Mariah Carey

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File:Mariah Carey3 Edwards Dec 1998.jpg
Mariah Carey on the set of the "I Still Believe" (1999) music video.

Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1970 in Huntington, New York) is an American Pop and R&B singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer. Making her debut in 1990, she became the most successful and best-selling artist of the 90s, according to Billboard magazine and the World Music Awards.[1] In 2000, the World Music Awards show also declared her as the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

Notable for her distinctive singing style, Carey makes use of a five-octave vocal range and frequent use of melismas and other ornamentation. During the 90s, she released numerous number one hits on Columbia Records, run by then husband Tommy Mottola, several of which broke chart records. By the turn of the millennium, however, Carey's popularity with critics and the public had entered decline, and she was dropped from her new record label following a highly-publicised physical breakdown and an unsuccessful foray into film. In 2005, Carey returned to the forefront of R&B music with her multi-platinum album The Emancipation of Mimi, which spawned her sixteenth number one single, "We Belong Together".

Biography and music career

Early life and discovery

Carey is the third and youngest child of Patricia Hickey, an opera singer and voice coach of Irish-American ethnicity, and Alfred Roy Carey ( Núñez), an aeronautical engineer of Afro-Venezuelan descent. She was named after the song "And They Call the Wind Maria", from the musical Paint Your Wagon.[2] Carey's siblings include her older sister Alison, and her older brother Morgan.

As a multiracial family, the Carey household was met with racial slurs, hostility, and sometimes violence, causing the family to move frequently around the New York area. The strain on the family led to the divorce of Carey's parents when she was three years old. Carey had little contact with her father, and her mother worked several jobs to support the family. Spending much of her time at home alone, Carey turned to music as an outlet.

Carey began singing at the age of three, and first performed in public at the age of six. She began writing songs while in grade school, and her mother and the members of her opera company were impressed with her talents when Carey hit a cue note for note that her mother had missed. Carey attended and graduated from Oldfield Middle School and Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, although she was frequently absent due to efforts to break into the music business. She eventually landed a role as a backup singer for singer Brenda K. Starr.

In 1988, Carey met Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party, where her friend gave him a demo tape. Mottola played the tape while leaving the party and was very impressed by what he heard. He returned to the party to find Carey, but she was already gone. Nevertheless, Mottola tracked her down and signed her to a recording contract. This Cinderella-like story became part of the standard publicity surrounding Carey's entrance into the industry.

1990–1992: Early commercial success

Carey's professional music career began with the release of her eponymous debut album, Mariah Carey, in 1990. Carey co-wrote all of the original compositions on her debut album with songwriter/producers such as Ric Wake, Rhett Lawrence, and Narada Michael Walden, and would continue to co-write nearly all of her material for the rest of her career. The album debuted at number eighty on the Billboard albums charts, and ascended to number one a year later, spending eleven weeks at the top of the chart. It produced four number one singles, making Carey a star in the United States. The album's international success, however, was limited. In 1991, Carey won two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her debut single "Vision of Love".

File:IBT.jpg
Carey's appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1992 was her first widely-seen concert performance.

Emotions, Carey's second album, was released in the fall of 1991 to critical and commercial success. Its first single, the title track "Emotions", was another U.S. number-one hit giving Carey the distinction of being the only recording act in history to have their first five singles reach number-one on the Hot 100 chart. Carey had been fighting for the ability to produce her own songs, and beginning with Emotions, would co-produce most of her material. She would also begin writing and producing for other artists, such as Trey Lorenz and Daryl Hall, within the coming year.

For the first two years of her career, Carey did not embark on any major public tours due to stage fright. Her first widely-seen concert performance was her appearance on MTV Unplugged in May of 1992, and her performance proved that her vocal abilities were not, as some believed, simulated using studio techniques. Carey premiered a cover of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There", performed as a duet with Trey Lorenz, on the special; released as a single, it became Carey's sixth number-one hit in the U.S. Carey's critically-acclaimed performance was later released by Columbia on album as the MTV Unplugged EP.

