Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey

Carey at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.
Background information
Born March 27, 1970 (1970-03-27) (age 41)
Huntington, New York, United States
Genres R&B, pop, hip hop, soul, dance[1]
Occupations Singer-songwriter, record producer, actress
Years active 1988–present
Labels Columbia, Virgin, Island
Associated acts Brenda K. Starr, Trey Lorenz, Allure, Randy Jackson, Da Brat, Boyz II Men, Whitney Houston, Jermaine Dupri, Bone Thugs N Harmony

Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1970)[2][3] is an American R&B/pop singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. She made her recording debut in 1990 under the guidance of Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola, and became the first recording artist to have her first five singles top the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Following her marriage to Mottola in 1993, Carey enjoyed a series of hit records from the diamond certified albums Music Box (1993) and Daydream (1995). She later released the holiday standard "All I Want For Christmas Is You" from her 1994 album, Merry Christmas, which helped to establish her position as Columbia Records' top-selling act.

Following her separation from Mottola in 1997, she introduced elements of hip hop into her album work, to much initial success, but when she left Columbia in 2001 her popularity was in decline. She signed an unprecedented $100 million deal with Virgin Records, only to be dropped from the label and bought out of her contract in the following year. This turn of events was due to the highly publicized physical and emotional breakdown, as well as the poor reception that was given to Glitter, her film and soundtrack project. In 2002 Carey signed a $24 million deal with Island Records, and after a relatively unsuccessful period, she returned to the top of pop music in 2005 with her album The Emancipation of Mimi.[4][5] The album became her best-selling album in the 2000s and its single, "We Belong Together", became the most successful solo single of her music career and was awarded "Song of the Decade" by Billboard. Ending the decade, Carey starred in the film Precious (2009), whose performance earned her a "Breakthrough Performance Award" at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and a NAACP Image Award nomination.

In a career spanning over two decades, Carey has sold more than 200 million albums, singles, and videos worldwide, making her one of the world's best-selling music artists.[6][7][8] Carey was cited as the world’s best-selling recording artist of the 1990s at the World Music Awards in 1998,[9][10] and was named the best-selling female artist of the millennium by the same awards show in 2000.[11][12][13] According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the third-best-selling female artist, with shipments of 63 million albums in the U.S. In April 2008, "Touch My Body" became Carey's eighteenth number one single on the Hot 100, the most by any solo artist.[14][15] Aside from her commercial accomplishments, she has earned five Grammys,[16] seventeen World Music Awards,[17] and is known for her five-octave vocal range, power, melismatic style and signature use of the whistle register.[18]


Early life

Mariah Carey was born in Huntington, Long Island, New York. She is the third and youngest child of Patricia (née Hickey), a former opera singer and vocal coach, and Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer.[19] Her mother is Irish American and her father is of Afro-Venezuelan and African American descent;[20] her paternal grandfather, Roberto Nuñez, changed his surname to Carey to better assimilate upon moving to the United States from Venezuela.[20] Carey has two siblings, Morgan and Alison Carey.[21]

Carey was named after the song "They Call the Wind Mariah", by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, originally from the 1951 Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon.[22][23] which was a favorite of her mother, Patricia Hickey Carey, a singer with the New York City Opera and vocal coach. Early in Mariah's career, her show began with a "taped overture" of the song.[24]

Carey's parents divorced when she was three years old.[25] While she lived in Huntington, racist neighbors allegedly poisoned the family dog and set fire to her family's car.[26] After her parents' divorce, she 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 turned to music to occupy herself. She began to sing at around the age of three, when her mother began to teach her, after Carey imitated her mother practicing Verdi's opera Rigoletto in Italian.[27]

Carey graduated from Harborfields High School in 1987.[28][29] She was frequently absent, because of her work as a demo singer for local recording studios; her classmates consequently gave her the nickname "Mirage".[30] Her work in the Long Island music scene provided opportunities to work with musicians, such as Gavin Christopher and Ben Margulies, with whom she co-wrote material for her demo tape. After she moved to New York City, she worked part-time jobs to pay the rent and she completed 500 hours of beauty school.[31] Eventually, she became a backup singer for Puerto Rican freestyle singer Brenda K. Starr.


1988–92: Early career

In 1988, Carey met Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party, where Starr gave Carey's demo tape to him. Mottola played the tape when he left the party and was impressed. He returned to find Carey but she had left. Nevertheless, Mottola tracked her down and signed her to a recording contract. This Cinderella-like story became part of the standard publicity that surrounded Carey's entrance into the industry.[32]

Carey co-wrote the tracks on her 1990 debut album Mariah Carey and she has co-written most of her material since. During the recording, she expressed dissatisfaction with the contributions of producers such as Ric Wake and Rhett Lawrence, whom the executives at Columbia had enlisted to help to make the album more commercially viable.[33] Critics were generally enthusiastic (See critical reception section of the album article). Backed by a substantial promotional budget, the album reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, where it remained for several weeks. It yielded four number-one singles and made Carey a star in the United States but it was less successful in other countries. Critics rated the album highly, which assisted Carey's Grammy wins for Best New Artist, and—for her debut single, "Vision of Love"[16]Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.[3] Mariah Carey was also the best selling album of 1991 in the United States.[34]

Carey conceived Emotions, her second album, as an homage to Motown soul music (see Motown Sound), and she worked with Walter Afanasieff and Clivillés & Cole (from the dance group C+C Music Factory) on the record. It was released soon after her debut album – in late 1991 – but was neither as critically or commercially successful (See promotion and reception section of the album article). Following the success of Carey's self-titled debut album, critics wondered whether or not she would tour in order to promote the album in the major worldwide music markets.[35] However, Carey expressed in several interviews that due to the strenuous nature and the sheer difficulty of her songs, she feared a tour with back-to-back shows would not be possible, aside from the long travel times and constant travel.[35] With the extra time, Carey began writing and producing material for Emotions around the same time that her debut's third single, "Someday", was released in December 1990. During this time period in music, it was traditional for an artist to release a studio album every two years in their prime, allowing the singles to fully promote the album through airwaves, as well as television appearances.[36] Additionally, after a tour that would usually follow, as the next album would be released and would gain new fans, they would search the artist's catalog, and purchase the previous album in hopes of learning of their older work.[36] Sony, however, chose to market Carey in a different fashion, leaning towards the traditional form in the 1960s, where acts would release an LP every year.[37] They felt that Carey's reputation of being a "studio worm" and a songwriter from a young age would be captivating enough to deliver a new album more often than most.[37]

