Mariah Carey is undeniably one of the most influential artists of her generation, shaping pop culture and paving the path for female artists that came after her.
In the span of her career, Mimi has rarely disappointed when it came to live performances, even making her late friend and mentor Aretha Franklin shed a tear once.
Carey will make her much-awaited return to the American Music Awards stage on Oct. 9, debuting the new single from her upcoming album, “With You.” To celebrate, Billboard is revisiting her best award show performances from over the years — here are eight of her greatest, in chronological order.
“Vision of Love” at the 1991 Grammys
Mariah cemented her emergence as a superstar at the ’91 Grammys, where she took home the best new artist performance and delivered a stunning, signature performance of debut single (and first of 18 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits) “Vision of Love.” Billboard named the performance one of the ten greatest in award-show history in 2017.
“Emotions” at the 1991 MTV AMAs
A 21-year-old Mariah added to the momentum of her second album’s Hot 100 No. 1 hit title track “Emotions,” with a performance that re-introduced her as a singular force to be reckoned with.
“If Only You Knew / Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (Patti Labelle Tribute) at the 1998 Essence Awards
Not everyone can make Aretha Franklin cry with their voice. Leave it to Mimi to deliver one of the most powerful and emotional renditions of Patti Labelle’s “If Only You Knew” and the pop standard “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” in a Patti tribute that floored the late Queen of Soul, along with the rest of the world.
“Honey” (Remix) at the 1998 World Music Awards
A young and beautiful Carey proved she had it all: the talent, the voice, the looks and the personality. The singer brought flawless vocals and a choreographed dance break to the stage with this performance of the remix to her career-reinventing ’97 No. 1 hit.
“When You Believe” with Whitney Houston at the 1999 Academy Awards
An iconic moment in late-’90s pop, Carey took the stage with late Whitney Houston for an epic duet of their collaboration for the The Prince of Egypt soundtrack at the Oscars. The beautiful performance further cemented both women as the preeminent vocal powerhouses of their era.
“My Saving Grace” at the 2003 Soul Train Awards
During the best of her Charmbracelet days, Carey oozed sensuality with her angelic singing and signature hand gestures. Showing the raw emotion in her breathtaking high notes, this Soul Train Awards performance marked the beginning of a glittery era for the singer.
“We Belong Together / Fly Like a Bird” Medley at the 2006 Grammy Awards
One of the longest-running No. 1s of the Hot 100 era, 2005’s epic heartbreak ballad “We Belong Together” established Carey as a superstar for a second decade. Her Grammys medley, which paired the chart-topping smash with its Emancipation of Mimi album-mate “Fly Like a Bird,” also proved Carey was still a live force to be reckoned with.
“Beautiful” (Remix) at the 2013 BET Awards
Carey’s 2013 BET Awards performance allowed her to shine brighter than ever as she mesmerized the audience with her soft high register, and guest appearances from contemporary stars Miguel and Young Jeezy didn’t hurt.