1993–1996: Worldwide success

Carey, then 23, and Tommy Mottola, 43, had become romantically involved, and in June 1993 they were married in an Episcopalian ceremony in Manhattan. Her next studio album, Music Box, was released later that year, and became her most successful album worldwide. Lead single "Dreamlover" was her longest stayer yet at the number-one spot (eight weeks), "Hero" became her first Christmas number-one single in the U.S., and "Without You" (a remake of the Harry Nillson song) went to number-one in the UK. However, Carey's attempt at a mellower work than her previous efforts raised eyebrows with some critics; Ron Wynn said Carey "blended into the background and let the tracks guide her, instead of pushing and exploding through them", and Stephen Holden criticised "Carey's lyrics, which are made up entirely of pop and soul clichés".

File:OSD.jpg
Carey and Boyz II Men's Wanya Morris recording "One Sweet Day" (1995), one of Carey's most successful singles.

Following a successful duet with Luther Vandross of Diana Ross' "Endless Love", Carey released the album Merry Christmas in late 1994. In addition to covers of traditional Christmas songs, it contained a very successful original holiday song, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" which gained her a large fanbase in Japan and was described as "a well-crafted Phil Spector tribute" by Roch Parisien, who dismissed the rest of the album as an "otherwise vanilla set".

In 1995, Carey released Daydream, which combined the pop sensibilities of her previous album with modern R&B/hip-hop influences, and became her largest selling LP in the U.S., receiving Diamond RIAA status. Its singles achieved similar success: "Fantasy" became only the second single to debut at number-one, "One Sweet Day" (a duet with Boyz II Men) spent a still-record sixteen weeks at number-one, and "Always Be My Baby" topped the Hot 100 year-end airplay charts in 1996. Critics such as Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Bill Lamb embraced Daydream as her finest album yet at the time, and it was named one of the ten best albums of the year by sources such as New York Times, People, and TIME. Following the success of this album, Carey received numerous awards, including four Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards and four World Music Awards, one of which was for being the World's Best Selling Pop Artist Of The Year. She also received six Grammy nominations for this album, but lost in all categories.

1997–2000: Independence and a new image

Carey and Mottola separated in 1997; although she had often projected the image of a happy marriage to the public, in reality, she had felt emotionally and psychologically abused by Mottola. He was often described as possessive even to the point of spying on Carey when she had friends over, and telling their live in servants not to look at her in the eye to intimidate her. Their divorce became final the following year.

File:Honey.jpg
The album Butterfly (1997) and its lead single "Honey" (above) presented a more overtly sexual image of Carey than had been previously seen.

Carey's 1997 album, Butterfly, saw her continuing to move in an R&B/hip-hop direction, while lead single "Honey" displayed a much more sexual Carey than before in both its lyrics and music video. "My All", another single released from the album, became her thirteenth number-one single, an unprecedented feat for a female artist. J.R. Reynolds said Butterfly "pushes the envelope", a move that he thought "may prove disconcerting to more conservative fans", but Reynolds still praised the album as "a welcome change". Another reviewer felt Butterfly illustrated "that Carey is continuing to improve and refine her music, which makes her a rarity among her '90s peers". 1997 also marked the year that Carey became a major songwriter and producer for other artists, contributing to the self-titled debut albums of Allure, 7 Mile and Blaque. She also wrote songs for the soundtracks to the films Men in Black (1997) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and began to develop her own film/soundtrack project, All That Glitters. Towards the turn of the millenium, Carey became a prominent figure in hip-hop music, and collaborated with both new and established rappers, including Jay-Z.

During 1998, Carey had a highly public romance with New York Yankees baseball star Derek Jeter, who also had a multiracial upbringing. She would state later that while the timing was not right for them to sustain the relationship, it did teach her that multiracial families could function well.[3] That year, the album #1s, a collection of her U.S. number-one singles up to that point, was released. It included four new songs, one of which was "When You Believe", a duet with Whitney Houston. It was recorded for the soundtrack to The Prince of Egypt and won an Academy Award for Best Song. Concerning #1's, critic Amy Linden pointed out that "while these may be the tracks that sold the most and charted the highest, these aren't necessarily Mariah's best songs", though admitted that Carey's fans would be pleased with it. That year, Carey won a World Music Award for being the world's best-selling artist of the decade. She also appeared on the first televised VH1 Divas program, a joint benefit concert appearance with Aretha Franklin, Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, and Shania Twain. Carey's statuesque appearance (she is 5' 9" / 175cm tall), vocal and stage presence, career twists and turns, and alleged prima donna behavior had already led many to consider her a diva.

