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Mariah Carey Biography

Made Chart-Topping Entrance, Mixed Musical Styles, Life Took a Turn, Selected works


Singer, actor

Mariah Carey has displayed each of the characteristics that commonly describe a diva. She possesses both a five-octave vocal range and award-winning music business skills. She co-wrote all but one of her No.1 songs (which was a cover of a Jackson 5 song) and co-produced of all of her chart-topping hits. She was named the world's top selling female artist of the millennium. By the summer of 2001, the talented, classically trained, and hardworking singer had come full circle and reached a breaking point, but quickly rebounded.

Carey was born March 27, 1970, in Long Island, New York, to Patricia Carey, who was a soloist with the New York City Opera, and Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer. And since the tender age of four, she knew she wanted to sing. By the time she was 18, Carey had a tape ready for the moment that opportunity came knocking. A brief meeting with Sony executive Tommy Mottola at a party was the catalyst to her successful career. Mottola told Ebony magazine that he knew right away that she had star potential. "When I first heard and saw Mariah, there was absolutely no doubt she was in every way destined for stardom," he said.

Made Chart-Topping Entrance

Carey burst onto the scene with the rich and soulful single "Vision of Love," in 1990. The first single from her first album Mariah Carey hit number one on the charts. The incredible freshman effort led Carey to become the third artist to be nominated in the same year for best album, best song, and best new artist. Mariah Carey earned 22 weeks at Billboard's number one, sold more than seven million copies, and was responsible for four number one singles: "Vision of Love," "Love Takes Time," "Someday," and "I Don't Wanna Cry."

On her second album, Emotions, in 1991, Carey produced a record-breaking fifth consecutive number-one single with the album's title track. Two other songs from her sophomore release reached the top five in the charts. The next album for Carey was a live effort, MTV Unplugged, and it also produced a number one song—a cover of the Jackson 5 single "I'll Be There."

In June of 1993, Carey wed Tommy Mottola at the historic St. Thomas Church in New York. The grand wedding sparked even more comparisons of Carey's success to a fairytale. Mottola, then 43, served as the prince who swept the young songstress off her feet. She also released Music Box in 1993, which sparked more chart-topping success. This album produced the hit singles "Dreamlover" and "Hero."

While Carey suffered poor critical reviews of her first tour, the bad reviews did not deter her. She released Merry Christmas in 1994. Although this was one of the three albums that did not produce a number one hit, the single "All I Want for Christmas Is You," was a bright moment.

Mixed Musical Styles

In 1995 Carey released Daydream, and its lead single, "Fantasy," debuted at number one. The single was a duet with embattled rap star, O.D.B. of the Wu Tang Clan. In spite of the strangeness of the combination, the two produced what was the beginning of Carey's hip-hop pop sound. Years later Variety magazine would attribute Carey's musical brilliance to "her ability to stay ever-so-slightly ahead of the teen beat curve." This single represented one of the trends in fusing the ever-growing popularity of hip-hop and rap with the pop music sound—a practice that has become standard in the music industry. She also scored another hit from Daydream with "One Sweet Day," a collaboration song that paired the singer with Boys II Men. The song saw a good measure of success and remained at the top of the charts for four months.

Despite the continuing success musically, Carey's personal life was becoming troubled. She separated from Mottola in 1997 and was finally divorced in 1998. She spent the time immersing herself in what she called the music of her youth. Though best known for her pop sound, her next effort Butterfly was the most hip-hop laden of her releases. Carey was still topping the charts but critics questioned her leanings towards hip-hop and R&B. Carey told Newsweek International that critics "don't understand that I'm someone who grew up with this music. It's exciting to be able to work with [today's leading [h]ip [h]op artists.]"

To mark the many years of number one singles and success with music, Carey's next album, #1, was a compilation of her first 13 number-one hits. It also highlighted a few duets, including "Whenever You Call" with Brian McKnight and "When You Believe" with Whitney Houston. "When You Believe" was featured on the soundtrack of Disney's animated film, The Prince of Egypt, and met with worldwide success. With so many record-breaking successes under her belt and an album of greatest hits that included 13 number one singles, it seemed that Carey had accomplished all that any one person could in music. However, 1999 proved to be a very good year for the star as well. She released her eighth album Rainbow and became the first artist to have hit songs at the top of the charts for each year in the 1990s with the single "Heartbreaker."

