When you hear the name Mariah Carey, what words come to your mind—one, two, three, go!—diva, legend, glam, five-octave vocal range, summertime anthems, record-breaking hits. Those are just a few that surface the mind. As of recent years the qualities that made Carey such a success in the early 90s, hasn’t been enough to sustain her position on the R&B train. What glittered for the singer early in her career hasn’t proven to be gold in the latter stages of her existence.
The New York native is known for being a diva entitled to her demands at the snap of her fingers and maybe she has the right to be with her many blood, sweat and tears labored in the industry and having such little control early in her career. But with the star’s recent musical decline, she may just have to sober up that prima donna spirit. There is no doubt that the well-respected singer has influenced a whole generation ahead of her, but it is evident that her career is slowly dwindling like grains of sand in a time hourglass.
Maybe the diva should step back from the music center stage while her image is still tidy and name in relatively good standing. On the other side of the fence, Carey can continue to stretch her musical longevity and possibly tarnish her well-worked-for image. While the final decision lies out of our hands, sometimes a perspective from the outside looking in can be very resourceful. Is it time for Carey to practice the ‘Art of Letting Go’ for her career? By the end of this article you should be able to answer this well debated question.
Let’s press rewind. Taking a look down memory lane, Carey has peaked in stardom twice: at the start of her career and then again in 2005 with the release of “The Emancipation of Mimi.” In between her two musical peaks she incurred musical transitions, a publicity catastrophe and a sudden hiatus. Let’s evaluate where her first rise to stardom went wrong and then we will jump into her most recent decline.
Rise to Stardom No. 1: The beginnings of Mariah Carey.
The young 18-year-old Carey signed to Columbia Records in 1988 by music executive later turned husband of five years (1993 to 1998) Tommy Mottola. The songbird was marketed as the main female vocal act for Columbia Records spawning the expansive growth of Carey’s career. Her label home fed the songbird with seven multi-platinum albums and 15 No.1 hits including her first four singles from her successful self-titled debut album. Released in June 1990, the debut album delivered by the curly-headed singer was at the top of the Billboard 200 chart for eleven consecutive weeks. Carey immediately broke records becoming the first artist since The Jackson 5 to have their first four singles reach the No. 1 spot.
Carey’s label home continued to nurture the songbird’s success hatching six more successful albums—“Emotions” (1991), “Music Box” (1993), “Merry Christmas” (1994), “Daydream” (1995), “Butterfly” (1997) and “Rainbow” (1999). Nearly the first decade of Carey’s career she followed the instructions and creative control of her music executive turned husband. Yearning for independence both personally and independently, Carey made a noticeable change in her music, bringing upon the first shift in her career.
Toward the end of her marriage to Mottola and toward the end of what would be Carey’s departure from Columbia Records, Carey made a musical transition and began exploring a more urban hip-hop sound evident in her last three albums with the label. This is when the “Heartbreaker” artist captured the hearts of many hardcore R&B lovers with R&B/Hip-Hop hits like “Fantasy,” “Honey,” and “Heartbreaker.” The Long Island native even switched up her company in the studio and surrounded herself with 90s hit-makers like Puff Daddy, Missy Elliott, Stevie J and Jermaine Dupri.
With her shift from commercial mainstream to urban R&B, the “Hero” singer reportedly noticed a lack in promotional efforts from the label. Whether it was backlash from the “Butterfly” spreading her wings and splitting with Mottola or disagreements with her musical direction, Carey decided to part ways with Columbia Records in 2000 and joined forces with Virgin Records. This is where the singer’s career began to down spiral and the end of her first musical peak ceased.
Thinking it was a smart decision to leave a label that granted her such huge success, Carey tried to sweep her past under the rug and leave her baggage behind. Arguably, this was not the best decision for Carey. Running away from her problems at the label, only brought her more headaches further down the line and this is where she first went wrong in her career.
From here on, is what I call the domino effect. After Carey knocked down her first domino block leaving her label home, the rest came tumbling down voluntarily with a vengeance. This change in her career created a chain of bad events for the singer in a short span of just under a year.
Here’s a quick run through:
Left Columbia Records in 2001. Signed a reported $100 million multi-record contract with Virgin Records. A free and liberated Carey was finally granted the creative control she yearned for, which had its pros and cons. The then clutter-minded Carey wasn’t in a stable mind-set to have this type of control at the time.
Decided to do a musical drama film, “Glitter.” Getting a bit ‘Carey’ed away, the “Fantasy” singer decided to make another shift in her career. Her decision to make her film debut in a lead role was not wise because too much was expected of her. If the movie did poorly, the negative weight would be all on her shoulders. Therefore, Carey should have made her major film debut in a smaller, less-attentive role. Secondly, the decision to make the soundtrack her album was a poor choice because her music was catered to the film’s 80s disco theme, drifting her away from the musical shift she already established in the urban R&B sector.
Hospitalized in July 2001 for extreme exhaustion. The pressure of a debut lead film role, demanding schedule and unresolved baggage at previous label left the scatter-brained singer in a state of mental destruct. Suffering a public emotional breakdown, both her movie and album were delayed.
Released “Glitter” album on September 11, 2001 (9/11 terrorist attack). Coincidently if things weren’t already going wrong enough, “Glitter” (the album) was released on what would be one of the worst days in American history, 9/11. This evidently affected sales for the album. The movie was released ten days later and underperformed as well. Carey was named Golden Raspberry’s 2001 Worst Actress. After such failed success, Virgin Records decided to buy Carey out of her contract and her misery for several million dollars.
Experienced negative media publicity and hiatus. After a humiliating series of events including public pitty fits and missed performances, the overwhelmed Carey experienced a harsh media frenzy. These hardships brought the blonde singer’s career to a screeching halt and hiatus.