In December, Carey met Latin singer Luis Miguel while vacationing in Aspen, Colorado. Their relationship was not made official until early 1999.

Rainbow, Carey's sixth proper studio album, was released in 1999. Like Butterfly, it was comprised of pop and more R&B/hip hop oriented songs; Carey intended them to express her feelings about her divorce two years previously.[4] Lead single "Heartbreaker" (featuring Jay-Z) was another number-one success for Carey, but despite several collaborations with other artists such as Joe, 98 Degrees and Snoop Dogg, the album was her lowest seller up to that point. There were also complaints in reviews that Carey was suffering a case of repetition; words such as "formulaic" and "predictable" frequently came up from even the most impressed critics.[5][6][7] Although the recipient of several awards in recognition of her decade-spanning career, including Billboard's Artist of the Decade Award and the World Music Award for the world's Best-Selling Female Artist of the Millennium, signs of decline began to appear. In particular, her final release from Rainbow, "Crybaby"/"Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)" became her first song not to make the top twenty of the Hot 100. Carey (via her website) publicly accused Sony of sabotaging the two singles and the album.

2001–2004: Personal and career struggles

Following a successful decade in music, Carey finally ended her contract with Sony and signed a five-album contract with EMI's Virgin Records worth a reported US$81 million; however, things took a sudden downward turn for her. Just a few months later, in July and August 2001, it was widely reported that Carey had suffered physical and mental exhaustion. She had left voicemail messages on her website (which were quickly removed) to her fans complaining of being overworked; her many years of concurrent work seemed to have finally taken their toll. In addition, her three-year relationship with singer Luis Miguel was ending. Carey made a notorious appearance on MTV's Total Request Live, where she handed out popsicles to the teen-aged audience and began a strip tease; host Carson Daly covered his eyes and asked, "What are you doing?"[8][9]. After that, she checked into a mental health facility and announced that she was taking a break from public appearances.[10]

File:NTFS.jpg
A scene from Carey's poorly-received star vehicle Glitter (2001).

Her delayed semi-autobiographical film Glitter was panned by most critics upon its release and became a box office failure (see below). Carey was unable to do much promotion for the soundtrack album Glitter due to her ill health; it peaked at number-seven (her weakest showing to date). Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone noted that while the album was "a big step forward in terms of maturity", it had "zero melodic or emotional punch", while E! thought that even the most serious tracks on the album, some of which dealt with suicide and stormy relationships, were "as glossy as her latest publicity shot". Lead single "Loverboy" reached number two on the Hot 100 thanks to a price cut by Virgin, but the album's follow-up singles all failed to chart.

Shortly after the disastrous release of Glitter, Sony released a semi-authorized second compilation album, the 2-CD Greatest Hits, just before Christmas. In January 2002, EMI decided to part ways with Carey and they bought out her contract for $28 million, as an addition to the $21 million paid last year when singing, giving her another round of bad publicity. Later that year, she eventually signed a three-album contract with Island Records' Def Jam (that formed her own label MonarC Music). To add further to Carey's emotional burdens, her father Alfred Roy Carey died of cancer that same year.

Following a well-received supporting role in the independent film WiseGirls (see below), Carey released a new album, Charmbracelet, in which she expressed an interest in writing music that is more profoundly meaningful to her and her fans. Charmbracelet sold poorly, and the quality of Carey's vocals, which had previously been perceived as the singer's strong point, came under severe criticism. "Mariah's voice is shot, sounding in tatters" declared one review, "and there's not a moment where it sounds strong or inviting". "Carey's once glorious voice is all over the place" said another, while Barry Walters commented, "Carey's lead vocals blend into choruses of overdubbed Mariahs cooing overlapping phrases". Singles such as "Through the Rain" failed both on the charts and with pop radio, whose playlists had become less open to maturing pop "diva" stylists such as Carey, Whitney Houston, and Céline Dion.[11]

Her 2003 duet with Busta Rhymes, "I Know What You Want", fared considerably better, reaching the top five in the U.S.; Columbia Records later included it on the double CD The Remixes. That year, Carey was awarded the "Diamond Award" by the World Music Awards show in honour of selling over 150 million albums worldwide.[12][13] She was featured on rapper Jadakiss' single "U Make Me Wanna" in 2004, which reached the top ten on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart.