As writing for the album came under way, Carey had a falling out with Ben Margulies, the man whom Carey had written seven of the eleven songs on Carey's debut.[37] Together, the duo had written and produced seven songs for Carey's demo tape which she handed to Tommy Mottola. Their parting of ways was due to a contract Carey had signed prior to her signing with Columbia.[37] Carey had agreed to split not only the songwriting royalties from the songs, but half of her earnings as well, something she never thought twice about while writing songs in his father's basement.[37] However, when the time came to write music for Emotions, Sony officials made it clear he would only be paid the fair amount given to co-writers on an album.[37] Following the discussion, Margulies filed a lawsuit against Sony, claiming that under contract, he would be entitled to work with Carey, as well as reap extra benefits. After an almost one year lawsuit, the judge settled that Margulies was to earn ten percent of Carey's direct earnings from her record sales, not including an income from any other ventures.[37] While settled, their relationship remained ruined, damaged by what Carey considered treachery. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey said the following regarding the contract: "I signed blindly. Later, I tried to make it right so we could continue...but he wouldn't accept it."[37] After the settlement, Margulies spoke of his feelings on the matter, claiming he would hope to one day write again with Carey, placing most of the blame on the record label and concluding "Hopefully one day, art will prevail over business."[37] The title track "Emotions" made Carey into the only recording act whose first five singles have reached number one on the U.S. Hot 100 chart, although the album's follow-up singles failed to match this feat. Carey had lobbied to produce her own songs and, beginning with Emotions, she has co-produced most of her material. "I didn't want [Emotions] to be somebody else's vision of me", she said. "There's more of me on this album."[38]

Although Carey performed live occasionally, stage fright prevented her from embarking on a major tour.[39] Her first widely seen appearance was featured on the television show MTV Unplugged in 1992, and she remarked that she felt that her performance that night proved her vocal abilities were not, as some had previously speculated, simulated with studio equipment.[40] Alongside acoustic versions of some of her earlier songs, Carey premiered a cover of The Jackson 5's "I'll Be There", with her back-up singer Trey Lorenz. The duet was released as a single, reached number one in the U.S. and led to a record deal for Lorenz,[3] whose debut album Carey later co-produced.[41] Because of high ratings for the Unplugged television special, the concert's set list was released on the EP MTV Unplugged, which Entertainment Weekly called "the strongest, most genuinely musical record she has ever made [...] Did this live performance help her to take her first steps toward growing up?"[42]

1993–96: First marriage, and international success

Carey and Tommy Mottola became romantically involved during the making of her debut album and were married in June 1993. Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds consulted on the album Music Box, which was released later that year and became Carey's most successful worldwide. The album maintained a presence on the Billboard 200 for 128 weeks.[43] It yielded her first UK Singles Chart number-one,[44] a cover of Badfinger's "Without You", and the U.S. number-ones "Dreamlover" and "Hero."

After the success of Carey's previous albums Mariah Carey and Emotions, Sony wanted to take Music Box in a new direction, but not too far from her older releases.[45] Sony began letting Carey take more control over the projects, as well as letting her produce her own material.[46][page needed] On the album's first track "Dreamlover", Carey worked with Dave Hall throughout the song's entire production. However, after listening to the song, Tommy Mottola felt "Dreamlover" needed stronger tunes and a more "direct" sound.[47] In order to help with some of the song's arrangements, Mottola enrolled the help of Walter Afanasieff, who took on the completed track and transformed it into a more commercial hit.[47]

Aside from the changes on "Dreamlover", "Hero", the album's second single, also had its own story. While Carey and Afanasieff worked on Music Box, he was also working on the film Hero, starring Dustin Hoffman and Geena Davis.[47] As a result, he and Carey began working on a theme-song for the film, one that was intended for Gloria Estefan.[47] After only two hours however, the finished product was perfect, surpassing both their expectations. When Mottola came for a final listen he was shocked as to what he heard, exclaiming, "Are you kidding me? You can't give this song to a movie. This is too good, Mariah, you have to take this song. You have to do it."[47] After insisting, Carey and Afanasieff made some lyrical changes, and made it a very personal track, "especially for Carey."[47]

The album's title track, Music Box, is described as one of Carey's more difficult compositions, due to its "softness." The song requires a great deal of legato, to keep "the tunes softness and sweetness, without resorting to volume." Carey's vocals on the track are defined as "soft and controlled", managing to maintain the delicate balance in a manner that seems effortless, floating easily over the keyboard and the shimmer of the guitar.[48][page needed] One of the noticeable differences from Music Box and Carey's previous albums was its sound. The album was described by Afanasieff as a softer and more pop-oriented album, "filling the songs with air", and allowing far more space in the overall sound.[47] Another noticeable change was in the album's production.[47] When Mariah Carey was released, critics took notice of its "overly produced" and "studio perfect" quality, where in comparison, Emotions maintained a "raw, live sound."[47] Music Box however, fell in between the two, a decision made by Carey during the album's production.[47] She would layer each track with live backing vocals, so not to sound too overly produced, but still kept the inclusion of musical synthesizers.[47]

Billboard magazine proclaimed it "heart-piercing [...] easily the most elemental of Carey's releases, her vocal eurythmics in natural sync with the songs",[49] but TIME magazine's Christopher John Farley lamented Carey's attempt at a mellower work, "[Music Box] seems perfunctory and almost passionless [...] Carey could be a pop-soul great; instead, she has once again settled for Salieri-like mediocrity."[50] AllMusic adds, "Carey sounds detached on several selections. She scored a couple of huge hits, "Hero" and "Dreamlover", where she did inject some personality and intensity into the leads. Most other times, Carey blended into the background and allowed the tracks guide her, instead of pushing and exploding through them. It was wise for Carey to display other elements of her approach but, sometimes, excessive spirit is preferable to an absence of passion,"[51] and Rolling Stone expressed mixed sentiments and said, "Some of the songs appear to be strongly influenced by other hits. "Hero", with its message of self-sufficiency, aims for the inspirational grandeur of "Greatest Love of All", while "Just to Hold You Once Again" and "All I've Ever Wanted" chase the tail of "I Will Always Love You." In fact, Music Box is so precisely calculated to be a blockbuster that its impact is ultimately a little unnerving."[52] In response to such comments, Carey said, "As soon as you have a big success, a lot of people don't like that. There's nothing that I can do about it. All I can do is to make music that I believe in."[53] Most critics slighted the opening of her subsequent U.S. Music Box Tour.[54] Farley balanced his critique with some positive observations: "The gospel flavored 'Anytime You Need A Friend' demonstrates Carey's vocal power, although too fleetingly. And the title cut is one of Carey's loveliest songs to date..."[50]

