherine L. Meizel noted in her book, The Mediation of Identity Politics in American Idol, "Carey's influence not just stops in the emulation of melisma or her singing amongst the wannabe's, it's also her persona, her diva, her stardom which inspires them.... a pre-fame conic look."[334]

In addition to her vocal ability, Carey has been credited for her role and impact as a songwriter and producer. Upon honoring her with the "Icon Award" at their eponymous awards ceremony in 2012, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) described the singer's songwriting as having a "unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers".[335] Jeffrey Ingold of Vice hailed Carey's lyricism as being "among the most verbose in pop music", praising her ability to convey "nuanced stories about love, loss, sex, race and abuse" within her songs.[336] In January 2020, it was announced that Carey was to be inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame during that year's ceremony on June 11, 2020 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.[266]

Numerous historians and social scientists have also credited Carey's outspokenness on her own multiracial heritage for facilitating public discourse surrounding race relations in the United States, as well as the advent of intersectional feminism, during the 1990s. As noted by Professor Michael Eric Dyson in his book, Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture, Carey's "refusal to bow to public pressure" surrounding the nature of her ethnicity exposed "the messy, sometimes arbitrary, politics of definition and categorisation" and "the racial contradictions at the centre of contemporary pop music" at the time.[337] Sika Dagbovie-Mullins of Florida Atlantic University further credited Carey as being a trailblazing "multiracial heroine", remarking upon her ability to both exploit and critique "the various manifestations of the mulatta stereotype" throughout her career.[338]

Among the hip hop, pop, and R&B artists who have cited Carey as an influence are Aneeka,[339] Ari Lennox,[340] Ariana Grande,[341] Britney Spears,[342] Beyoncé,[58] Celine Dion,[343] Katy Perry,[344] Lady Gaga,[345] Bridgit Mendler,[346] Christina Aguilera,[347] Jessica Simpson,[328] Rihanna,[348] Grimes,[349] Kelela,[350] Kelly Clarkson,[351] Kehlani,[352] Kiana Lede,[353] Nicki Minaj,[354] Nelly Furtado,[355] Normani,[356] Bonnie McKee,[357] Leona Lewis,[358] Brandy Norwood,[331] Pink,[359] Mary J. Blige,[360] Melanie Fiona,[361] Missy Elliott,[58] Sam Smith,[362][363] Hikaru Utada,[364] Regine Velasquez, Sarah Geronimo, Jake Zyrus,[365] Jordin Sparks,[366] Justin Bieber,[367] Jessica Sanchez,[368] Megan Rochell,[369] and Sandy.[370]

According to Stevie Wonder: "When people talk about the great influential singers, they talk about Aretha, Whitney and Mariah. That's a testament to her talent. Her range is that amazing."[371] Beyoncé credits Carey's singing and her song "Vision of Love" as influencing her to begin practicing vocal "runs" as a child, as well as helping her pursue a career as a musician.[58] Rihanna has stated that Carey is one of her major influences and idol.[348] Aguilera said in the early stages of her career that Carey was a big influence in her singing career and one of her idols.[347] According to Pier Dominguez, author of Christina Aguilera: A star is made, Aguilera has stated how she loved listening to Whitney Houston, but it was Carey who had the biggest influence on her vocal styling. Carey's carefully choreographed image of a grown woman struck a chord with Aguilera. Her influence on Aguilera also grew from the fact that both are of mixed heritage.[372] Philip Brasor, editor of The Japan Times, expressed how Carey's vocal and melismatic style even influenced Asian singers. He wrote that Japanese singer Hikaru Utada "sang what she heard, from the diaphragm and with her own take on the kind of melisma that became de rigueur in American pop after the ascendance of Mariah Carey."[364]

In an article titled "Out With Mariah's Melisma, In With Kesha's Kick", writer David Browne of The New York Times discusses how the once-ubiquitous melisma pop style suddenly lost in favor of the now-ubiquitous autotune in which the former was heavily popularized by the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Browne had commented "But beginning two decades ago, melisma overtook pop in a way it hadn't before. Mariah Carey's debut hit from 1990, "Vision of Love", [set] the bar insanely high for notes stretched louder, longer and knottier than most pop fans had ever heard." Browne further added "A subsequent generation of singers, including Ms. Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé, built their careers around melisma. (Men like Brian McKnight and Tyrese also indulged in it, but women tended to dominate the form.)"[373]