Life Took a Turn

The new millennium was looking bright for the artist after being honored as the best-selling female artist of the millennium at the 12th annual World Music Awards. Carey broadened her work to include acting in 2000. She made her film debut in a small part in The Bachelor. At the same time, Carey launched another singing tour and began work on the semiautobiographical film Glitter, and soon started filming the movie Wise Girls, with Mira Sorvino. Carey was on her way to becoming the world's highest-paid recording artist with a five-year, $100 million deal with Virgin records.

But Carey's nonstop hit making schedule would catch up with the diva by mid-2001. In addition to the music news, Carey had been making the headlines with bizarre behavior in the early months of the year. She performed an impromptu striptease that revealed a tank top and short shorts on MTV's Total Request Live and stories of minor arguments on the set of Wise Girls were making their way into headlines. In late July Carey was hospitalized for extreme exhaustion. She had always described herself as hard working with need for little sleep, but according to her publicist, Cindi Berger, the fast pace caught up with the star. A Time article quoted Berger saying that Carey had "an emotional and physical breakdown." The star ultimately took time off of her busy schedule for recuperation at a hospital in Connecticut and later in the year at another hospital in Los Angeles.

Carey's Glitter landed with a thud in theaters and "Loverboy," the first single from her Glitter soundtrack, topped at number two. Although the road looked a little rough for the star, Carey remained many steps ahead of her competition. She regained her health and soon began working again. In 2002 she released Charmbracelet that topped the charts at number two, followed by an album of remixed favorites.

At a Glance …

Born on May 27, 1970, in Long Island, New York; daughter of Patricia Carey, (a former soloist with the New York City Opera) and Alfred Roy Carey, (a former aeronautical engineer); married Tommy Mottola (divorced).

Career: Singer, 1990-; actress, 2000-.

Awards: Grammy, Best New Artist, 1990, Best Female Vocalist, 1990; World Music Award, Best-Selling Female Artist of Millennium, 2000; Lady of Soul Awards, nominated for Best R&B/Soul Single, for "We Belong Together" and for Best R&B/Soul Album, for The Emancipation of Mimi, 2005.

Addresses: Record Label—Island Records, 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019.

By 2005 Carey had regained her momentum. With the release of The Emancipation of Mimi, Carey enjoyed record sales in the album's first week and had her first number one album on the Billboard charts since 1997. As Billboard magazine wrote: "Go ahead and call it a comeback."

Selected works


Mariah Carey, Columbia, 1990.

Emotions, Columbia, 1991.

MTV's Unplugged, Columbia, 1992.

Music Box, Columbia, 1993.

Merry Christmas, Sony, 1994.

Daydream, Columbia, 1995.

Butterfly, Columbia, 1997.

#1's, Columbia, 1998.

Rainbow, Columbia, 1999.

Glitter, Virgin, 2001.

Charmbracelet, Columbia, 2002.

The Remixes, Island, 2003.

The Emancipation of Mimi, Island, 2005.


The Bachelor, 2000.

Glitter, 2001.

Wise Girls, 2002.



Allure, July 20, 2005.

Billboard, April 23, 2005, p. 6.

Business Wire, October 7, 1999.

Entertainment Weekly, August 10, 2001, p. 8.

Jet, February 7, 2000, pp. 60; May 29, 2000, p. 24; September 24, 2001, April 25, 2005, p. 58.

Money, June 1, 2001.

Newsweek International, November 22, 1999, p. 92.

New York Times, August 5, 2005.

Teen People, October 1, 2001.

Time, August 13, 2001, pp. 56.

Variety, March 27, 2000.


All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com.

Mariah Carey, www.mariahcarey.com.

—Ashyia Henderson, Leslie Rochelle, and Sara Pendergast

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