In late 1994, after her duet with Luther Vandross on a cover of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross's "Endless Love" became a hit, Carey released the holiday album Merry Christmas. It contained cover material and original compositions, such as "All I Want for Christmas Is You", which became Carey's biggest single in Japan[55] and, in subsequent years, emerged as one of her most perennially popular songs on U.S. radio.[56] Since her rise to fame in 1990, Carey has always claimed herself to be a religious and spiritual person. She always expressed her belief in God and her connection between music and spirituality, and felt the album was finally a way to portray her mysticism into music.[57] After the success of Carey's previous effort, Music Box, there was speculation of a new project in the works; however it wasn't until October 1994, only one month before the album's release, that Billboard announced Carey would be releasing a holiday album for the Christmas season.[58] Initially, critics were shocked; they didn't know how Carey would fare as an entertainer, as she had previously only been viewed as a pop star.[57] Nevertheless, Carey, unaffected by the speculation, continued working on, and promoting the album in high spirits, confident in her work.[57] The idea proved to be wise, earning Carey recognition in various markets including Christian radio and contemporary R&B stations, as well as extended her fame in Japan, where the album experienced much of its success. Critical reception of Merry Christmas was mixed, with Allmusic calling it an "otherwise vanilla set [...] pretensions to high opera on 'O Holy Night' and a horrid danceclub take on 'Joy to the World'."[59] It became one of the most successful Christmas albums of all time.[60]

In 1995, Columbia released Carey's fourth studio album, Daydream, which combined the pop sensibilities of Music Box with downbeat R&B and hip hop influences. A remix of "Fantasy", its first single, featured rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard. Carey said that Columbia reacted negatively to her intentions for the album: "Everybody was like 'What, are you crazy?'. They're very nervous about breaking the formula."[61] The New Yorker noted that "It became standard for R&B stars, like Missy Elliott and Beyoncé, to combine melodies with rapped verses." John Norris of MTV News has stated that the remix was "responsible for, I would argue, an entire wave of music that we've seen since and that is the R&B-hip-hop collaboration. You could argue that the 'Fantasy' remix was the single most important recording that she's ever made." Norris echoed the sentiments of TLC's Lisa Lopes, who told MTV that it's because of Mariah that we have "R&B." Daydream became her biggest-selling album in the U.S. and its singles achieved similar success – "Fantasy" became the second single to debut at number one in the U.S. and topped the Canadian Singles Chart for twelve weeks; "One Sweet Day" (a duet with Boyz II Men) spent a record-holding sixteen weeks at number one in the U.S.; and "Always Be My Baby" (co-produced by Jermaine Dupri) was the most successful record on U.S. radio in 1996, according to Billboard magazine. The album also generated career-best reviews for Carey,[62] and publications such as The New York Times named it as one of 1995's best albums; the Times wrote that its "best cuts bring 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."[63] and AllMusic adds, "Daydream is her best record to date, and features a consistently strong selection of songs and a remarkably impassioned performance by Carey. A few of the songs are second-rate – particularly the cover of Journey's "Open Arms" – but Daydream demonstrates that Carey continues to perfect her craft and that she has earned her status as an R&B diva."[64] The short but profitable Daydream World Tour augmented sales of the album. The music industry took note of Carey's success – she won two awards at the American Music Awards for her solo efforts: Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist and Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist.[65] Daydream and its tracks were respectively nominated for six categories in the 38th Grammy Awards. Carey, along with Boyz II Men, opened the event with a performance of "One Sweet Day", which was mightily applauded.[66] Although many critics proclaimed Daydream as the best album of 1995, she ended that night with no awards.[66] The cameras started to focus on Carey, whose disappointment was becoming obvious.[66] Carey eventually was able to deal with this incident. "What can you do?. I will never be disappointed again. After I sat through the whole show and didn't win once, I can handle anything."[66] In 1995, due to Daydream's enormous Japanese sales, Billboard declared Carey "Artist of the year" in Japan.[67]

1997–2000: New image, Butterfly and Rainbow

Carey and Mottola officially separated in 1997. Although the public image of the marriage was a happy one, she said that, in reality, she had felt trapped by her relationship with Mottola, whom she often described as controlling.[68] They officially announced their separation in 1997 and their divorce became final in the following year. Soon after the separation, Carey hired an independent publicist and a new attorney and manager. She continued to write and produce for other artists during this period and contributed to the debut albums of Allure and 7 Mile through her short-lived imprint Crave Records.

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

Carey's next album, Butterfly (1997), yielded the number-one single "Honey", the lyrics and music video which presented a more overtly sexual image of her than had been previously seen.[69][31] She stated that Butterfly marked the point when she attained full creative control over her music.[70] However, she added, "I don't think that it's that much of a departure from what I've done in the past [...] It's not like I went psycho and thought I would be a rapper. Personally, this album is about doing whatever the hell I wanted to do."[69] Throughout the development of the album, in a departure from her previous style, Carey worked with various rappers and hip-hop producers, including Sean "Puffy" Combs, Kamaal Fareed, Missy Elliott and Jean Claude Oliver and Samuel Barnes from Trackmasters.[71] Critics saw Carey's new production team as a form of revenge on Mottola and Sony Music.[71] Carey denied taking a radically new direction, and insisted that the musical style of her new album was of her own choosing. Nevertheless, Carey resented the control that Sony, whose president was Mottola, exercised over her music, preventing her making music about which she was passionate.[69] In contrast, Sony were concerned Carey, their best-selling act, could jeopardize her future success through her actions.[69]

The pressure of the separation and constant press attention began to take its toll of Carey. Growing creative differences with producer Walter Afanasieff ended their working relationship, after collaborating on most of Carey's previous output.[69] The breaking point came after a heated argument during a long recording session, over the album's musical direction.[71] Carey also faced media criticism over her choice of producers and several newspapers linked Carey romantically to several rappers, suggesting these relationships influenced her decisions.[71] However, Carey denied the allegations, stating she had only slept with her husband.[72]

Reviews for Butterfly were generally positive: Rolling Stone wrote, "Carey couldn't have wished for a better start than "Honey", [...] it's an undeniably catchy pop record that revamps her sound and image. 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. [... Except "Outside" the album sounds] very 1997. [...] Carey has spread her wings and she's ready to fly",[73] LAUNCHcast said Butterfly "pushes the envelope", a move that its critic thought "may prove disconcerting to more conservative fans" but praised as "a welcome change."[74] The Los Angeles Times wrote, "[Butterfly] is easily the most personal, confessional-sounding record she's ever done [...] Carey-bashing just might become a thing of the past."[75] and AllMusic adds "Carey's vocals are sultrier and more controlled than ever, and that helps "Butterfly", "Break Down", "Babydoll", and the Prince cover, "The Beautiful Ones", rank among her best; also, the ballads do have a stronger urban feel than before. Even though Butterfly doesn't have as many strong singles as Daydream, it's one of her best records and illustrates that Carey continues to improve and refine her music, which makes her a rarity among her '90s peers."[76] The album was a commercial success—although not to the degree of her previous three albums—and "My All" (her thirteenth Hot 100 number-one) gave her the record for the most U.S. number-ones by a female artist.