2005–the present: Return of the Voice

Carey's fourteenth album, The Emancipation of Mimi, was released in April 2005, and was advertised as "The Return of the Voice", though Carey maintained that the voice has always been there [14]. Todd Burns called Mimi "easily the strongest album that she’s made in this millennium" [15], and Caroline Sullivan said the album contained "the first Mariah Carey tunes in years I wouldn't have to be paid to listen to again" [16]. It debuted at number one in the U.S. with the highest first week sales of Carey's career, and remained in the top five of the Billboard 200 album chart for twenty-one weeks. The single "It's Like That", which preceded the album, reached the top twenty in the U.S., while "We Belong Together" (Carey's first number one single on the Hot 100 in five years) became her biggest hit; reaching number one in several countries and being named the world's most-played single of the year by the World Music Awards. "Shake It Off" reached the top five, and "Don't Forget About Us" is currently in the top twenty.

Carey continues to collaborate with hip-hop artists, and is a featured artist on singles by Damizza, N.O.R.E. and Da Brat.

Acting career

File:Mariah Carey in The Bachelor.jpg
In The Bachelor (1999), Carey played a prima donna opera singer.

Carey, who had participated in theatre workshops as a child [17], made her big screen debut as an opera singer and one of the ex-girlfriends of Jimmie (Chris O'Donnell) in The Bachelor (1999), a romantic comedy starring O'Donnell and Renée Zellweger. Despite protests from the film's director, Carey insisted she do her own stunts for a scene in which her character, Ilana, falls to the ground and plays dead in a performance of La Traviata. After thirty takes of the scene, she later came to regret it [18]. Her demonstration of physical endurance was for naught as far as critics were concerned; Tony Lee simply stated "no, she can't act" [19]. Bill DeLapp, however, said Carey handled her part "with a brisk flourish, especially when her diva disses both Jimmy and their eminently forgettable relationship" [20].

Carey's first starring role was in Glitter, a 2001 film that had been in development as a vehicle for Carey since 1997. In it, she played Billie Frank, a struggling singer and songwriter who breaks into the music industry after she meets DJ Julian Dice (Max Beesley). Reviews were scathing; while Roger Ebert gave mild praise for Carey's performance, saying, "Her acting ranges from dutiful flirtatiousness to intense sincerity" [21], most other critics panned it: Stephanie Zacharek called Carey "numbingly bland" in her role [22], and Michael Atkinson observed, "when she tries for an emotion—any emotion—she looks as if she's lost her car keys" [23]. Glitter was a box office failure [24], and Carey, who "won" a Worst Actress Razzie Award for her role, has since referred to the film as "a diva moment" [25].

Carey next appeared co-starring with Mira Sorvino and Melora Walters in the independent film WiseGirls, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. Critics who saw the film lauded Carey for her efforts: Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter predicted "Those scathing notices for Glitter will be a forgotten memory for the singer once people warm up to Raychel" [26]. Producer Anthony Esposito, meanwhile, likened Carey to Cher, and went so far as to cast Carey in another film, The Sweet Science, about an unknown but talented boxer who is recruited by a determined female boxing manager [27]. However, the project later fell into development hell [28], while WiseGirls was not given a theatrical release [29] and went straight-to-cable in the United States. Subsequent cameo appearances in the Damon Dash films Death of a Dynasty (2003) and State Property 2 (2005) went largely unnoticed by the public. [30] [31]

Other activities

Carey is a philanthropist who has donated both time and millions of dollars to organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the National Adoption Center, VH1's Save The Music Foundation, Operation Smile, and the Fresh Air Fund among many others [32]. Carey is well-known nationally for her work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in granting the wishes of the terminally ill Caleb Boulter as seen on live television. Boulter, a self-confessed "loyal fan" of Carey since 1997, called her "a very real person who overflows with compassion and love for others" [33]. As part of her involvement with the Fresh Air Fund, Carey is the co-founder of a serene camp located in Fishkill, New York that enables inner-city youth to embrace the arts, be introduced to career opportunities, and build self-esteem. The camp was named Camp Mariah in honour of Carey's work with the Fresh Air Fund [34]. Carey even received a Congressional Award titled the Horizon Award for her charity work on behalf of children [35].

