Celebrate the landmarks in the career of Mariah Carey, as the diva celebrates her ‘anniversary’
Mariah Carey celebrates her 54th anniversary today, having laid the foundation for hip-hop collaborations and platforming up-and-coming artists
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Mariah Carey’s legion of fans have taken to social media today to congratulate the singer on her anniversary, with many even referring to the “diva” by her nickname, Mimi, and sharing the hashtags ‘butterfly’ and ‘273.’ Are they celebrating a release that we’ve yet to be informed of yet, or is it a cryptic message regarding an upcoming tour?
The answer is about as Mariah Carey as you can get however; the anniversary is that of her date of birth. Yes - today marks Mariah Carey’s birthday, but in the words of the celebrated singer herself, she prefers the phrase “anniversary” rather than “birthday” as it suggests a celebration of life, rather than a celebration (and reminder) of how old she’s turning that particular year - so a happy 54th anniversary, Mariah Carey.
Tales of her diva-like behaviour have been a constant since Carey’s meteoric rise throughout the music industry, starting with her soulful debut back in 1990. She’s been known to demand sleeping with 20 humidifiers on and sloped roofs to protect her most important asset - her voice - while many stories have suggested that you don’t want to meet her shortly before she’s set to take to the stage. All day, in fact, you wouldn’t want to meet up with Mariah.
But those reports are something that Carey takes in her stride, going as far as to feature in film productions portraying herself and lampooning her temperamental personality and bossy nature. Mariah Carey knows we mock her at times for her outlandish demand and behaviour - and yet, we love her for it. Why else would we subject ourselves to “All I Want For Christmas is You” every year around the festive season if we did not?
Boasting as of 2023 a net worth of $340 million (estimated in 2022) and one of the top fifteen best-selling artists of all time, along with previous endorsement deals that only took place from 2006 (Carey was staunchly against being used for promotions and endorsements until that time), it’s sometimes woeful to forget that Carey was one of the first musicians in the ‘90s to break down barriers, including roping in a number of fledgling hip-hop artists throughout her career - including Jay-Z and a remix involving Wu-Tang’s ODB.
So let’s celebrate the anniversary of Mariah Carey as Peopleworld looks at some of the landmarks moments through her illustrious nearly 23-year career.
1990 - Mariah Carey
It started back in 1990; a young Mariah Carey, fresh from celebrating her 21st anniversary, introduced herself to the world as an up-and-coming female performer that managed to capture the soulfulness one would expect from rhythm and blues music. Her eponymous album launched her into the ears of an unexpecting audience.
We would grow up around this time hearing “Vision of Love” being played on rotation on radio stations, as Carey equalled a record held only by The Jackson 5 at that point in time; to have her first four singles top the US Billboard Charts (the UK equivalent of the Top 40 chart.)
1994 - Merry Christmas
We can’t ignore this album even if we tried; in 1994 Mariah Carey bucked the trend of some of her contemporaries of a similar age and similar audience with an album of Christmas songs. This would be in the era that Carey would simultaneously become a bit of an American sweetheart thanks to her stunning MTV Unplugged appearances and riding on a high that she navigated through “difficult second album” syndrome.
The people wanted more Mariah Carey, despite the release of four albums across four years and given that radio stations and music television continually played her cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” that’s what they got.
We, in return, got the privilege of having “All I Want For Christmas is You” blaring in every shopping mall and supermarket in the UK over the Christmas period - and despite thinking it sometimes, admittedly, we do feel more seasonal when we hear it played for the first time in the winter months.
1995 - Daydream
With 1990’s self-titled debut and 1992’s Music Box informed by soul singing and rhythm and blues, 1995’s Daydream open the avenue for hip-hop production to enter the pop music spectrum. Her lead-off single from Daydream, “Fantasy” drew from hip-hop drum beats and Carey’s singing started being a little more rhythmic in its performance.
Daydream would also see Carey’s propensity to include collaborators on her album, with ‘90s group Boyz II Men featuring on the single “One Sweet Day.” The Motown-inspired quartet were themselves the boy band du jour at the time, something Carey probably was familiar with during their inclusion - but to have Wu-Tang Clan’s ODB feature in a remix of her smash hit “Fantasy” demonstrated that Carey was attuned to the musical interests of those outside her immediate fanbase.
It worked - Daydream went 11 times Platinum in the United States and worldwide it sold in excess of 20,000,000 copies.
1999 - Rainbow
If Daydream set the standard for Carey’s production work going forwards, then 1999’s Rainbow saw her fully embrace hip-hop culture. This was no more evident than the release of “Heartbreaker,” which included a pre-The Blueprint era Jay-Z guesting on the track and the music video shot more like a hip-hop video than your standard female “diva” music video (akin to the likes of Whitney Houston, for example.) The album would also feature guest appearances from Snoop Dogg and Da Brat, fully enveloping Carey’s R&B style with hip-hop culture.
It has subsequently been hailed as a watershed moment not just for Mariah Carey, but the R&B genre as a whole; Arion Berger from Rolling Stone viewed it as a genuine R&B and hip-hop album, a "sterling chronicle of the state of accessible hip-hop balladeering at the close of 1999. Rainbow is at its best—and Carey at her most comfortable—when urbane hip-hop stylings and faux R&B coexist in smooth middle-of-the-road harmony.”
2005 - The Emancipation of Mimi
The less said about Glitter on Mimi’s anniversary, the better - but after a few hits and misses throughout the early stages of the new millennium, Carey underwent somewhat of a renaissance in 2005 with the release of The Emancipation of Mimi. The title wasn’t a clever album name either, but a representation of Carey’s creative freedom allowing her unfettered outlets to channel what she felt her music should sound like, rather than being dictated by record label executives.
The move paid off; The Emancipation of Mimi became Carey’s best-selling album in the US since Daydream in 1995 and despite receiving some mixed reviews from the music press was generally seen as a return to form for the singer. It also led to a clutch of awards including a number of Grammy Awards at the 2006 event; earning Carey Best Contemporary R&B Album for The Emancipation of Mimi, as well as Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for "We Belong Together"
2018 - Caution
It was a return to form of Carey also with the release of Caution in 2016, four years after the release of the Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse. Once again demonstrating that she can continually rise to the occasion despite her now renowned “diva antics” publicised in gossip magazines and satirised by Carey herself on film, Caution was another evolution in Carey’s production work.
Despite having laid down the perfect foundation 11 years beforehand for how hip-hop artists can seamlessly collaborate with pop artists in R&B-inspired records, Caution saw Carey take a few Madonna-like risks with influences on the album. Carey, in her first release since signing with Epic Records, drew from the words of EDM (electronic dance music), psychedelia and Latin pop, which Clash Magazine accredited to a “homage to the sounds prevalent at different stages of her [Mariah's] career."Mike Wass from Idolator called it something much more resounding, hailing the album as "the new blueprint for legacy acts" such as Carey.