Toward the turn of the millennium, Carey developed the film project Glitter and wrote songs for the films Men in Black (1997) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). During the production of Butterfly, Carey became romantically involved with New York Yankees baseball star Derek Jeter. Their relationship ended in 1998, with both parties citing media interference as the main reason for the split.[77] The same year, Columbia released the album #1's, a collection of Carey's U.S. number-one singles alongside new material, which, she said, was a way to reward her fans.[78] The song "When You Believe", a duet with Whitney Houston, was recorded for the soundtrack of The Prince of Egypt (1998) and won an Academy Award. #1's sold above expectations but a review in NME labeled Carey "a purveyor of saccharine bilge like 'Hero', whose message seems wholesome enough: that if you vacate your mind of all intelligent thought, flutter your eyelashes and wish hard, sweet babies and honey will follow."[79] Also that year, she appeared on the first televised VH1 Divas benefit concert program, although her alleged prima donna behavior had already led many to consider her a diva.[80]

Rainbow, Carey's sixth studio album, was released in 1999 and comprised more R&B/hip hop–oriented songs, with many of them co-created with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.[81] "Heartbreaker" and "Thank God I Found You" (the former featuring Jay-Z, the latter featuring Joe and boy band 98 Degrees) reached number one in the U.S.[81] and the success of the former made Carey the only act to have a number-one single in each year of the 1990s. A cover of Phil Collins's "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" went to number one in the UK, after Carey re-recorded it with boy band Westlife. Media reception of Rainbow was generally enthusiastic, with the Sunday Herald saying that the album "sees her impressively tottering between soul ballads and collaborations with R&B heavyweights like Snoop Doggy Dogg, Usher [...] It's a polished collection of pop-soul."[82] VIBE magazine expressed similar sentiments, writing, "She pulls out all stops [...] Rainbow will garner even more adoration",[83] However, Rainbow became Carey's lowest-selling album up to that point,[70] and there was a recurring criticism that the tracks were too alike. When the double A-side "Crybaby" (featuring Snoop Dogg)/"Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)" became her first single to peak outside the U.S. top twenty, Carey accused Sony of underpromoting it: "The political situation in my professional career is not positive [...] I get a lot of negative feedback from certain corporate people", she wrote, on her official website.[84]

2001–04: Glitter, Charmbracelet and personal struggles

After she received Billboard's Artist of the Decade Award and the World Music Award for Best-Selling Female Artist of the Millennium,[11] Carey parted from Columbia and signed a contract with EMI's Virgin Records worth a reported US$100 million.[85] She often stated that Columbia had regarded her as a commodity, with her separation from Mottola exacerbating her relations with label executives. Just a few months later, in July 2001, it was widely reported that Carey had suffered a physical and emotional breakdown. She had left messages on her website that complained of being overworked,[86] and her relationship with the Latin icon Luis Miguel ended.[87] In an interview the following year, she said, "I was with people who didn't really know me and I had no personal assistant. I'd do interviews all day long and get two hours of sleep a night, if that."[88] During an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live, to which she showed up unannounced and to the apparent bewilderment of host Carson Daly, Carey handed out popsicles to the audience and began what was later described as a "striptease".[89] By the month's end, she had checked into a hospital and her publicist announced that Carey would take a break from public appearances.[90]

Critics panned Glitter, Carey's much delayed semi-autobiographical film and it was a box office failure.[26] The accompanying soundtrack album, Glitter, was inspired by the music of the 1980s and featured collaborations with Rick James and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; it generated Carey's worst showing on the U.S. chart. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch dismissed it as "an absolute mess that'll go down as an annoying blemish on a career that, while not always critically heralded, was at least nearly consistently successful",[91] while Blender magazine opined, "After years of trading her signature flourishes for a radio-ready purr, Carey's left with almost no presence at all."[92] The lead single, "Loverboy" (which features Cameo), reached number two on the Hot 100, due to the release of the physical single,[90] but the album's follow-up singles failed to chart; however, a live rendition/medley of the single, "Never Too Far", made its way to number 81.

Later, in the year, Columbia released the low-charting compilation album Greatest Hits, shortly after the failure of Glitter, and, in early 2002, Virgin bought out Carey's contract for $28 million,[5] and created further negative publicity. Carey later said that her time at Virgin was "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."[93] Later that year, she signed a contract with Island Records, valued at more than $22.5 million,[94] and launched the record label MonarC. To add further to Carey's emotional burdens, her father, with whom she had little contact since childhood, died of cancer that year.[95]

Carey, Mira Sorvino and Melora Walters co-starred as waitresses at a mobster-operated restaurant in the independent film WiseGirls (2002), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival but went straight to cable in the U.S. Critics commended Carey for her efforts – The Hollywood Reporter predicted, "Those scathing notices for Glitter will be a forgotten memory for the singer once people warm up to Raychel",[96] and Roger Friedman, referring to her as "a Thelma Ritter for the new millennium", said, "Her line delivery is sharp and she manages to get the right laughs".[97] WiseGirls producer Anthony Esposito cast Carey in The Sweet Science (2006), a film about an unknown female boxer recruited by a boxing manager, but it never entered production.[98]

Carey performing on her Charmbracelet World Tour

In 2002, she performed the American national anthem in front of an audience at the Super Bowl XXXVI at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Following a well-received supporting role in the 2002 film WiseGirls, Carey released the album Charmbracelet, which, she said, marked "a new lease on life" for her.[88] Sales of Charmbracelet were moderate and the quality of Carey's vocals came under severe criticism. 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",[99] and Rolling Stone commented, "Carey needs bold songs that help her use the power and range for which she is famous. Charmbracelet is like a stream of watercolors that bleed into a puddle of brown."[100] Allmusic expressed similar sentiments and said, "There are no good songs on this record, outside of Def Leppard's power ballad classic "Bringin on the Heartbreak", which isn't even covered all that well. What is a greater problem is that Mariah's voice is shot, sounding in tatters throughout the record. Whenever she sings, there's a raspy whistle behind her thin voice and she strains to make notes throughout the record. She cannot coo or softly croon nor can she perform her trademark gravity-defying vocal runs. Her voice is damaged and there's not a moment where it sounds strong or inviting." The magazine adds "the songs are formless and the production bland."[101] The album's only charting single in America, "Through the Rain", was a failure on pop radio, which had become less open to maturing "diva" stylists, such as Celine Dion, or Carey, herself, in favor of younger singers such as Christina Aguilera, who had vocal styles very similar to Carey's.[88]

