Queen Diva: Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey
By Kendall Heath

Methodology

     This research was conducted by compiling, reading, and analyzing scholarly articles that recount the life and accomplishments of Mariah Carey. Mariah is a mogul in the music industry whose integration of new styles and techniques to music set the tone for many of today’s new and upcoming artists. After conducting research, I was able to discover exactly why she has such and influence on the music industry today.

Summary & Abstract

      Mariah Carey is an artist whose contributions to the music industry will be remembered forever. For starters, she is the highest selling female recording artist in history. She has managed to remain relevant since beginning her career over twenty-five years ago. Mariah is one of the first artists to incorporate hip-hop with R&B/Pop. Additionally, she popularized many vocal practices that society sees as the norm today, for example, the whistle register, runs, melisma, and elongating words thought song. Mariah is an artist who writes her own lyrics and the raw talent displayed in her words is unmatched. She is arguably the most sustainable artist of the time, as her song “All I Want for Christmas is You” is the number one Christmas song that tops the holiday music chart each year since it was released. Mariah has broken Guinness World Records, consistently topped music charts, and formulated new methods to music that have changed the industry.

Early Life

        Mariah Angela Carey is an American singer and songwriter. She was born on March 27, 1970, in Huntington, Long Island, New York. Her father, Alfred Carey, was an Afro-Venezuelan aeronautical engineer, and her mother, Patricia Hickey Carey, was an Irish American opera singer and freelance vocal coach. Mariah is the youngest of three and has an older brother named Morgan and a sister named Alison. At the age of three, her parents divorced, and Mariah went on to live with her mother. Her mother’s influence sparked her interest in opera when she was two years old. When she turned four, Carey began taking voice lessons.

        Mariah’s passion and love for music continued to grow and develop, and at the age of six, she began performing at talent shows and folk music festivals. Her interest in songwriting began when she enrolled in middle school. When Mariah started high school, she earned the nickname “Mirage” due to her poor attendance (Ace Show Biz). She spent most of her time traveling to Manhattan to study music and or singing on demo tapes. At home, her mother assisted her in perfecting her craft and mastering the whistle register.

Musical Rise To Fame

      After graduating from high school, Mariah moved to Manhattan to officially begin her rise to fame. Initially, she worked as a waitress, coat check girl, and cosmetology student by day and at night, she poured all of her efforts toward jumpstarting her music career. She began working as waitress. At the age of eighteen, her friend Brenda K. Starr invited her to a party during which Mariah networked and handed out her demo tapes. Tommy Mottola, the former president of Columbia Records, signed her instantly and she began releasing albums. Mottola envisioned Mariah becoming the top female artist, and that is exactly what he helped her become. Over a million dollars was spent in promoting her album and making it successful and widely known. In no time, the album was number one on the Billboard charts.

Musical Style and Influences

     Mariah’s biggest musical influence was Aretha Franklin. Not only was she Mariah’s mentor, but she was her friend. Initially Mariah was inspired by the intensity and power in her voice, but on a deeper level, she appreciated how Franklin was a revolutionary. Aretha was able to use her voice during the civil rights movement which impressed Mariah. Another reason why she appreciates her specifically is because she taught Mariah how to incorporate “the church and gospel music into her pop and R&B songs (Rolling Stone).” In Mariah’s words she expresses to Aretha: “You showed me I could sing the songs I wanted to sing and bring God with me. You’ve inspired millions everywhere yet never left home, never left church (Rolling Stone).” While Aretha Franklin had the largest influence on her career, she was not the only one. Additionally, Billie Holiday, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all played an important role in the development of her musical identity as well.  

Discography and Career

       Mariah Carey has quite the discography beginning with her first studio album that was released in 1990 titled “Mariah Carey.” It features eleven songs that range from hip hop to pop and even some soul/funk. Next, she released her second studio album, “Emotions,” that was released by Columbia Records in 1991. The album was iconic for Mariah because she finally was able to have nearly complete creative control over the work. Next, in 1993, Mariah released “Music Box,” which was her third studio album and consisted mostly of ballads. “Music Box” was co-written with Walker Afanasieff. In 1994, Mariah Carey released her first Christmas album titled “Merry Christmas.” The collection features the hit song “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which as of November 2019, has broken three Guinness World Records. Her 5th studio album “Daydream” played a pivotal role during the height of her career because it showcased her ability to produce hip-hop and pop music after the many ballads that she released. Next, “Butterfly” was produced in 1997, which is an R&B and soul album that focuses on emotions and heartaches. “Butterfly” allowed Mariah’s vocal abilities to truly shine through the music now had a more sensual quality. It featured runs, harmonies, and truly showcased the many octaves that she can reach. In 1998, Mariah released “Number 1’s,” her first compilation album that featured seventeen songs, thirteen songs that were rated number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 list, and four new songs. Then in 1999, “Rainbow” catapulted into the spotlight as her seventh studio album. Because Carey had just separated from her husband, Tommy Mottola, she was able to be in full control of the album’s contents. Jay-Z, Usher, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg, and Master P all played a role in the album’s musical success. 

