Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1969 or 1970) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. She rose to prominence after the release of the first single taken from her eponymous debut album in 1990, “Vision of Love”. More than two decades later, Rolling Stone defined the song as an influence on “virtually every other female R&B singer since the ninties”. Mariah Carey produced four chart-topping singles in the US and began what would become a string of commercially successful albums which solidified the singer as Columbia‘s highest selling act. Carey and Boyz II Men spent a record sixteen weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 with “One Sweet Day”, which remains the longest-running number-one song in US chart history. Following a contemptuous divorce from Sony Music head Tommy Mottola, Carey adopted a new image and traversed towards R&B with the release of Butterfly (1997). In 1998, she was honored as the world’s best-selling recording artist of the 1990s at the World Music Awards and subsequently named the best-selling female artist of the millennium in 2000.
Carey parted with Columbia in 2000, and signed a record-breaking $100 million recording contract with Virgin R’9ds. In the weeks prior to the release of her film Glitter and its accompanying soundtrack in 2001, she suffered a physical and emotional breakdown and was hospitalized for severe exhaustion. The project was poorly received and led to a general decline in the singer’s career. Carey’s recording contract was bought out for $50 million by Virgin and she signed a multi-million dollar deal with Island Records the following year. After a relatively unsuccessful period, she returned to the top of music charts with The Emancipation of Mimi (2005). The album became the best-selling album in the US and the second best-seller worldwide in 2005 and produced “We Belong Together”, which became her most successful single of the 2000s, and was later named “Song of the Decade” by Billboard. Carey once again ventured into film with a well-received supporting role in Precious (2009), and was awarded the “Breakthrough 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. According to the RIAA, she is the third-best-selling female artist in the United States, with 63.5 million certified albums. With the release of “Touch My Body” (2008), Carey gained her 18th number-one single in the United States, more than any other solo artist. In 2012, the singer was ranked second on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Women in Music”. Aside from her commercial accomplishments, Carey has won 5 Grammy Awards, 19 World Music Awards, 11 American Music Awards, and 14 Billboard Music Awards and has been consistently credited with inspiring a generation of singers. Referred to as the “songbird supreme” by the Guinness World Records, she is famed for her five-octave vocal range, power, melismatic style and signature use of the whistle register.
Philanthropy and other activities
Carey is a philanthropist who has been involved with several charitable organizations. 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. 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. Carey also donated royalties from her hits “Hero” and “One Sweet Day” to charities. 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”. 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. In February 2010, the song, “100%”, which was originally written and recorded for the film, Precious, was used as one of the theme songs for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with all money proceeds going to Team USA.
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. 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. 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”. 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”. 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, will 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”.
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. 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”. She signed a licensing deal with the cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden, and in 2007, she released her own fragrance, “M”. The Elizabeth Arden deal has netted her $150 million. In 2007, Forbes named her as the fifth richest woman in entertainment, with an estimated net worth of US$270 million.In November 2011, it was reported that Carey’s net worth was valued at more than $500 million.On November 29, 2010, she debuted a collection on HSN, which included jewelry, shoes and fragrances. In November 2011, Carey was announced as the new global ambassador for Jenny Craig, following her weight loss with the program after giving birth to fraternal twins in April. Carey claims she lost 70 pounds (32 kg) on the program. 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”.
Carey has said that from childhood she has been influenced by Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and R&B and soul musicians such as Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin. 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. 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”. 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). Carey was heavily influenced by Minnie Riperton, and began experimenting with the whistle register due to her original practice of the range.
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, 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”. 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”. 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”. Some have noted that unlike Houston and Dion, Carey co-writes and produces her own songs.
Carey began dating Mottola while recording Music Box, and married him on June 5, 1993. 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. 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. On May 30, 1997, the couple announced their separation, with their divorced finalized by the time Mottola remarried on October 11, 1997.
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. On April 30, 2008, Carey married Cannon in The Bahamas. At 35 weeks into her pregnancy, she gave birth to their fraternal twins, Monroe and Moroccan, on April 30, 2011.
In August 2014, Cannon confirmed he and Carey had separated a few months earlier. He filed for divorce on December 12, 2014.
On January 21, 2016, Carey and Australian billionaire James Packer announced that they were engaged.
Carey is a Christian. 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.”
Honors and 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, and Billboard’s Special Achievement Award for the Artist of the Decade during the 1990s. 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. Carey is ranked as the best-selling female artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era, with over 52 million copies sold. 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”. 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.” According to Billboard magazine, she was the most successful artist of the 1990s in the United States. 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. She is also a recipient of the Chopard Diamond award in 2003, recognizing sales of over 100 million albums worldwide. 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. In Japan, Carey has the top four highest-selling albums of all time by a non-Asian artist.
Carey has spent 79 weeks at the number-one position on Billboard Hot 100, the greatest number for any artist in US chart history. On that same chart, she has accumulated 18 number-one singles, the most for any solo artist (and second after The Beatles). 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. 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. 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. 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. After Carey’s success in Asia with Merry Christmas, Billboard estimated Carey as the all-time best-selling international artist in Japan. In 2008, Billboard listed “We Belong Together” ninth on The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs and second on Top Billboard Hot 100 R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The song was also declared the most popular song of the 2000s decade by Billboard. 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. 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. Also, she is the first female artist to debut at number 1 in the U.S. with “Fantasy”. 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. In 2012, Carey was ranked second on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Women in Music”. 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. In August 2015, Carey was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Mariah Carey (1990)
- Emotions (1991)
- Music Box (1993)
- Merry Christmas (1994)
- Daydream (1995)
- Butterfly (1997)
- Rainbow (1999)
- Glitter (2001)
- Charmbracelet (2002)
- The Emancipation of Mimi (2005)
- E=MC² (2008)
- Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (2009)
- Merry Christmas II You (2010)
- Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse (2014)
- The Bachelor (1999)
- Glitter (2001)
- WiseGirls (2002)
- Death of a Dynasty (2003)
- State Property 2 (2005)
- Tennessee (2008)
- You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008)
- Precious (2009)
- The Butler (2013)
- A Christmas Melody (2015)
- Headlining tours
- Music Box Tour (1993)
- Daydream World Tour (1996)
- Butterfly World Tour (1998)
- Rainbow World Tour (2000)
- Charmbracelet World Tour (2003–04)
- The Adventures of Mimi (2006)
- Angels Advocate Tour (2009–10)
- The Elusive Chanteuse Show (2014)
- The Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour (2016)
- Residency shows
- All I Want For Christmas Is You, A Night of Joy & Festivity at the Beacon Theatre, New York City. (2014–15; held annually in December)
- Mariah Carey #1’s at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. (2015–16)