Follow TV Tropes


Music / Mariah Carey

Go To

"Mariah is the idol smasher who made singing both better and worse at the same time. She made it better, because Mariah is a master at melisma. She so popularized the art of singing several notes on one syllable that this has become a part of the pop-R&B singer arsenal, used by everyone from Beyoncé to Christina Aguilera. Yet she made it worse, because she inspired a generation of lesser, oversinging warblers."
Danielle Belton, The Root

Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1969)note  is an American singer/songwriter from Huntington, New York. She debuted in 1990 with her hit "Vision of Love". She is famous for her wide vocal range and for hitting almost inhumanly-high notes in her songs. Initially, she sang old-fashioned ballads and was a rival for Whitney Houston, but after divorcing Tommy Mottola, she began collaborating with rappers, evolving into a more contemporary R&B sound.

Carey has also been known for her five-octave vocal range,note  which she attributes to the nodules she's had on her vocal cords since childhood. With them, she is able to use the belting technique and the whistle register which have become signature characteristics in her songs.

In 2000, Billboard named her the best-selling solo artist of the 90's while the World Music Awards named her the best-selling female artist of the millennium.

In 2001, she suffered a Creator Breakdown after the film Glitter and her album of the same name flopped, leading to a bizarre incident where she performed a semi-striptease on TRL. She was hospitalized for exhaustion and many thought her career to be over, but in 2005 she blew away the charts with The Emancipation of Mimi, and the world has never again questioned her relevance to pop culture.

Many publications proclaim her as the best selling female artist of all time, with worldwide record sales of over 230 million. She has the most Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits for a solo artist, with 19 under her belt.note  Some of those hits include classics such as "We Belong Together," "Vision of Love," "Hero," "Fantasy," "Always Be My Baby", and "All I Want for Christmas Is You".note 

After feuding with Eminem over whether or not they were ever together, she settled down and got married to Nick Cannon in 2008, becoming a mother (of twins) in 2011. Unfortunately, the couple separated in 2014, and their divorce was finalized two years later. She's currently in a relationship with backup dancer Bryan Tanaka.

She served as a judge on American Idol in its 2012 season while recording new music. She left Idol a year later to tour. In 2018, she revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder during her Creator Breakdown in 2001.

See also Quantum Mariah Carey Problem.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki.


Selected Filmography:

"I had a vision of tropes, and it's all that you've given to me":

