Make It Happen
Canadian Press/John Barrett
You love Mariah for her melismatic singing style (that’s when she stretches one syllable over a whole bunch of notes). She can even sing in the highest register of the human voice, known as the whistle register. Her single, "One Sweet Day", was the best-performing single of the '90s in the States. That's crazy. Best-performing song of the decade. What's crazier than achieving that? Repeating it. "We Belong Together" was the best-performing single of the 2000s in the States. So even before you take into account her perennial yuletide smash, "All I Want For Christmas", Carey is one of the bestselling artists of all time.
Always Be My Baby
It’s no surprise her mother was a voice coach. Mariah was born in Huntington, New York, and after high school, she moved to New York City. She shared a one-bedroom apartment with four other girls. She worked as a waitress when she wasn’t working on her demo tape. A demo tape is a tape recording of an audition that artists would mail to record labels in hopes of securing a record contract. Okay, there’s a lot of obsolete concepts there and we’re not going to define all of them because this is not about the medium, this is about the Mariah.
Michael Ferguson/Canadian Press
In 1988, she signed a record contract with the head of Columbia Records, Tommy Mottola. Her debut, self-titled record came out in 1990 and reached the top of the charts. It stayed there for 11 weeks on the strength of five #1 singles, including "Love Takes Time", "Someday" and "I Don't Wanna Cry". In the States, it was the bestselling album of 1991, selling over 15 million copies.
She'll Be There
The follow-up to 1988's 'Mariah Carey' album was 'Emotions', released in 1991. Did you know Mariah has stage fright? She does. That's one of the reasons that she opted to show off her voice on "MTV Unplugged" rather than tour. Her session was so popular that it was released as an EP in 1992. That's the one with the single "I'll Be There".
All I Want for Christmas Is You
Mariah Carey - Gregory Pace/Shutterstock
Did you know that hundreds of holiday albums are released every year? They’re packed with versions of singers’ favourite holiday standards and hymns. Sometimes music stars will take a tentative, awkward stab at creating a new, original holiday song that is emotional without being corny. Few succeed. Very few. But Mariah did. Her 1993 Christmas album contained "All I Want for Christmas Is You”. It’s not just a song we hear every year now, it’s a song that charts every year. What a gift!
The ‘90s were crazy for Mariah. In 1993, she released ‘Music Box’. The single “Hero" became her eighth #1 and it's one of the hallmark songs of her career. I know we’re saying “bestselling of all time” a lot, so much so that it might lose its meaning and sound ordinary. But imagine that: being able to write, sing and perform the songs that are the best-selling. She makes the songs that the most people want to hear the most often. Mariah is magical. And, of course, ‘Music Box’ is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with sales of over 28 million albums. She hit it out of the park again with a Lionel Richie duet on Diana Ross’ “Endless Love”.
One Sweet Day
‘Daydream’ was released in 1995. That’s the record that has “One Sweet Day” on it. You know “One Sweet Day”. Everyone knows “One Sweet Day”. It’s her collab with Boyz II Men and it stayed at #1 for a record-breaking 16 weeks. “One Sweet Day” was the “Desposito” of its day. In 1998, Mariah joined fellow singer/songwriters Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan, and Carole King for the VH1 Divas benefit concert. The following year, she released ‘Rainbow’ and it was the fastest-selling record of her career. She rounded out the decade by earning Billboard's Artist of the Decade Award and the World Music Award for Bestselling Female Artist of the Millennium.
But then 2001 came. Mariah was worn out. She needed a break. This girl needed some self-care, stat. In July, she was hospitalized, citing "extreme exhaustion" and a "physical and emotional breakdown”. In September, her label released her latest album, ‘Glitter’. It was released on September 11, to be exact. Reporters took a quick break from covering the terrorist attack to pan the album. Also, there was a film. “Glitter.” We own it. We like it. We are the rare few. It was doubtful that Mariah could ever manage a comeback after all that.
The Emancipation of Mimi
Boom! This girl recharged, yo. She came back swinging in 2005 with the massive #1 hit record ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’. The single “We Belong Together”, her 16th #1 song, cemented her return. It was the second-longest-running #1 song in US chart history. She held herself out of the first spot with her Boys II Men duet, “One Sweet Day”. Billboard listed “We Belong Together” as the "song of the decade" and the ninth most popular song of all time. ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’ earned ten Grammy Award nominations and it was the best-selling album of 2005. So, pretty good then. Pretty solid comeback.
Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision
In 2007, she blessed us with "Touch My Body", the lead single from ‘E=MC²’. It was her 18th #1 hit. The album ‘E=MC²’ debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. And then remember that she was in “Precious”? She played Ms. Weiss, the guidance counsellor. In 2010, Carey won the Breakthrough Actress Performance Award for her role at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. And then she was on ‘American Idol’. Apparently she and fellow judge Nicki Minaj weren’t besties and Carey has referred to her as Satan. We’re here for it.
AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
Mariah announced her “#1 to Infinity” residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2015. To accompany the residency, she released the album ‘#1 to Infinity’, a greatest hits package brimming with all 18 #1 songs, along with a new single, "Infinity”. The same year, Mariah made her directorial debut in the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie “A Christmas Melody”. She’s also a main character. We were not previously aware of this movie. We need to see this urgently. A musical-romance, made-for-TV Christmas movie featuring Mariah is worth watching in March. Twice.
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“A Christmas Melody” may have slipped under our radar, but we were watching live on December 31, 2016, when Mariah took to the outdoor stage in Times Square on “Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve”. Her live TV performance of “Emotions” was hijacked by technical difficulties. She paced the stage and asked for help like this was a soundcheck and not a live disaster on TV. The background track played on and her dancers kept on trucking, but with faces that were clearly spooked. In between jumping in on a few bars, Mariah would break the fourth wall to tell us things like: “We can’t hear … We didn’t have a soundcheck, but it’s New Year’s baby. It’s OK, guys … I want a holiday, too, can I not have one? I’m trying to be a good sport here.” It wasn’t on par with Britney’s disastrous opening performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007, but it was in the same lane. It was funny and horrifying, exciting and cringe-worthy. The Washington Post described it as “disastrous”. It made for an unbelievable few minutes of live television. Can you imagine being Mariah? You have stage fright and you’re performing live on television and to an audience on New Year's Eve and everything goes south? Nightmare. Anyway, Mariah's so tough she returned the following year to redeem herself with a smooth performance.
The Butterfly Returns
In 2018, Mariah unveiled "The Butterfly Returns", her second Las Vegas residency. Currently, she's observing physical distancing. (That's the new way to say 'social distancing', which Canada is trying to make stick. We'll see if it's fetch or not.) Mariah will be singing live from her living room as part of a charity special hosted by Elton John. "Fox Presents The iHeart Living Room Concert for America" airs this Sunday at 9 in the slot usually reserved for the iHeart Music Awards, which have been postponed. In 2020, Carey will be inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. And! She publishing her memoirs! Those exclamation points are necessary because, holy smokes, that's got to be quite a story. The book, 'I Had A Vision of Love', is due out in September.