What Happened to Mariah Carey’s Voice?

It’s been over three decades since Mariah Carey made her entry into the music scene with her debut single, ‘Vision of Love.’ And what an entry that was. The whole world went crazy over her infectious melodies and a vocal performance that embodied pure grace, power, and confidence. 

Sadly, the same cannot be said of her now. If you watch all her recent live performances, she sounds nothing, and I mean nothing, like the unstoppable diva who blessed the universe with hits after hits in the 1990s. Her voice cracks, she struggles to hit the right notes, and even her delivery leaves a lot to be desired.

Just what happened to Mimi’s voice?

Use of Vocal Nodules

Carey has never been shy to talk about her nodules. She says that they’re the reason why she has the high and belting register while still maintaining her husky voice. And while not many artists can sing through the nodules, Carey has always insisted that she has gotten used to them and can comfortably sing through her vocal cords. 

As much as Carey insists her nodules have never been a problem, music experts say that it was just a matter of time before they completely ruined her voice. In fact, vocal coaches will tell you that vocal nodules are among the worst problems that any singer can have as they can destroy a voice—and a career. Many A-list singers have canceled major tours in recent years because of health issues related to vocal cords—from Adele, Meghan Trainor, and Sam Smith to John Mayer. 

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For Carey, the problem is that from the first time on stage, she learned to utilize the nodules to aid her vocal cords. This means that we wouldn’t have fallen in love with her voice if it were not for them. And at the same time, the nodules might be the cause of her vocal decline. It’s always been a lose-lose situation for her.

Lack of Rest

Carey’s ardent supporters indicate that they started noticing changes in her voice from around 1997. In 1996, she had sent the world into a frenzy by doing the Daydream World Tour in major cities. The thing that drove people crazy even more is that the set-list for that tour only included songs that showcased her powerful vocals and incredible range. She killed it!

After the tour, her ratings had risen so high, and she was an unwavering force—the Muhammad Ali of music. She then released a new album filled with hits of incredible range to cement her position as the vocal queen of that time. This would later be followed by another tour – and another… 

It goes without saying that going on all these tours had a massive toll on her voice. Bearing in mind that most of her songs were overly demanding, often switching between very high notes to very low notes in a matter of seconds, she must have overused her vocal ranges, and that’s how the decline started. Singing for hours on end certainly didn’t do Mariah any good.

We Can’t Ignore the Age

It’s common knowledge that for many artists, their voices deteriorate with time. For aged divas like Aretha Franklin and Patti Label, their vocal ranges might have lasted longer, but by the time they got into their 60s, one could tell that their voices were declining.

Another 90s’ queen, Whitney Houston, also showed signs of vocal deterioration with time. And even Celine Dion has earlier admitted that she had to go through voice surgery to avoid losing her voice completely. If you listen to her live performances today, you can out-rightly tell that her voice has lost most of the polish. 

Bearing in mind that Carey’s songs have been even more demanding in vocal range than most of these artists, it is unfair to imagine that her voice would still be similar to that of the 20-year-old Mariah who sang ‘Vision of Love.’ Plus, people should also give credit that she’s been in the music industry for over 30 years. Times change, and so does the voice.

The Bottom Line

No one can deny that Mariah Carey’s voice has seriously deteriorated with time. However, it’s impossible to tell what one factor has contributed to that massive vocal decline. After many years of relying on vocal nodules to reach a variety of ranges, maybe they’ve finally decided that enough is enough. And after all those performances and mega world tours, maybe she is just tired and can’t keep up with the pace anymore. After all, she is only human. 

Again, maybe we’re worried too much, and it’s just a matter of age. One might say that other artists have maintained their voices even in their old age, but all humans cannot be the same. 

Lastly, her vocal decline could also be due to other personal reasons that we’re not very much aware of—think of mental and emotional stresses. Whatever the cause is, let’s take solace in the fact that we can still listen to her old records and be awed by her vocals. 

Fun fact: Mariah is still earning good money from royalties for “All I Want for Christmas” as Spotify’s “most-streamed Christmas song of all time.”

Good for you, Mimi!