  • Affair Hair: Jay-Z raps about this in "Heartbreaker."
  • Alter-Ego Acting: Bianca in the "Heartbreaker" video.
  • Animal Motifs: Butterflies have been a large part of her personal brand since the 1997 album named after them, as well as the song of the same name. The album was intended to reflect her metamorphosis after escaping the "cocoon" of her first marriage, and the theme has stuck since, with butterflies often appearing in her jewelry, accessories and photoshoots.
  • Ascended Meme: The internet joking about Carey's defrosting after Halloween ends was canonized through a video released on her YouTube channel on November 1, 2023.
  • Bathtub Scene: In the video for "Shake It Off."
  • Beauty Inversion: She does this as part of her role as Mrs. Weiss in Precious. She's...virtually unrecognizable to say the least. Just click on this trope to see what we mean.
  • Break-Up Song: Quite a few, actually. Many (like "Love Takes Time") have a regretful tone, but "Someday" is an example of the don't-want-you-back type.
  • Cover Version: Mariah has had success with quite a few, beginning with her chart-topping 1992 version of The Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." Most of her albums since 1993's Music Box have included at least one cover, including her hit versions of "Without You" (originally by Badfinger, later a No. 1 hit for Harry Nilsson) and "I Still Believe" (originally by Mariah's former employer, Brenda K. Starr).
  • Death Song: "One Sweet Day," "The Wind," "Bye Bye," and "The Wind."
  • Docu Soap: Mariah's World, on the E! network, documents her Sweet Sweet Fantasy world tour and the various mishaps that happen when planning and carrying out such a tour.
  • Downer Ending: Mariah even said that Rainbow was her first album with a happy ending.
    • Mariah Carey ends with "Love Takes Time," a song about the loss of a lover and how love takes time to heal.
    • Emotions ends with "The Wind," a song about a friend who died in a drunk-driving accident.
    • Music Box ends with "All I've Ever Wanted," a song about a person longing for someone they can't have.
    • Daydream ends with "Looking In," a song about how Mariah has to hide her real self from the world and how she's actually insecure and fearful on the inside.
    • Butterfly ends with "Outside," a song about how Mariah feels ostracized for being biracial.
  • E = MC Hammer: One of her albums was titled E=MC2.
  • Glurge Addict: Listen to her album names: Charmbracelet, Glitter, Butterfly, Rainbow...
  • God-Is-Love Songs: Quite a few, with "Fly Like A Bird" being a particularly strong example.
  • Godiva Hair: On the cover of the special Fall 2017 Las Vegas issue of Paper Magazine.
  • Grief Song: "Never Forget You" from Music Box.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: In the video for "You're Mine (Eternal)", her article in the November 2003 issue of Maxim Magazine UK and Paparazzi photos of her on a beach in the Caribbean in January 2008.
  • Incredibly Long Note: All the time.
  • Intercourse with You: "Touch My Body."
  • Laugh of Love: In the Mariah Carey and Miguel duet "#Beautiful", the chorus is peppered with the occasional lovestruck giggle from Mariah.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: Her cover of Journey's "Open Arms".
  • Melismatic Vocals: Quite possibly the Trope Codifier in popular music alongside Whitney Houston. Her singing style spawned countless imitators... most of them a lot less skilled. Paula Abdul even said that a surefire way of getting kicked off American Idol is to do a Mariah Carey song, since it always involves Hopeless Auditionees screeching their lungs out thinking it'll impress the judges.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Clutches a sheet to her chest in the video for "My All".
  • Ms. Fanservice: Interestingly, Carey didn't really run with this until after she divorced Tommy Mottola.
  • New Sound Album: Butterfly.
    • Actually, all, if not most of her albums, count as this. Sometimes they go back to the previous genre she's already covered, but, surprisingly, she has fresh(ish) material/overall genres with each album release.
  • Nipple and Dimed: She went nude on the cover of the September 2007 issue of Interview Magazine, though holding something to keep her front sufficiently covered.
  • Odd Friendship: You wouldn't expect a pop princess like Mariah to be friends with a gritty, Cloudcuckoolander rapper like Ol' Dirty Bastard, but they apparently became close after collaborating on the remix of her song "Fantasy." Mariah attended ODB's funeral, and included him in a montage of her deceased loved ones in her video for "Bye Bye", and even mentions him in "Candy Bling".
    Mariah Carey: 🎶Wish I could bring you back like the O.D.B.🎶
  • Product Placement: In a very dated example, "Shake It Off" mentions "the Calgon commercial."
    • Parodied on a TV sketch comedy show, where Mariah's unique form of soulful groaning was matched to the ideal commercial product - an emetic syrup used to relieve stubborn painful constipation.
  • The Prima Donna: Leans HEAVILY into this trope, to the point where her fans see it as an inextricable part of her larger-than-life personality.
  • Protest Song: "There's Got To Be a Way."
  • Power Ballad: So many. “Hero”, “My All”, “Without You”, “Vanishing”, “Through the Rain”, “We Belong Together”, “I Want to Know What Love Is”...
