The best-selling female performer of the 1990s, Mariah Carey rose to superstardom on the strength of her stunning five-octave voice. An elastic talent who moved easily from glossy ballads to hip-hop-inspired dance-pop, she earned frequent comparison to rivals Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, but did them both one better by composing all of her own material. Born in Long Island, NY, on March 27, 1970, Carey moved to New York City at the age of 17 -- just one day after graduating high school -- to pursue a music career; there she befriended keyboardist Ben Margulies, with whom she began writing songs. Her big break came as a backing vocalist on a studio session with dance-pop singer Brenda K. Starr, who handed Carey's demo tape to Columbia Records head Tommy Mottola at a party. According to legend, Mottola listened to the tape in his limo while driving home that same evening, and was so immediately struck by Carey's talent that he doubled back to the party to track her down.
The Emancipation of Mimi, her most successful work in years, appeared in 2008. It climbed to multi-platinum status and earned Carey three Grammy awards -- Best Contemporary R&B Album and, for the single "We Belong Together," Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song -- thus restoring her status as a megastar. Two weeks before the release of her subsequent album, April 2008's E=MC2, Carey scored her 18th number one hit with "Touch My Body," a feat that pushed her into second place (past Elvis, no less) among all artists with the most chart-topping singles. Although that hit song, along with the late April news that she married Nick Cannon, kept her in the spotlight that year, the remainder of the album's spinoffs weren't nearly as successful; only "Bye Bye" managed to scrape the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. She went back to work fairly quickly, however, and Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel -- featuring collaborations with the-Dream, as well as a cover of Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" -- became her 12th studio album upon its September 2009 release.