Carey was named after the song "They Call The Wind Mariah" from Paint Your Wagon.
Her career began in with the release of her debut album in 1990, when she was just twenty years old. She became a commercial success almost overnight, and the album produced four huge #1 hit singles: "Vision Of Love," "Someday," "Love Takes Time," and "I Don't Want To Cry". Carey's second album, Emotions, was released in the fall of 1991 and its first single, the title track, also was an American #1 hit. This song gave Carey the record of being the only musician or band ever to have had their first five singles all hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in America. Emotions had several other top five singles, such as "If It's Over," "Can't Let Go," and "Make It Happen".
In 1992, Carey perfomed all her hits on MTV Unplugged, as well as a new song, a cover of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There". It, too, rose quickly to the top of America's pop charts.
Carey's next studio album, Music Box, was released in 1993 and spawned the hits "Anytime You Need A Friend," "Never Forget You," and the hugely popular number one songs "Hero" and "Dreamlover". These songs, and Carey's duet with Luther Vandross of Diana Ross' "Endless Love," made Carey one of the most-played musicians on the radio in 1993 and 1994. During the Christmas season of 1994, Carey released the album Merry Christmas, and had a perennial hit with her original holiday song, "All I Want For Christmas Is You".
In 1995, Carey released Daydream. This album and her previous studio album, Music Box, would eventually go on to sell over 20 million copies each worldwide, making them Carey's two most popular albums. Daydream's first single, "Fantasy," was one of her biggest hits ever. It got heavy play on urban radio, thanks to a remix which featured a rhyme by the Wu-Tang Clan's Old Dirty Bastard. This also marked the start of a new trend for Carey's singles. She realized that she had a higher potential at having massive crossover hits if she employed the use of various genre-specific remixes for each single. Daydream's second and third singles, "One Sweet Day," a duet with Boyz II Men, and "Always Be My Baby," respectfully, were arguably even bigger hits than "Fantasy". "Always Be My Baby" received huge airplay from pop, adult contemporary, and adult top 40 radio, and its urban remix which featured rhymes by Da Brat and a more soulful sounding chorus, sung by R&B group Xscape got huge airplay on urban, rap, and R&B radio stations. "Forever," the last single off of the album, did poorly compared to the first three, but was still a top 40 airplay hit in America.
Carey's 1997 album, Butterfly, saw her continuing to move in an R&B/hip hop direction. The first single, "Honey" was a number one hit and featured a remix with rappers Puff Daddy, The Lox, and Mase. Its video, filmed shortly after her divorce from Tommy Mottola, VP of Sony Records, displayed a much more sexual Carey than any previous video. Other singles and videos off the album included "Butterfly;" "The Roof;" "Breakdown," a duet with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony featuring Carey singing in a style similar to the way the Bone Thugs rap; and the #1 hit "My All".
In 1998, Carey released the album Ones, a collection of all her American number one singles up to that point. It also included the new singles "When You Believe," a duet with Whitney Houston which featured in the DreamWorks animated film The Prince of Egypt; "Sweetheart," a hip-hoppy duet with Jermaine Dupri; "I Still Believe," a cover of the 80's song by Brenda K. Starr; and "Whenever You Call," a duet with popular R&B singer Brian McKnight.
During the late summer of 1999, Carey began promoting her upcoming album, Rainbow by releasing a single and video for "Heartbreaker". By this point, Carey had begun to alienate audiences by striving to create songs that tried too hard to appeal to all people. In the case of "Heartbreaker", it received criticism for sounding like her previous singles "Dreamlover" and "Fantasy", and many people viewed the guest rap from Jay-Z as a desperate attempt to get the single airplay on urban radio, since Carey could no longer depend on adult contemporary or even top 40 radio to necessarily play her new singles as they once had. At this point in Carey's career, adult-contemporary fans were feeling betrayed by Carey, while urban fans felt that she was just jumping on the rap bandwagon. With people unsure what to make of her changing sound, style, and image, and several types of radio stations--including adult contemporary, pop, and urban--unsure whether the song fit their format and their audiences, "Hearbreaker" was not the smash that first singles from new Carey albums had always been prior. Nevertheless, it managed to crack the top 20 in overall radio airplay, garnering smaller amounts of airplay from a combination of different formats, and was Carey's fourteenth #1 on the Hot 100, thanks to a commercially available single, which sold over 300,000 copies in its first week alone. The single went on to achieve platinum (1,000,000 copies sold) status and was one of the last singles to do so in America, once the Napster craze took off in 2000 and decimated the American singles industry.
"Heartbreaker" featured a popular music video which got heavy airplay on MTV's TRL. With a cost of over $2.5 million, the video is Carey's most expensive to date and one of the top 10 most expensive music videos in history. A video was also filmed for a remix to "Heartbreaker", which was much more hip-hop oriented than the original, featuring a sample of Snoop Dogg's "Ain't No Fun" and guest raps by Missy Elliott and Da Brat. The remix video, which has cameo appearances by Brat, Elliott, and Snoop, also became popular on TRL. Combined, both versions of "Heartbreaker" spent 65 days on TRL and become Carey's first and only TRL-"retired" video.
Rainbows second single, "Thank God I Found You" became Carey's fifteenth #1 single on the Hot 100. The song was a duet with Joe and featured 98 Degrees singing background vocals on the chorus. Like "Heartbreaker", the song didn't fare as well on the radio as Carey's earlier songs, but solid sales assured that the song became a chart hit. Also like "Heartbreaker", following in the trend that Carey seemed to use at the time for each new single, a video for a remix of "Thank God I Found You"--which contained a sample from Keith Sweat's "Make It Last Forever" and featured Joe and Nas--was released.
The album's next two singles, "Cry Baby" and "Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)", were released almost simultaneously. "Cry Baby", a hip-hop song which featured Snoop Dogg, was promoted to urban and hip-hop radio, while "Mariah's Theme", a ballad in the vein of "Hero", was promoted to top 40 and adult contemporary radio. Neither song really took off with any audience. Even with a commercial single release "Cry Baby" only managed to peak at 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, Carey's lowest peaking single up to that point. This led to widespread speculation that Carey's career was "over" and that she would never have a majorly successful album in America again. To date, Rainbow has sold 3 million copies in America and not much more than 3 million when the rest of the world is considered. Such sales were noted by critics to be a far cry from when Carey's new albums managed sales of over 20 million, just five years earlier.
Though her release singles are usually in the pop genre, she has also combined her talents with rap artists such as Lord Tariq, Peter Gunz, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Most of her recent singles have also been remixed as dance music, where she worked with DJs such as David Morales and Junior Vasquez.
Partly due to the critical and commercial panning of Rainbow and the growing media sentiment that Carey would never manage to have a true success again, Carey suffered an emotional and mental breakdown in 2001. Her acting debut in the film Glitter, panned by many popular movie critics, coupled with her many years of excessively hard work appeared to have taken a toll on her. Her then-current album, Rainbow, was not selling as well as her previous albums, and she complained her new record label wasn't promoting it. So she got an new contract with Virgin, under which her commercially unsuccessful album "Glitter" was released. Finally, Mariah made an appearance on MTV's TRL, where she was scantily clad and acting strangely. After that, she checked into a mental health facility and announced that she was taking a break from performing.
Mariah released a new album, Charmbracelet, to a muted reaction in October 2002. It is perhaps her least commercially successful album to date, and included the singles "Through The Rain", "Boy (I Need You)" featuring rapper Cam'ron, and a cover of Def Leppard's 80's hit "Bringin' On The Heartbreak". Neither of the three singles really took off.
However, Carey's latest single, a duet with Busta Rhymes entitled "I Know What You Want" fared considerably better, having reached the top ten of Billboard's pop singles chart and the top ten in rap radio airplay. It is also featured on the latest release The Remixes, a double CD containing a series of remixes.
She has had 15 #1 Hot 100 singles in the United States: "Vision Of Love", "Love Takes Time", "Someday", "I Don't Want To Cry", "Emotions", "I'll Be There", "Dreamlover", "Hero", "Fantasy", "One Sweet Day", "Always Be My Baby", "Honey", "My All", "Heartbreaker" and "Thank God I Found You". She currently has the record for the most weeks at #1 in the American charts with her single "One Sweet Day", featuring Boyz II Men. It totalled a full 16 weeks at #1 on top the Billboard Hot 100.
An Internet rumor in 2002 claimed that Carey is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records both for the ability to hit the highest note (G7#), and possessing the largest vocal range (A2-G7#). The book contains no such categories. She does, however, have a vocal trademark of singing long phrases in the whistle register, a talent that is extremely rare.
Carey is currently working on her new studio album.