"I Know What You Want", a 2003 Busta Rhymes single on which Carey guest starred, fared considerably better and reached the U.S. top five; it was also included on Columbia's release of The Remixes, a compilation of Carey's best remixes and some new tracks. That year, she embarked on the Charmbracelet World Tour and was awarded the Chopard Diamond award for selling more than 100 million albums worldwide.[102] She was featured on rapper Jadakiss's 2004 single "U Make Me Wanna", which reached the top ten on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Carey was one of several musicians who appeared in the independently produced Damon Dash films Death of a Dynasty (2003) and State Property 2 (2005).

2005–07: Return to prominence with The Emancipation of Mimi

Carey performing on her Adventures of Mimi Tour, in Florida August 7, 2006.

Carey's tenth studio album, The Emancipation of Mimi (2005), contained contributions from producers such as The Neptunes, Kanye West and Carey's longtime collaborator, Jermaine Dupri. Carey said it was "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."[103] The Emancipation of Mimi became 2005's best-selling album in the U.S. The Guardian reviewer 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".,[104] while Elysa Gardner writes on USA Today, "Breezy, playful tracks such as Say Somethin' (featuring Snoop Dogg) and Get Your Number (with Jermaine Dupri) prove the singer hasn't forsaken her passion for hip-hop. But it's the ballads and midtempo numbers that truly reflect the renewed confidence of a songbird who has taken her shots and kept on flying."[105] On the other hand, Slant and AllMusic criticized her vocals, writing, "Just as you start to hear the scratchiness in her voice (no doubt due to all that "purple"), the padded hook kicks in or the song fades. Where once Mariah's trademark high notes used to serve some purpose (structurally, melodically, texturally), they now seem random, existing just to convince us that The Voice is still there—and it is...kind of. More convincing would be a low note (remember those first 60 outrageously versatile seconds of '91's "You're So Cold"?), but mostly what we get here is midrange belting. As gratifying as that is on the surface, there's still the nagging feeling that Mariah has damaged her voice beyond repair."[106] "Mariah's voice sounds as airy, thin, and damaged as it did on Charmbracelet. Mariah never sounds like herself on this record. When she's not sounding like Beyoncé, she sounds desperate to be part of the waning bling era. Disregarding these two rather sizeable problems, The Emancipation of Mimi still works, at least as a slick, highly crafted piece of dance-pop."[107]

The Emancipation of Mimi earned a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album and the single "We Belong Together" won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. "We Belong Together" held the Hot 100's number-one position for fourteen weeks, her longest run at the top as a solo lead artist. Subsequently, the single "Shake It Off" reached number two for a week, which made Carey the first female lead vocalist to have simultaneously held the Hot 100's top two positions. (While it topped the charts in 2002, Ashanti was the "featured" singer on the number two single.)[108][109][110][111][112] 2005 proved to be a good year for Carey, as "We Belong Together" reached number one on Billboard's year end chart for Hot 100 singles,[113] and The Emancipation of Mimi is classed as the best selling album of 2005 by Nielsen SoundScan.[114]

In mid-2006, Carey began The Adventures of Mimi Tour, which was the most successful of her career, although some dates had to be canceled.[115] She appeared on the cover of the March 2007, edition of Playboy magazine in a non-nude photo session.[116] Around this time, she made a legal threat against porn star Mary Carey, believing their names were too similar.[117][118]

In 2006, Carey joined the cast of the indie film Tennessee (2008), taking the role of an aspiring singer who flees her controlling husband and joins two brothers on a journey to find their long-lost father. The movie received mixed reviews, but some, like Reuters, praised Carey's performance as "understated and very effective."[119]

2007–09: E=MC², second marriage, and Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel

By spring 2007, she had begun to work on her eleventh studio album, E=MC².[120] Asked about the album title's meaning, Carey said "Einstein's theory? Physics? Me? Hello! ...Of course I'm poking fun." She characterized the project as "Emancipation of Mimi to the second power", and said that she was "freer" on this album than any other. Like her previous one, this album mainly concentrates on pop and R&B but borrows hip hop, gospel and even reggae ("Cruise Control") elements.[121][122] Although E=MC² was well received by most critics,[123] some of them criticized it for being "a clone of The Emancipation of Mimi".[124] Bleu Magazine's critic said that the "facsimiles aren't terrible, they're just boring and forgettable at this point."[125] Two weeks before the album's release, on April 2, 2008, "Touch My Body", her first single from the album, became Carey's eighteenth number-one single on the Hot 100, pushing her past Elvis Presley into second place for the most number-one singles among all artists in the rock era, according to Billboard magazine's revised methodology.[126][127][128] Carey is now second only to The Beatles, who have twenty number-one singles.[129] The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 463,000 copies sold, making it the biggest opening week sales of her career.[130]

In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked her at number six 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.[131] Carey has also had notable success on international charts, though not to the same degree as in the United States. Thus far, she has had two number-one singles in Britain, two in Australia, and six in Canada. Her highest-charting single in Japan peaked at number two.[132][133][134] Carey and actor/comedian/rapper Nick Cannon met while they shot Carey's music video for her second single "Bye Bye" on a private island of the coast of Antigua.[135] On April 30, 2008, Carey married Cannon at her private estate on Windermere Island in The Bahamas.[136][137][138][139] In October 2008, Carey was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.[140] Carey had a cameo appearance in Adam Sandler's 2008 film You Don't Mess with the Zohan, playing herself.[26][141]

Carey performing live in Las Vegas in 2009

Carey performed "Hero" at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball after Barack Obama was sworn in as America's first African-American president on January 20, 2009.[142] On July 7, 2009, Carey – alongside Trey Lorenz – performed her version of the Jackson 5 hit "I'll Be There" at the memorial service for Michael Jackson in the Los Angeles Staples Center.[143] Carey was featured on "My Love", the second single from singer-songwriter The-Dream's album Love vs. Money.[144] In 2009, she appeared as a social worker in Precious, the movie adaptation of the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire. The film has garnered mostly positive reviews from critics, as has Carey's performance.[145][146] Variety described her acting as "pitch-perfect".[147] So far Precious has won awards at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, receiving top awards there.[148][149][150] In January 2010, Carey won the Breakthrough Actress Performance award for her role in Precious at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.[151]

