Beautiful songstress Mariah Carey seemed to come out of nowhere with her chart-busting hit "Vision Of Love." Her seven octave vocal range, complete with Minnie Riperton cosmic high notes, enters the brain and soothes you while it thoroughly moves you. In short, Mariah has that rare vocal essence; a natural ability to immediately touch the deepest part of ones soul.
How, you may ask, did the 20-year-old rising star manage to stay a secret until now? Afterall, Mariah, a native New Yorker whose mother sang with the New York City Opera, has been around music all her life. "That's true, but I believe things happen when they're supposed to," Carey insists. "Maybe if I made a solo move earlier I wouldn't have been ready, or people wouldn't have been this receptive," she allows. "All I do know is that I'm very happy and appreciative that things are going as well as they are."
That may be the understatement of the year. Not since Whitney Houston has such a major promotional and publicity assault been launched on a new artist. From the elaborate album packaging, to the state-of-the-art videos, to the extensive promotional tours, Mariah Carey continues on a first class ride to the top. Nevertheless, she remains humble. "I'm just thankful I'm able to do what I love to do sing."
Signed to Columbia Records, Mariah, who once sang background for dance music artist Brenda K. Starr (who gave Carey's demo tape to Columbia's president), almost signed with Warner Brothers. "Both record companies made it clear they wanted me," she says, "but I felt Columbia would be the best for me."
It's nearly every recording artist's dream to have two or more major labels bidding against each other for them. However, Mariah even plays this down. "It was just a matter of figuring out what company offered the best deal. And it wasn't necessarily a matter of the most money either."
Maybe not, but it's pretty clear Columbia spent big bucks signing her. And their high profile support of her makes it obvious they plan to protect their investment. "I can't give you any figures on what I got," she smiles, "but I can say I'm happy with the deal." The youngest of three children, Mariah's family moved a lot. She doesn't say anything about her father, however, she gives her mother an enormous amount of credit. "My mom encourages me to go for it," Carey says. "When I'm feeling insecure, or unsure of myself I can count on her to give me that extra push to do my best.
"When I was six, my mother used to carry me with her around all her musician... friends. Sometimes they would ask, 'Why are you bringing this six-year-old along?' My mother would say, 'Well, she's six going on 35.' So I've always been like a grown-up."
Just how grown up? "I left home at 17 to live by myself," she recalls. "Having been on my own for three years, I learned how to survive, to grow. But I still get a lot of inspiration from my mother."
The inspiration for Mariah's incredible vocal style comes from several sources. She's an avid listener and collector of gospel recordings, and counts Shirley Caesar, the Winans and the Clark Sisters among her favorites.
On the secular side her influences include, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and of course Minnie Riperton. The cosmic high note referred to before, a Riperton trademark, is also distinctive of Mariah, who calls it the "whisper register. Not a head or chest voice, but something that comes from reaching the ultimate emotional peak."
Although compared to Whitney Houston on occasion, Carey wants it made clear she's only trying to be herself. "It's obvious Whitney Houston and I have some of the same influences," she explains. "And I'm not so arrogant that I don't think I can be compared to anyone either. In fact, it's pretty nice to be compared to such a great singer. But the bottomline is we're two different people with our own styles and abilities."
The depth of Carey's abilities is awesome. She's the sole writer of all her album's cuts, except one. She also collaborated with top producers Narada Michael Walden (who also works with Whitney), Ric Wake and Rhett Lawrence. Her album, a treasure of sound, distinguished by a voice of astounding quality and power, is a classic effort.
"Vision Of Love" is just the beginning for Mariah Carey. Her awesome voice, exotic beauty and serious dedication to quality music insure it won't be her last a predictable stardom.