On a cultural level, Carey is seen as being synonymous with the Christmas and holiday season due to the lasting impact and popularity of her song "All I Want for Christmas Is You", as well as her 1994 album "Merry Christmas".[374] The singer has been credited for turning the genre of Christmas music into a commercially viable format within the music industry, as well as a ubiquitous part of wider popular culture, so much so that she has been dubbed the "Queen of Christmas".[375] The song is the 10th-best-selling single of all time as of June 2019, with global sales of over 16 million copies and royalties exceeding $60 million.[376] The album is credited as being the greatest selling Christmas album of all time.[377] Both the song and album have been hailed as being "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon" by publications such as The New Yorker.[378] Speaking to Vogue in 2015 about "All I Want For Christmas Is You", Elvis Duran stated that the song's appeal was based on the fact that it was "a modern song that could actually have been a hit back in the ’40s", praising its "timeless, classic quality".[375] The success of the song, in particular, has led Carey to build what Billboard described as a "growing holiday mini-empire".[379] The singer released a children's book, illustrated by Colleen Madden, in 2015. The book's text matches the lyrics to her song, "All I Want for Christmas Is You."[380] The book went on to sell over 750,000 copies; Carey later released an animated family film based on the book and song in 2017.[381] On November 24, 2019, the song was recognised with three awards by Guinness World Records, namely as being the record to generate the most streams on Spotify in a 24 hour period.[382]

Commercially, Carey is credited for popularizing and redefining the practice of remixing within the music industry. In a 2019 article for MTV, Princess Gabbara hailed the singer as being "the queen of remixes", praising her ability to "satisfy pop, R&B, hip-hop, and EDM audiences" when doing so.[383] Speaking to Billboard in 2019 for a profile of Carey's career, David Morales, who first collaborated with the singer on the Def Club Mix of her 1993 single "Dreamlover", commented on Carey's revolutionary role in the popularization of remixes: "Mariah opened up a whole other door, and not many people at that time were capable of that. When other big artists saw what I did with Mariah, they wanted that. She's how I got into the studio with Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, Seal and Donna Summer."[383]

Carey is also credited for introducing R&B and hip hop into mainstream pop culture, and for popularizing rap as a featuring act through her post-1995 songs. Sasha Frere-Jones, editor of The New Yorker commented, "It became standard for R&B/hip-hop stars like Missy Elliott and Beyoncé, to combine melodies with rapped verses. And young white pop stars—including Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera, and 'N Sync—have spent much of the past ten years making pop music that is unmistakably R&B." Moreover, Jones concludes that "[Carey's] idea of pairing a female songbird with the leading male MCs of hip-hop changed R&B and, eventually, all of pop. Although now anyone is free to use this idea, the success of The Emancipation of Mimi suggests that it still belongs to Carey."[58] Judnick Mayard, writer of The Fader, wrote that in regarding of R&B and hip hop collaboration, "The champion of this movement is Mariah Carey." Mayard also expressed that "To this day ODB and Mariah may still be the best and most random hip hop collaboration of all time," citing that due to the record "Fantasy", "R&B and Hip-Hop were the best of step siblings."[384] Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times wrote, "In the mid-1990s Ms. Carey pioneered a subgenre that some people call the thug-love duet. Nowadays clean-cut pop stars are expected to collaborate with roughneck rappers, but when Ms. Carey teamed up with Ol' Dirty Bastard, of the Wu-Tang Clan, for the 1995 hit "Fantasy (Remix)", it was a surprise, and a smash."[385] In a review of her Greatest Hits album, Devon Powers of PopMatters writes that "She has influenced countless female vocalists after her. At 32, she is already a living legend—even if she never sings another note."[386]

Personal life

Carey began dating Tommy Mottola while recording Music Box,[387] and married him on June 5, 1993.[88] After the release of Daydream and the success that followed, Carey began focusing on her personal life, which was a constant struggle at the time.[388] Carey's relationship with Mottola began to deteriorate, due to their growing creative differences in terms of her albums, as well as his controlling nature.[388] On May 30, 1997, the couple announced their separation,[389] with their divorce finalized by the time Mottola remarried on December 2, 2000.[390] Carey was in a three-year relationship with singer Luis Miguel from 1998 to 2001.[97]

Carey met actor and comedian Nick Cannon while they shot her music video for her song "Bye Bye" on an island off the coast of Antigua.[391] On April 30, 2008, Carey married Cannon in The Bahamas.[392] At 35 weeks into her pregnancy, she gave birth to their fraternal twins, Moroccan and Monroe, on April 30, 2011[393] via Cesarean section.[394] Monroe is named after Marilyn Monroe; Moroccan is named after the Moroccan-decor room in Carey's apartment where Cannon proposed to her.[395] In August 2014, Cannon confirmed he and Carey had separated.[396] He filed for divorce on December 12, 2014.[397] It was finalized in 2016.[398]

In 2015 Carey began dating Australian billionaire James Packer and, on January 21, 2016, she announced that they were engaged.[399] By October, however, they had ended their engagement.[400] In October 2016 she began dating American choreographer Bryan Tanaka.[401]