Carey's twelfth studio album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel was released on September 25, 2009. The album received generally favorable reviews from music critics.[152] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it "her most interesting album in a decade",[153] 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 mid registers.[154] Commercially, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and became the lowest-selling studio album of her career.[155] The album's lead single, "Obsessed", became her 40th entry on the Billboard Hot 100 and her highest debut on the chart since "My All" in 1998.[156] The song 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.[157] Within hours after the song's release, various outlets speculated that its target was rapper Eminem, in response to his song "Bagpipes from Baghdad", in which he taunted Carey's husband, Nick Cannon by telling him to back off and that Carey is his.[158][159] According to MTV, Carey alludes to drug problems in "Obsessed", which Eminem opened up about on his sixth studio album, Relapse.[160] The album's follow-up singles failed to achieve commercial success. The second single, a cover of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is", peaked at number 60 and the third single, "H.A.T.E.U.", failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100.[161] On December 31, 2009, Carey embarked her seventh concert tour, Angels Advocate Tour, which visited the United States and Canada.[162] Later it was announced that Carey would release two remix albums of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel; titled Angels Advocate (an R&B remix album featuring a collection of newly remixed duets with some of Carey's favorite artists) and MC vs JS (a dance album entirely remixed by the Jump Smokers). In January 2010, "Up Out My Face" featuring Nicki Minaj and "Angels Cry" featuring Ne-Yo were released as the lead singles from Angels Advocate.[163][164] Both albums were slated for a March 2010 release, but were eventually cancelled.[165] On February 9, 2011, Carey released 100% to iTunes, a song originally from motion picture Precious. It was later used on the AT&T Team USA Soundtrack for the 2010 Winter Olympics.[166]

2010: Merry Christmas II You and motherhood

Following the cancellation of the remix albums, it was announced that Carey will go back to the studio to start work on her second Christmas album and her 13th studio album. Long time collaborators for the project include Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox.[167] Dupri stated that a single will be released by the end of 2010. Johntá Austin and Randy Jackson are also contributing to the project.[168]

Carey performing live in Magic Kingdom on December 3, 2010

During a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, in August 2010, Island Def Jam executive Matt Voss announced that the Christmas album would be out on November 2[169] and will include six new songs and a remix of her classic hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You".[170] The album will be titled Merry Christmas II You, a follow-up to her 1994 multiplatinum album Merry Christmas. An accompanying DVD was released alongside the CD.[171] Carey has produced and recorded tracks with the Broadway producer Marc Shaiman for the album. The album debuted at No.4 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 56,000 copies, surpassing the opening week sales of Carey's previous holiday album Merry Christmas of 45,000 copies 16 years prior, and making Merry Christmas II You Carey's 16th top 10 album.[172] The album debuted at No.1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, making it only the second Christmas album to top this chart,[173] and also hit number No.1 on the Holiday Albums Chart.[174]

In May 2010, Carey cited medical reasons and 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.[175] After much media speculation, on October 28, 2010, Carey confirmed that she and Cannon are expecting a baby, and that it is due in the spring of 2011. Carey also revealed that she had conceived naturally. She added that she had been pregnant shortly after her wedding with Nick Cannon, but that she miscarried. Carey and Cannon decided to keep the matter private.[176] On April 30, 2011, the couple's third wedding anniversary, Carey gave birth to fraternal twins via C-section.[177][178] The twins were named Monroe, after Marilyn Monroe, and Moroccan Scott, after Cannon proposed to Carey in her Moroccan-style room; Scott is Cannon's middle name and his grandmother's maiden name.[179][180]

2011-present: New studio album

On September 20, 2011, Tony Bennet released his album Duets II, the album included a duet with Carey titled 'When Do The Bells Ring For Me'.[181][182] Jermaine Dupri and Mariah worked on a charity song which was to be called, 'Save the Day', and was to feature vocals from Carey, Taylor Swift, Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly.[183] Following the birth of their children, Cannon revealed during an interview with Billboard that Carey had already begun working on a new record.[184] Cannon said "She's been working away, and we have a studio in the crib, and [the pregnancy] has totally inspired her on so many different levels. You're definitely gonna see some new phenomenal music from Mariah" and assured Carey would plan on releasing it by the end of the year.[185] In October 2011, Carey announced that she re-recorded her song "All I Want for Christmas Is You" with Justin Bieber as a duet for his Christmas album Under the Mistletoe.[186][187] In November 2011, Carey and Bieber filmed a music video for the duet.[188]

James Wright took the social networking site Twitter to reveal that Randy Jackson had been in the studio with Carey. Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri also confirmed as two of the album’s other contributors.[189]

On October 21, 2011, a pre-taped interview with Barbara Walters aired on ABC's 20/20, during the interview Carey and Cannon allowed the cameras to photograph/film twins Moroccan and Monroe for the first time ever.[190]

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.[191] That same month, Carey announced that she and John Legend are collaborating on a duet, it will come in the form of a remix to her song "When Christmas Comes", which was originally part of Carey's 2010 holiday album "Merry Christmas II You".[192]


Musical style

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."[193] Jim Faber, of New York Daily News, makes a similar comment, according to him, "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."[194] The Village Voice wrote in 2001 that, in that respect, Carey compared unfavorably with singers such as Mary J. Blige, saying "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 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."[195]

Carey's output makes use of electronic instruments such as drum machines, keyboards and synthesizers. Many of her songs contain piano music, and she was given piano lessons when she was six years old. 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. Some of her arrangements have been inspired by the work of musicians such as Stevie Wonder, a soul pianist to whom Carey once referred as "the genius of the [twentieth] century",[32] but she has said, "My voice is my instrument; it always has been."[196]

Carey began commissioning remixes of her material early in her career and helped to spearhead the practice of recording entirely new vocals for remixes.[197] Disc jockey David Morales has collaborated with Carey several times, 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.[198] From "Fantasy" (1995) onward, Carey enlisted both hip hop and house producers to re-imagine her album compositions. Entertainment Weekly included two remixes of "Fantasy" on a list of Carey's greatest recordings compiled in 2005:[199] a National Dance Music Award-winning remix produced by Morales, and a Sean Combs production featuring rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard. 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.[197][200] 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".[32] She continues to consult on remixes by producers such as Morales, Jermaine Dupri, Junior Vasquez and DJ Clue, and guest performers contribute frequently to them.

