Mariah Carey has always been a polarizing public figure, but despite her many detractors, she’s managed to sell 200 million records since 1990, making her one of the most successful recording artists of all time. So, when accepting her lifetime-achievement Icon Award at Wednesday’s Billboard Music Awards, the 14-time BBMA-winner thanked her millions of fans, or “Lambs,” who “lifted [her] out of the depths of hell” during the darker moments of her tumultuous career.
“‘Icon’ — I really don't think of myself in that way,” Carey began with perhaps unexpected humility, also giving a shoutout to “dem babies” (twins Moroccan and Monroe) in the audience and comically tossing to the floor the tissue she’d just used to dab her glistening post-performance face. “I started making music out of a necessity to survive and to express myself, and I just wanted to create something so I could feel worthy of existing. And if I've learned anything, anything at all in this life, is that truly all things are possible with God.”
Carey admitted with a chucked, “Without getting into all the drama, all the ups and downs of my career, we've all seen them. We all make mistakes. There's been a few memes.” She added more seriously: “I guess I've always felt like an outsider, someone who doesn't quite belong anywhere, and I still feel like that lost interracial child who had a lot of nerve to believe I could succeed at anything at all in this world. But — and this is the truth — I did believe because I had to. The truth is I've dedicated my life to my music, my saving grace, and to my fans who are unlike any other entity that I've ever known. They've lifted me out of the depths of hell and brought me back with their devotion and love. I want to thank all the people who have been with me on this journey, through the highs and lows, through the struggles, through your struggles and mine.
“And to anybody who doesn't allow themselves to be broken and keeps getting up and keeps holding on and keeps standing tall, keeps on believing and keeps rising, I celebrate you tonight. And to anyone who has ever told me that a song I wrote helped save your life, I thank you, because you saved mine and I'll eternally grateful for that.”
(Carey’s Lambily has always stood by her. Case in point: Just last year, a #JusticeForGlitter online fan campaign resulted in her infamous, career-derailing Glitter soundtrack topping the iTunes album chart 17 years after its disastrous release.)
As for the rest of the 2019 Billboard Music Awards, which took place Wednesday at Las Vegas’s Grand Garden Arena, viewers could be forgiven for mistaking it for the 1990 BBMAs. While newer-school pop stars like Ariana Grande, Halsey (with K-pop sensations BTS), Taylor Swift, and host Kelly Clarkson performed on the telecast, the night truly belonged to a trio of seasoned divas: Carey, Madonna, and Paula Abdul. Madonna performed her sexy new single “Medellín” with reggaeton superstar Maluma and a conga line of eyepatched Madonna holograms, while Abdul closed the show in spectacular fashion with a 30th-anniversary celebration of her seven-times-platinum debut album, Forever Your Girl.
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