The 15th of May 2010 marked 20 years since the release of Mariah's first single, Vision of Love. The song which is heralded as sparking the "I wanna be a singer" thought in the mind of many superstars such as Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna- whom you may have seen butcher Mariah's song Hero at a talent contest. No, you haven't? Alright, here, have a laugh on me:
Terrible. Just terrible.
I'm not gonna lie- although I've been a fan of Mariah's the whole way along, I've only really been obsessed since 1999 with the release of Rainbow. When you speak to people about Mariah (I try and slot her into at least 4 conversations a day. I'm kidding, obviously), they're always like, "OMG I LOVE 90's Mariah!" Well, I'm totally the opposite.
Of course I own all of the albums from the 90's, but any true Lamb (that's a Mariah fan bee tee dubs) will know how artistically stifled she was under the hhmmm guidance of Tommy Mottola and how her emancipation from him gave us the really good shit musically.
Butterfly (1997) was an eye-opener with Mariah reaching into her RnB roots and collaborating with Puff Daddy (as he was known at the time), Jermaine Dupri and Bone Thugz n Harmony to produce a soft- dance/pop/hip hop album with the occasional melancholy pop/soul crossover tune in Breakdown and Babydoll.
Mariah had alluded to the fact she wanted to take this direction with her music, famously working with O.D.B on the hugely popular Fantasy remix which to this day can still fill a dancefloor. At the time, this was a controversial move for the somewhat conservative star who admits she couldn't even say some of Ol' Dirty Bastard's song titles out loud.
This move is, however, what gained her respect not only in the music industry in general (it cemented her as a true talent with a vast display of song-writing and producing skill), but also with what seems like almost every rapper imaginable. Since then she has worked with Snoop, Jay Z, Pharrel, Ja Rule, Mystikal, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot, just to name a few of the rap and hip-hop powerhouses who are keen to team up with her.
It's where all these people come in that I too jump on board wholeheartedly. It's plain to see that I'm the whitest white girl going around. But catch me on a dancefloor and I can bump and grind with the best of them. Try as they might, white people can't make hot RnB tracks. They just can't.
The inclusion of the most baller rappers, song writers and producers on Mariah albums is what has propelled her into the largest part of my heart and more imporantly, my itunes account.
Since Rainbow (1999), each Mariah album has been saturated with guest collaborators, the majority of songs 'featuring' some of the best musical talent in the hip-hop world and something which has been emulated by singers the world over. Beyonce does it, Shakira does it and even our own Jessica Mauboy has followed suit.
For my HSC (final high school exams for anyone outside Australia/NSW) I even wrote a Viva Voce, an oral exam where you create your own musical hypothesis and answer questions given to you by the examiner as well as proving your theory with the use of research and pre-made examples, on how Mariah Carey instigated the idea of featuring rappers on her tracks. My sample CD decided not to work during the exam, so I was forced to use the piano in the room to muster all my musical talent and play Heartbreaker on it, while singing Mariah's parts and RAPPING Jay-Z's. Luckily it turned out to be a positive thing when it all could have gone to crap.
Anyway, what am I doing? Turning into an old grandparent who tells tales of their youth? That anecdote was meant to point out the lasting effect that Mariah's musical leadership has had on the face of pop, while ensuring that rappers always have a place in mainstream music. Not just my sentiments alone- "Sing my hook, help me sell a coupla mill"- Cam'ron in Boy (I need you).
So while her popularity has waned somewhat since her Dreamlover days, her music has become more 'her' and more for the fans. For example her latest offering, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, is a perfectly cohesive and beautifully melodic album which is reminiscent of the Hip-Hopera by R-Kelly, "Trapped in the closet". It's full of personal jokes and Mariah-isms that only a dedicated Lamb would appreciate.
Here's to another 20 years of incredible music by the Queen, Mariah. And here's to her staying true to herself and giving us more of that special brand of Hip-Pop she does so well, because if there's anything I love more than a Mariah song, it's a Mariah song that features a rapper.