Voice and timbre

Mariah Carey possesses a five-octave vocal range, and 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."[201] She also placed second in Cove magazine's list of "The 100 Outstanding Pop Vocalists".[202] Regarding her voice, Carey has stated,

I have nodules on my vocal cords. My mother says I've had them since I was a kid. That's why I have the high register and the belting register and I can still be husky. The only thing that really affects my voice is sleep. Sometimes if I'm exhausted, I can't hit the really high notes.[203] My doctors showed me my vocal cords and why I can hit those high notes. It's a certain part of the cord that not many people use—the very top. My natural voice is low. I have a raspy voice. I'm really more of an alto. But my airy voice can be high if I'm rested. [...] When I was little, I'd talk in this really high whisper, and my mom would be like, "You're being ridiculous." I thought if I can talk like that I can sing like that. So I started [she goes higher and higher and higher] just messing around with it. I'd practice and practice, and she'd be like, "You're gonna hurt yourself." I'd tell her, It doesn’t hurt. If I were to try and belt two octaves lower than that, that would be a strain.[204]

She also explains that it was Minnie Riperton who influenced her to use the whistle register.[204]

Regarding her voice type, Carey said that she is alto, while French-American baritone and singing teacher in the Conservatoire de Paris Malcolm Walker states that she is light lyric soprano, "because the upper register is much more healthy than the lower register."[205] However, within contemporary forms of music, singers are classified by the style of music they sing. There is currently no authoritative voice classification system within non-classical music. Attempts have been made to adopt classical voice type terms to other forms of singing, but they are controversial,[206] because the development of classic voice categorizations were made with the understanding that the singer would amplify his or her voice with their natural resonators, without a microphone.[207]

Carey's voice has been described as "rich and husky" on lower register[208] - thought "tired", "distended" in its lowest parts,[205][209][210] "rounded" and "warm" or "breathy" and "thin" in middle register,[205][209] with a "pure and full" belting register[205][209] that "works very well"[205] and a "easy" head voice, which is "her true voice".[205] Carey also possesses a "whisper register". In an interview with the singer, Ron Givens of Entertainment Weekly described it this way, "In one brief swoop, she seems to squeal and roar at the same time: whisper register."[211]

Voice experts praise Carey's vocal technique, stating that she can deliver "pinpoint" staccatos,[209] "always keeps a neutral larynx position—except sometimes in her lower register" and "glides effortlessly from bottom to top and vice versa." Her mastery of melismas and legato is also very praised.[209][212] Malcolm Walker adds her vocal lines are "very well led, especially in piano register."[205] According to Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé, "Carey is such a musician. Perfect timing, divine accuracy, subtle and refined phrasing, melismas always connected to the rhythm and structure of song, infaillible ability to etablish and resolving musical ideas and theme and effortless combination of climax and resolve."[213] Jon Pareles also praise her musicianship, writing, "she can linger over sensual turns, ... syncopate like a scat singer [and sing] with startlingly exact pitch."[208]


Carey has said that from childhood she has been influenced by R&B and soul musicians such as Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan.[214] Her music contains strong influences of gospel music, she attends an Episcopal church[215] and her favorite gospel singers include The Clark Sisters, Shirley Caesar and Edwin Hawkins.[214] 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".[216] 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,[32] with whom she collaborated on the single "The Roof (Back in Time)" (1998).

During Carey's career, her vocal and musical style, along with her level of success, has been compared to Whitney Houston 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".[217] In She Bop II: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul (2002), 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".[218] 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".[218] Some have noted that unlike Houston and Dion, Carey co-writes her own songs, and the Guinness Rockopedia (1998) classified her as the "songbird supreme".[219] Despite the fact that Carey is often credited with co-writing her material, she has also been accused of plagiarism on several occasions. Many of these cases were eventually settled out of court.[220][221][222]


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

Carey's vocal style and singing ability have significantly impacted popular and contemporary music. 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."[223] 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."[224] Jody Rosen of Slate Magazine wrote of Carey's influence in music saying "Carey is the most influential vocal stylist of the last two decades, the person who made rococo melismatic singing—the trick of embroidering syllables with multiple no-o-o-o-o-o-tes—the ubiquitous pop style."[225] Rosen further commented on Carey's proof of influence saying "Exhibit A is American Idol, which has 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."[225] Sean Daly of St. Petersburg Times wrote, "Depending on how you feel about public humiliation, the best/worst parts of American Idol are the audition shows, which normally break down into three distinct parts:(1) The Talented Kids.(2) The Weird Kids.(3) The Mariahs." Daly further commented, "The Mariahs are the hardest ones to watch, mainly because most of them think they're reeeaaally good. The poor, disillusioned hopefuls plant themselves in front of judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson – then proceed to stretch, break and mutilate every note of a song, often Mariah's Hero, a tune that has ruined more throats than smoker's cough."[226] New York Magazine's editor Roger Deckker said that in regarding Carey as an influential artist in music, he 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."[227] Deckker also added that "Every time you turn on American Idol, you are watching her children".[227] Despite her vocal prowess, Carey's vocal technique particularly with the use of melisma and belting, has been subject to public scrutiny mainly because of young singers such as from talent shows have been overly imitating her singing technique in which critics commented "Mariah Carey is, without a doubt, the worst thing to happen to amateur singing since the karaoke machine".[226]

The problem, however, is that for all her talent, the 36-year-old is first and foremost a STAR, the very epitome of pop opulence in today's celebrity-dependent culture. And thus, millions of young women and men wake up every morning and figure that, simply by imitating Carey's vocal derring-do, they too can wind up on the cover of People or on MTV Cribs or on the arm of record mogul Tommy Mottola.[228]

—Sean Daly from St. Petersburg Times commenting on Carey's popularity and influence on aspiring singers and on worldwide talent shows.

Carey has influenced numerous singers throughout her career. Her work continues to influence numerous hip hop, pop and R&B artists, including Beyonce,[212] Christina Aguilera,[229] Rihanna,[230] Kelly Clarkson,[231] Nelly Furtado,[232] Leona Lewis[233] and Missy Elliot, among others.[212] Beyoncé Knowles 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.[212] Rihanna has stated that Carey is one of her major influences and idol.[230] Christina Aguilera has cited in her early stages of her career that Carey is a big influence in her singing career and being one of her idols.[229] According to Pier Dominguez, author of Christina Aguilera: a star is made : the unauthorized biography, 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's image struck a chord on Aguilera. Her influence on Aguilera also grew from the fact that both were of mixed heritage.[234] Philip Brasor, editor of "The Japan Times", expressed how Carey's vocal and melismatic style even influenced Asian singers. He wrote regarding Japanese superstar Utada 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."[235] In an article called "Out With Mariah's Melisma, In With Kesha's Kick", writer David Browne of The New York Times discusses how the ubiquitous melisma pop style has suddenly fall down from pop culture in favor of young stars who uses the now ubiquitous autotune in which the first mentioned was heavily popularized into mainstream pop culture with the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.[236] 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,” followed two years later by Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” set the bar insanely high for notes stretched louder, longer and knottier than most pop fans had ever heard."[236] 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.)"[236]

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.[212] 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, 'N Sync, and Christina Aguilera—have spent much of the past ten years making pop music that is unmistakably R&B."[212] Moreover Jones concludes that "Her 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 “Mimi” suggests that it still belongs to Carey."[212] Judnick Mayard, writer of TheFader, wrote that in regarding of R&B and hip hop collaboration, "The champion of this movement is Mariah Carey."[239] 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."[239] Kelfa Sanneh of The New York Times wrote, "In the mid-1990's 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."[240] Aside from her pop culture and musical influence, Carey is credited for releasing a classic Christmas song called "All I Want For Christmas Is You".[241] In a retrospective look at Carey's career, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker said, the "charming" song was one of Carey's biggest accomplishments, calling it "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon".[212] Rolling Stone ranked "All I Want for Christmas Is You" fourth on its Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs list, calling it a "holiday standard."[242] Following the release of her Greatest Hits album, Devon Powers of Popmatters has said in his review that "She has influenced countless female vocalists after her. At 32, she is already a living legend—even if she never sings another note."[243]

Honors and awards

Mariah Carey during red carpet interviews at the 82nd Academy Awards

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, Billboard's Special Achievement Award for the Artist of the Decade during the 1990s.[244] In a career spanning over 20 years, Carey has sold over 200 million albums, singles, and videos worldwide, making her one of the biggest-selling artists in music history. Carey is ranked as the best-selling female artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era, with over 52 million copies sold.[6][7][8][245] Possessing a five-octave vocal range, 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".[18][201][202] 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."[246] According to Billboard magazine, she was the most successful artist of the 1990s in the United States.[247] 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 multi-platinum status in Asia and Europe, such as Music Box and Number 1's.[18][248] She is also a recipient of the Chopard Diamond Award in 2003, recognizing sales of over 100 million albums worldwide.[12][13] 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 U.S.[249][250] In Japan, Carey has the top four highest-selling albums of all time by a non-Asian artist.[251][page needed][252]

Carey has spent a record 79 weeks at the number-one position on Billboard Hot 100, becoming the artist with the most weeks at number-one in U.S. chart history.[253] On that same chart, she has accumulated 18 number-one singles, which ties her with Elvis Presley for the second most number-one singles in the chart's history (after only The Beatles).[14][15] In 1994, Carey released her holiday album Merry Christmas, which became the best selling Christmas album of all time, selling over 15 million copies worldwide.[254][255] 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 U.S.[256] In Japan, Number 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.[257] 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.[245] After Carey's success in Asia with Merry Christmas, Billboard estimated Carey as the all-time best-selling international artist in Japan.[258] In 2008, Billboard magazine listed "We Belong Together" ninth on The Billboard: All-Time Hot 100 Top Songs[259] and the most successful song of the first decade of the 21st century.[260] In 2009, Carey's song "Obsessed" became her 12th Platinum single, the most by any female artist.[261] Also 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.[262] 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.[263] Also, she is the first female artist to debut at number 1 in the U.S. with "Fantasy".[18] 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.[173] 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.[264]

Philanthropy and other activities

Carey is a philanthropist who has donated time and money to organizations such as the Fresh Air Fund. She became associated with the 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. The camp was called Camp Mariah "for her generous support and dedication to Fresh Air children",[265] and she received a Congressional Horizon Award for her youth-related charity work.[266] 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".[267] Carey has volunteered for the New York City Police Athletic League and contributed to the obstetrics department of New York Presbyterian Hospital Cornell Medical Center. A percentage of the sales of MTV Unplugged was donated to various other charities. In 2008, Carey was named Hunger Ambassador of the World Hunger Relief Movement. She is giving a free download of her song, "Love Story", to customers who donate to the organization at participating restaurants.[268] In February 2010, the song, "100%", which was originally written and recorded for the film, Precious,[269] was used as one of the theme songs for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with all money proceeds going to Team USA.[270]

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. The concert was a ratings success, and Carey participated in the Divas 2000 special. In 2007, the Save the Music Foundation honored Carey at their tenth gala event for her support towards the foundation since its inception.[271] 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. Carey hosted the CBS television special At Home for the Holidays, which documented real-life stories of adopted children and foster families,[272] and she has worked with the New York City Administration for Children's Services. In 2005, Carey performed for Live 8 in London and at the Hurricane Katrina relief telethon "Shelter from the Storm". 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". On September 5, the singers performed it live on TV.[273]

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.[274][275] 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".[276] She signed a licensing deal with the cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden, and in 2007, she released her own fragrance, "M".[277][278] According to Forbes, Carey was the sixth richest woman in entertainment as of January 2007, with an estimated net worth of US $225 million.[279] Carey directed or co-directed several of the music videos for her singles during the 1990s. Slant magazine named the video for "The Roof (Back in Time)", which Carey co-directed with Diane Martel, one of the twenty greatest music videos of all time.[280] In 2008, Carey made Time's annual list of 100 most Influential people.[281][282][283] In January 2010, Carey announced via Twitter that she was launching a new rosé champagne brand called Angel Champagne.[151] On November 29, 2010, Mariah debuted a collection on HSN, the collection range included jewelry, such as butterfly rings, shoes and fragrances.[284] She returned on Friday, February 11, 2011 with newly released products.


Year Title Role Notes
1999 The Bachelor Ilana
2001 Glitter Billie Frank 2001 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress
2002 WiseGirls Raychel
2003 Death of a Dynasty Herself Cameo appearance
2005 State Property 2 Dame's Wifey
2008 You Don't Mess with the Zohan Herself Cameo appearance
2009 Tennessee Krystal
2009 Precious Mrs. Weiss Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival[285][286]
Supporting Actress of the Year at the Capri Hollywood International Film Festival[287]
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated – Critics' Choice Awards for Best Acting Ensemble
Year Title Role Notes
2002 Ally McBeal Candy Cushnip "Playing with Matches" (Season 5, episode 8)
2003 The Proud Family Herself Voice role


See also


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