Carey is an active Episcopalian.[402] She stated in 2006: "I do believe that I have been born again in a lot of ways. I think what I've changed are my priorities and my relationships with God. I feel the difference when I don't have my private moments to pray. ... I'm a fighter, but I learned that I'm not in charge. Whatever God wants to happen is what's going to happen. I feel like I've had endless second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances. It's by the grace of God I'm still here."[403] In April 2018, Carey opened up about her struggle with bipolar II disorder.[404] She, self-reportedly, was diagnosed in 2001, but kept the diagnosis private. Recently, she has sought out treatment in the form of medication and therapy.[404]

Honors and awards

Carey performing "We Belong Together" live on Good Morning America

Throughout Carey's career, she has collected many honors and awards, including the World Music Awards' Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium, the Grammy's Best New Artist in 1991, and Billboard's Special Achievement Award for the Artist of the Decade during the 1990s.[405] In a career spanning over 20 years, Carey has sold over 200 million records worldwide, making her one of the biggest-selling artists in music history.[406][407] Carey is ranked as the best-selling female artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era, with over 52 million copies sold.[408][409] Carey was ranked first in MTV and Blender magazine's 2003 countdown of the 22 Greatest Voices in Music, and was placed second in Cove magazine's list of "The 100 Outstanding Pop Vocalists."[321][410] Aside from her voice, she has become known for her songwriting. Yahoo Music editor Jason Ankeny wrote, "She earned frequent comparison to rivals Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, but did them both one better by composing all of her own material."[411] According to Billboard magazine, she was the most successful artist of the 1990s in the United States.[412] At the 2000 World Music Awards, Carey was given a Legend Award for being the "best-selling female pop artist of the millennium," as well as the "Best-selling artist of the 90s" in the United States, after releasing a series of albums of multiplatinum status in Asia and Europe, such as Music Box and Number 1's.[410][413] She is also a recipient of the Chopard Diamond award in 2003, recognizing sales of over 100 million albums worldwide.[414] Additionally, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists Carey as the third-best-selling female artist, with shipments of over 63 million units in the US.[415][416] In Japan, Carey has the top four highest-selling albums of all time by a non-Asian artist.[417]

Carey has spent 82 weeks at the number-one position on Billboard Hot 100, the greatest number for any artist in US chart history.[418] On that same chart, she has accumulated 19 number-one singles, the most for any solo artist (and second after The Beatles).[419] Carey has also had three songs debut at the top of the Hot 100 chart.[420] In 1994, Carey released her holiday album Merry Christmas has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, and is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.[59][60][421][422] It also produced the successful single "All I Want for Christmas Is You", which became the only holiday song and ringtone to reach multi-platinum status in the US.[423] In Japan, #1's has sold over 3,250,000 copies and is the best-selling album of all time in Japan by a non-Asian artist.[424] Her hit single "One Sweet Day", which featured Boyz II Men, spent sixteen consecutive weeks at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1996, setting the record for the most weeks atop the Hot 100 chart in history.[409] After Carey's success in Asia with Merry Christmas, Billboard estimated Carey as the all-time best-selling international artist in Japan.[425] In 2008, Billboard listed "We Belong Together" ninth on The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs[426] and second on Top Billboard Hot 100 R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[427] The song was also declared the most popular song of the 2000s decade by Billboard.[130] In 2009, Carey's cover of Foreigner's song "I Want to Know What Love Is" became the longest-running number-one song in Brazilian singles chart history, spending 27 consecutive weeks at number-one.[428] Additionally, Carey has had three songs debut at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100: "Fantasy", "One Sweet Day" and "Honey", making her the artist with the most number-one debuts in the chart's 52-year history.[429] Also, she is the first female artist to debut at number 1 in the U.S. with "Fantasy".[410] In 2010, Carey's 13th album and second Christmas album, Merry Christmas II You, debuted at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, making it only the second Christmas album to top that chart. On November 19, 2010, Billboard magazine named Carey in their "Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years" chart at number four.[430] In 2012, Carey was ranked second on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Women in Music."[431] Billboard magazine ranks her at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, making Carey the second most successful female artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[432] In August 2015, Carey was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[433] In 2017, PETA gave her their "Angel for Animals Award," in honor of her work on the animated film "All I Want for Christmas Is You", in which a young girl adopts a homeless dog.[434]

In October 2019, Carey was an honoree at Variety's Power of Women event alongside honorees Jennifer Aniston, Awkwafina, Brie Larson, Chaka Khan, and Dana Walden. The women were being celebrated for their careers as well as their philanthropic work ranging from involvement with The Fresh Air Fund to advocacy for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. On November 24, 2019, her song "All I Want for Christmas Is You" won three records in Guinness World Records for one of the best-selling and most recognizable Christmas songs, most streamed song on Spotify in 24 hours (female) (10,819,009 streams in December 2018) and most weeks in the UK singles Top 10 chart for a Christmas song (20) titles.[435][436]




Headlining tours

Co-headlining tours


See also


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Further reading

External links