Carey performed "Hero" as part of the September 21 America: A Tribute to Heroes nationally televised fundraiser in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in December she performed before U.S. peacekeeping troops in Kosovo. She also hosted the CBS television special At Home for the Holidays with Mariah Carey, which documented real-life stories of adopted children and foster families [36].

On July 2, 2005, Carey performed for Live 8 at the Live 8 concert, London with the African Children's Choir. Following the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to the U.S. Gulf Coast two months later, Carey participated in the Shelter from the Storm telethon. She is also working with Michael Jackson on a hurricane-relief single titled "From the Bottom of My Heart", expected to be released in late 2005.

Upcoming plans

Carey may be launching a clothing and accessories lines known as Automatic Princess [37]. Carey was also going to write her autobiography with David Ritz [38], but following a discussion with publisher HarperCollins, she dropped the proposal. She has instead chosen to fictionalize her story and adapt it into a series of illustrated children's books, also titled Automatic Princess, about an orphaned young girl who is biracial.[39] Carey is also working to launch her very own lingerie line, Kiss Kiss, which will be available for women in all sizes [40]. No official release date has been set.

Voice

File:Emotions.jpg
Carey recorded a G#7 during a live performance of "Emotions" at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, and again on the popular Arsenio Hall Show.

Carey is credited as having a five-octave vocal range; she can cover all the notes from the alto range leading to those of a coloratura soprano [41]. Her vocal trademark is her ability to sing in the whistle register. She has often been incorrectly credited as having a 7 or even 8-octave vocal range. It has been suggested that Carey's publicists falsely claimed this at the start of her career [42], although it may also be a misstatement of the fact that Carey frequently accesses the notes situated in the seventh octave, her highest so far being a G#7, hit in two live performances of "Emotions" in 91.

Carey's voice has come under minor scrutiny from some critics who believe that she does not effectively communicate the message of her songs. Rob Tannenbaum, a critic who reviewed the album Emotions comments "Carey has a remarkable vocal gift, but to date, unfortunately, her singing has been far more impressive than expressive." [43] Other critics often denounce her high notes, classing them as "dogwhistles" or gimmicks, stating that her singing is so overwrought with melisma that it takes away from the true meaning of the songs.

However, Carey's voice is rated as one of the greatest ever among pop singers, influencing a generation of singers, including Beyoncé Knowles, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson. In 2003, she was voted as having the Greatest Voice in music in MTV's and Blender Magazine's countdown of "The 22 Greatest Voices In Music". In Cove Magazine's poll of the 100 Outstanding Pop Vocalist, she placed second behind Christina Aguilera [44]. Other polls usually place her in similar standings [45].

Audio samples

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See also

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Notes

  1. ^  World Music Awards Montecarlo. 1998. Retrieved August 17, 2005.
  2. ^  Mariah Carey biography, Aurora Project.
  3. ^  Rader, Dotson. I Had To Get My Faith Back. PARADE. June 5, 2005. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  4. ^  Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Rainbow - Review. All Music Guide. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  5. ^  Ibid.
  6. ^  Lamb, Bill. Mariah Carey Discography. About.com. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  7. ^  Berger, Arion. Rainbow. Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  8. ^ . 100 Greatest Moments That Rocked TV (100-81). VH1. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  9. ^  Carey Shocked by MTV Striptease Fuss. Internet Movie Database. December 3, 2002. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  10. ^  Cook, Shanon. Mariah before breakdown -- 'It all seems like one continuous day'. CNN. August 14, 2001. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  11. ^  Gardner, Elysa. Mariah Carey, 'standing again'. USA Today. November 28, 2002. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  12. ^  Awards. MariahCarey.com. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  13. ^  Diamond Award. World Music Awards. Retrieved August 19, 2005.
  14. ^  Mariah Carey News Archives: October 2003. Abstracts.net. Retrieved August 19, 2005.

References

External links

Overview

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