  • Pun: This picture from her Instagram is of her dressed as a Beauty Contestant with a sash reading "Miss Understood."
  • Remix Album: The Remixes, a Distinct Double Album with club mixes on disc 1 and hip hop mixes on disc 2.
  • The Rival:
    • Subverted. Her most famous "rivalry" was with Whitney Houston, but this was created entirely by media hype, due to Mariah being seen by some as an imitator. However, the two ladies got along just fine in real life, and performed a duet together in the song "When You Believe" on the The Prince of Egypt soundtrack. At The 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, they walked out to present the Best Male Video Award wearing identical dresses. They got into a comical Catfight, before removing the dresses to reveal that they had completely different ones underneath and then hugged.
    • It's played straight with Madonna, however. They've had bad blood for over twenty years.
    • Her rivalry with Jennifer Lopez stems from an alleged stealing of a sample that Carey was going to use but that Lopez had used for her song, "I'm Real". And so it began.
      Michael K.: After she took everyone to Costco by screaming out a high-note that sounded like a forklift, her longtime nemesis JLo clapped politely and made a face that said, My hex is working.
      • Carey also said that it was part of her ex-husband Tommy Mottola's doing, since he was the head of Lopez's record label at the time.
    • Carey had a brief spat with Christina Aguilera back in the early to mid '00s due to a misunderstanding. It led to a back and forth trade of jabs through the press before both settled the dust and made peace.
    • Her feud with rap diva Nicki Minaj. The two did collab together back in late 2009 for a track on Mariah's then album Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel called "Up Out My Face". However, the friendship was over a few years later when it was announced that Minaj would be joining Carey on the judging panel of American Idol, much to the dismay of Carey. Reports were released right away of tension on the set of "Idol" between Carey and Minaj and the two feuding. Then came an infamous video from that recorded the two lashing out at each other on the set. The two decided to stay neutral while shooting the show, for the most part - ultimately, both left the show after one season.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: In the music video for her song "Honey", she jumps into a pool and emerges from it wearing a revealing swimsuit. At the time, it was considered a Wham Episode of sorts for Carey because this marked the first real time that she moved away from her then well-established conservative image.
  • She's Back: After her post-Glitter breakdown.
  • Shower of Love: With Toplessness from the Back in the video for "My All."
  • Silly Love Songs: Take your pick. A great majority of her work falls somewhere in this category. Prior to 1997 when her music became more hip-hop-oriented, she rivaled Céline Dion and Whitney Houston for supremacy in the Adult Contemporary radio format, which specializes in love songs. Her appeal to that audience has been more spotty since but she's still managed to land the occasional lite-FM radio hit, such as "I Still Believe" or "We Belong Together."
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Her low, husky speaking voice does nothing to indicate that she is capable of hitting incredibly high notes when she sings.
  • Skinny Dipping: In the video to "Don't Forget About Us," in an Homage to Marilyn Monroe's famous scene intended for the unfinished Something's Got To Give.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Stands at 5'9" tall and very pretty.
  • Stepford Smiler: The male subject in Without You.
    You always smile, but in your eyes your sorrow shows...
  • Take That!:
    • "Clown" off the Charmbracelet album and "Obsessed" off Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel album are both targeted at Eminem, who previously had Take That! songs about her.
    • Some call her the "Queen of Shade" because she subtly dissed other people.
  • Three Minutes of Writhing: Most of her post-Daydream videos.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Not to the extent of R&B singers like Anita Baker, but she does use this cliche in quite a few of her songs. Oddly enough, she did them pretty often (with layered belts to disguise this) in her early career, before she moved onto more contemporary r&b, where now she just layers belts over the chorus. For a prime example of her doing this today, there's "I Wanna Know What Love Is" (notable because it changes down half an octave), but back then, the song "Whenever You Call" uses this trope three times. "We Belong Together" also counts as an example but it's pulled off rather well.
  • Walking Swimsuit Scene: The video for "Honey", and many Paparazzi pictures. The cover of the November 2003 issue of Maxim Magazine UK qualifies as well.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: She's had her share of nipple slips, upskirts and see-through clothes.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: "Hero," of course.


Video Example(s):


It's Time!

Mariah Carey pays homage to the popular meme of her iconic holiday song "All I Want For Christmas Is You" dominating the airwaves and everyone's mind once Halloween ends.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / MemeAcknowledgment

Media sources: