Why we're crushing hard on Mariah Carey
The first cassette I ever bought with my own money was Mariah Carey’s Daydream, in late 1995. I’d seen the music video for the album’s lead single, “Fantasy,” on VH1, and I knew two things: 1. I wanted to roller skate on a boardwalk ASAP, and 2. I needed to know more about this enchanting woman with the voice of an angel. I went on to listen to Daydream more times than any other album I’ve ever listened to in my life, skipping zero songs on each listen. It’s still in my top five albums of all time, 20 years later.
But if you know anything about the legacy Mariah Carey has left on music and the world in general, the impact of her talent is not that surprising. Her career spans almost 30 years, during which she has released 14 albums and starred in a dozen or so films. She holds the title of the best-selling recording artist of the 1990s, and is among the top 10 best-selling music artists of all time. Currently, through February, she’s leading the Mariah Carey Number 1’s residency show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
And even aside from her impressive career, Carey has provided a voice for women who have struggled in life to be the person they always wanted to be, proving time and time again that the right attitude – namely, demanding what you want and refusing to take no for an answer – will get you where you need to go. So without further ado – and to celebrate Daydream‘s 20th anniversary, albeit a tad belatedly – here is a (very narrowed-down, since I’d be here all day writing otherwise) list of the reasons Mariah Carey is my #WCW today and pretty much will be forever.
The obvious: that voice
Carey is first and foremost known for her five-octave (!!!) vocal range. She’s an incredible singer, and while she could probably get by just fine sticking to ballads a la Celine Dion (a star in her own right, who is just a smidge behind Carey in all-time sales), Carey has spanned multiple music genres during her career. From pop to R&B to rap to Christmas classics, I’m pretty sure there’s no song she can’t slay.
She inspires us all to break free of things that hold us back
My two favorite MC albums are Daydream (duh) and its 1997 follow-up, Butterfly. The reason I love these two so much and can listen to them from start to finish without skipping a single song is because I feel like they are the most honest of her work, as they chronicle her breaking away from her manager/ husband at the time, Tommy Mottola, and becoming the person and artist she always wanted to be. Since the mid- to late-’90s, Carey has continued to be a great example of someone who doesn’t settle for something that doesn’t feel right, and trusts herself to make the right decisions for her own life.
But that doesn’t mean she’s 100% set in her ways and not open to change, either. In a 2014 interview with OUT, she stated that she never expected to have children (she is mom to adorable four-year old twins, Moroccan and Monroe), but that now she can’t imagine her life any other way.
Butterfly also brought us “Honey,” whose music video convinced me I, too, could be a Bond girl.
She is grateful for her own idols
Mariah Carey says Marilyn Monroe was/is a big influence for her, smartly noting to OUT that, “[Monroe] paved the way for women in Hollywood, and every single woman owes something to her for that, whether they agree with her image or not.” Agreed 100%, as Monroe is basically the poster child for the fact that it’s OK for women to be unapologetically sexy – perhaps most importantly, on their own terms.
Carey also has many of her own music idols, like Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, numerous gospel influences, and the late Whitney Houston, whom she famously collaborated with to record the beautiful ballad “When You Believe” in 1998, for the Prince of Egypt soundtrack.
She understands the importance of remembering where you came from
Carey had a fairly difficult childhood, having stated that due to her mixed-race background, she never felt fully white or black and that it caused strife within her family and her community. She eventually became estranged from her father, as well. Perhaps as a result of some of the more difficult parts of her upbringing, Carey is extremely grateful for her success, having told Slate in 2008, “I really can never put myself in the category of people who have not only revolutionized music but also changed the world.” I disagree wholeheartedly, MC, but I appreciate your humility nonetheless.
Carey also noted to OUT that she remembers an incident, when she was eight or nine years old, between her mother and a man she was dating that got a bit intense, so she made a pact with herself. “I said, ‘I’m never going to forget how it feels to be a kid, and you can’t be seen or heard.’ It’s as though your opinion doesn’t mean anything, or your feelings are not real.” Hearing about the importance of remembering what it’s like to be a kid from Mariah Carey is making me reevaluate my life purpose.
She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and be 100% herself
While Carey may be a diva, she’ll be the first one to tell you that she is, and proudly. She has earned it, though, given her impressive career and experience both in and out of the spotlight. She’s completely unapologetic about who she is – including her age, having told OUT, “I don’t count years, but I definitely rebuke them. I have anniversaries, not birthdays, because I celebrate life, darling.” Also, she says “darling/dahhhling” a lot, and I kind of (OK, definitely) love it.
She is an actual Christmas angel
Be right back while I go listen to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” for the 1,000th time. This year. And then all its covers, which will never touch the original but are still amazing and much appreciated for their beautiful tribute to this true Christmas queen (sorry, Lucy).
(Featured image via Columbia Records/Daydream; GIFs via )