        “Glitter” is Mariah’s eighth studio album and first soundtrack. It was released in 2001 by Virgin Records. The release of the movie and album was met with intense controversy by the public, and both performed terribly. Many viewed “Glitter” and its lack of success as Mariah’s decline. She quickly released “Charmbracelet” in an attempt to gain better press and maintain her notable reputation; however, it did not quite do the job. In 2008, “E=MC2” allowed Mariah to redeem herself and regain her positive status. “E=MC2” includes a song still known by many, “Touch My Body.” Her twelfth studio album, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” was another R&B album that was released in 2009. Each of the songs paired her intense pop ballads with a hip-hop vibe thanks to the assistance that was provided by rapper Gucci Mane. “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” featured the song “Obsessed,” which drew press attention since it was a song directed at rapper, Eminem and his feelings towards her and their past relationship. Her next studio album, “Merry Christmas II You,” was released in 2010 and quickly became popular due to her powerful voice and the recognition that she previously gained from “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Next, Mariah presented her fourteenth studio album, “Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse” which featured many notable singer-songwriters including but not limited to Mary Mary, Nas, Miguel, Wale, Fabolous, Mary J. Blige.

        Lastly, after going four years without releasing an album, Mariah released her fifteenth studio album, “Caution” in 2018. The album was filled with many famous musicians, including Gunna, Ty Dolla $ign, Slick Rick, and Blood Orange. Artists like Timbaland, DJ Mustard, and Drake all contributed to ensuring the hip-hop quality in the music remained current and unique.

Bipolar II and Advocacy

      Mariah Carey is also a mental health advocate as she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2001. After struggling for many years, she began speaking out publicly about her experience with the disease in 2018. Carey has suffered from depression, mood shifts, hypomania, sleeplessness, and hyperactivity, which are all symptoms of bipolar II disorder. For years, she dealt with the diseases silently as she did not want to allow it to define her, which resulted in loneliness and isolation. Ultimately, her goal is to lift the stigma around mental illnesses.

Live Performances

Bibliography

“101.9 THE MIX LIVE Stream: Chicago.” 101.9 THE MIX LIVE Stream | Chicago, live.wtmx.com/listen/artist/494e8d09-f85b-4543-892f-a5096aed1cd4.

Alvarez, Lauren. “Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ Breaks Three Guinness World Records.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Nov. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/laurenalvarez/2019/11/27/mariah-careys-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-you-breaks-three-guinness-world-records/#f6fc93c10fa0.

Benjamin, Jeff. “Mariah Carey’s Songwriting Legacy & Deep Cuts Take Center Stage At ‘Genius Level’.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 Nov. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbenjamin/2018/11/16/mariah-careys-genius-level-event-songwriting-legacy/#408a509b16e3.

Blistein, Jon. “Mariah Carey Mourns Aretha Franklin: ‘My Inspiration, My Mentor, My Friend’.” Rolling Stone, 16 Aug. 2018, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/mariah-carey-mourns-aretha-franklin-my-inspiration-my-mentor-my-friend-712121/.

Cagle, Jess. “Mariah Carey: My Battle with Bipolar Disorder.” PEOPLE.com, 11 Apr. 2018, people.com/music/mariah-carey-bipolar-disorder-diagnosis-exclusive/.

Crandle, Bernard. “The 5 Most Influential Women In Music Today.” The Odyssey Online, The Odyssey Online, 16 Oct. 2019, www.theodysseyonline.com/influential-women-music-2016.

Herbst, Diane. “Mariah Carey and Bipolar Disorder: Overcoming the Stigma of Her Diagnosis.” Psycom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, www.psycom.net/mariah-carey-bipolar-disorder.

Kreps, Daniel. “Mariah Carey Fires Back at Eminem in New Single ‘Obsessed.’” Rolling Stone, 25 June 2018, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/mariah-carey-fires-back-at-eminem-in-new-single-obsessed-68649/.

“Mariah Carey – Mariah Carey.” Discogs, 1 Jan. 1990, www.discogs.com/Mariah-Carey-Mariah-Carey/master/78748.

“Mariah Carey Biography and Life Story.” AceShowbiz, www.aceshowbiz.com/celebrity/mariah_carey/biography.html.

“Mariah Carey.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 10 July 2019, www.biography.com/musician/mariah-carey.

Morris, Clay. “Why Mariah Carey Will Forever Be An Icon.” Arts + Culture, 6 Jan. 2018, culture.affinitymagazine.us/why-mariah-carey-will-forever-be-an-iconic/.

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