Mariah Carey: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Facts
Eligible Since: 2016
Grammy Awards/Nominations: 5/33
Career Top 40 Hits: 35
Essential Tracks: Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, Vanishing, Someday, Emotions, If It’s Over, All I Want for Christmas is You, Always Be My Baby, Petals, We Belong Together
Essential Albums: Mariah Carey (1990), Emotions (1991), Daydream (1995), Butterfly (1997), The Emancipation of Mimi (2005)
A proper music hall of fame cannot exist without the woman who belted out “Vision of Love,” “Hero,” and “Fantasy.” But Mariah Carey is not currently a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She wasn’t eligible until 2016, so her wait hasn’t been a long one so far. Will Mariah someday get the call for induction?
Like Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston, Mariah seems to be falling victim to the Hall’s indifference to pop divas. Sure, Madonna was inducted, and Donna Summer was a posthumous selection after a public uproar following her death, but for the longest time, those were the only real female pop stars (post-1980) in the entire Rock Hall.
Janet and Whitney were finally inducted in recent years, so things may be changing. If that’s the case, Mariah should certainly be next in line.
At his induction ceremony a few years back, Steve Miller ripped the Hall for largely ignoring female artists. He probably wasn’t thinking about Mariah when he made the comments, but his point stands. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates all genres of music – rock, jazz, soul, country, hip hop – so straight-up pop divas should not be excluded.
Mariah Carey’s Rock Hall Credentials
Carey’s chart history is nearly unmatched. She’s second all-time in Billboard No. 1 hits, behind only the Beatles(!) Her astounding total of 19 chart-toppers includes “Vision of Love,” “Emotions,” “Dreamlover,” “Always Be My Baby,” and the modern holiday classic, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Her duet with Boyz II Men, “One Sweet Day,” set a then-record by spending 16 weeks at No. 1.
For a full decade, Carey pumped out smash hits like a machine. I’m still partial to the gorgeous ballad from her self-titled debut, “Love Takes Time”; the early dance-pop hit “Someday”; the gospel-influenced “Anytime You Need a Friend”; and the simple ballad “My All,” where she really lets loose vocally.
Carey changed her sound over the years, incorporating more R&B and hip hop in the late ‘90s and 2000s. When she did have a chart slump, she roared back with the exquisite “We Belong Together” and further chart-toppers “Don’t Forget About Us” and “Touch My Body.” Her ability and willingness to adapt are qualities that not every artist in the Rock Hall has, so they bolster her case for induction.
Another thing Mariah has going for her is that she penned her own songs. Aside from a few remakes – the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” most notably – Carey wrote or co-wrote all of her songs over the years. As an institution that respects singer-songwriters, the Rock Hall should be impressed by that level of creativity and self-reliance.
And of course, Carey could do things vocally that virtually no other singers could. Like hitting those insanely high notes in “Emotions” with her whistle register. Even those Rock Hall voters who have extremely high standards for vocalists should be able to acknowledge that Mariah was one of the very best.
Her early albums, especially, contained numerous potential chart-toppers that were never even released as singles. You can put together a very strong playlist of Carey’s lesser-known album tracks. Start with “Vanishing” and “Prisoner” from her debut, “And You Don’t Remember” and “If It’s Over” from Emotions, “Never Forget You” from Music Box, and “Melt Away” from Daydream.
The Case Against Mariah Carey
Mariah’s chart accomplishments are nearly unprecedented, and it’s hard to criticize her voice or her songwriting. So there really is no logical argument against the Best New Artist Grammy winner earning Rock Hall induction, unless voters decide that she’s not “rock” enough.
It’s interesting that Carey never recorded any songs that could be described as “rock.” Even her pop diva contemporaries occasionally branched out into hard rock. Janet had a big hit with the scorching “Black Cat,” among several guitar-heavy tracks in her catalogue. Whitney’s “Queen of the Night” was powered by an electric guitar riff.
It’s cool to imagine what a Mariah rock song might’ve sounded like, but she never went there. At least not publicly. She did record that secret alternative rock album in the mid-90s, but it didn’t see the light of day. Check out Mariah’s fascinating memoir to learn more about that story.
But her lack of hard rock songs shouldn’t matter. As we’ve seen over the years, lots of artists who don’t fit the traditional definition of “rock” have been inducted, from the Bee Gees to N.W.A to Madonna. The genre should be irrelevant; the quality of the music should be the only factor that matters.
Some of Carey’s albums aren’t as strong as the others – Charmbracelet and Glitter, most notably. But no artist has a perfect track record. She had way more hits than misses during her career.
For years, one valid criticism of Carey was that she didn’t have a signature song. “Hero” sounds like it was intended to be a signature song, but it never became that, perhaps because it was too sappy. Same goes for “One Sweet Day,” which had its record chart run and then was largely forgotten and to this day gets very little radio airplay.
But with the recent chart resurgence of holiday music, “All I Want for Christmas is You” now finds a home at the top of the charts every year, and it’s become her signature track. There’s no doubt that song will still be getting played during the holiday season 100 years from now.
The Verdict: Will Mariah Carey Ever Get Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
On one hand, Carey seems like a lock to earn eventual Rock Hall induction given her historic chart success. On the other hand… we’re talking about an institution that never bothered inducting pop legends like Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick. If Streisand’s decades-long track record isn’t deemed worthy, will the Rock Hall ever come around to an artist like Mariah?
It seems unlikely that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can ignore Mariah Carey forever. It may take several more years for voters to get past the idea that she isn’t “rock” enough, but the prediction here is that she does eventually earn induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2021, Warwick earned her first Rock Hall nomination, and so did Mary J. Blige, in somewhat of a surprise. So it’s possible that those two are ahead of Carey in the eyes of Hall voters. That means Mariah might have to wait longer than expected. But she should be inducted sometime before 2030.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Mariah Carey
Odds of Getting Inducted Next Year: 2%
Odds of Getting Inducted in the Next Five Years: 30%
Odds of Getting Inducted Eventually: 80%
Do you think Mariah Carey will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday? Leave a comment and let us know!