Carey accepted the night’s most prestigious honor, the BMI Icon Award, for her “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”
She has had 18 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, tying Elvis Presley among solo acts and behind only the Beatles, whose singles made it to the top of the chart 20 times. Carey has written or cowritten the majority of her songbook.
During the private ceremony at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, BMI President and Chief Executive Del Bryant said Carey’s contributions hadn't been given enough credit.
“She is the best songwriter in the history of music. I knew that BMI had to have her. Mariah, 'we belong together.' Is that a cheap shot?,” he joked. “Today we take for granted the synthesis of hip-hop and R&B. [But] it was Mariah’s vision.”
The singer was feted with a musical tribute, which included a DJ set from friend and longtime collaborator Jermaine Dupri; gospel songstress Karen Clark Sheard; R&B crooners Joe and Eric Benet; and Fantasia, who brought Carey (and some of the audience) to tears with a stirring take on “Hero” in which she kicked off her heels, walked through the crowd and serenaded the diva in her front-row seat.
“I'm sweating, I'm crying. I don't know which way I'm coming but I'm happy. I'm humbled and grateful,” an emotional Carey said as she looked to husband Nick Cannon and manager, collaborator and "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson. “A lot of people don't know I write my own songs, and it’s like well, damn, what do I have to do?”
If there is still doubt about how much entertainment (and critic fodder) Carey will provide “American Idol” when she debuts as a judge, her appearance was a great teaser to the bubbly personality she will showcase on the aging franchise when it premieres in January.
Carey became the highest-paid judge in reality TV when she inked the deal, reportedly worth $18 million, to replace Jennifer Lopez. Carey remains the only confirmed judge as rumors swirl that Jackson will step down to a mentorship role.
The singer brought her best diva game to the theater as she sauntered midway through the ceremony in a stunning black dress and big curly locks, flanked by a large entourage. She even paused her speech to make sure the camera guy was shooting her just right: “Pan wide,” she said and sparked plenty of laughter. Like all great divas, she got what she asked for.
The annual event also celebrated the songwriters, producers and publishing companies that had the most-performed R&B and hip-hop songs of the last year.
Drake and Lil Wayne shared the songwriter of the year crown by each writing seven songs that rank among the year’s most-performed (a second consecutive win for Drake). Pop Wansel was named producer of the year after crafting hits for Trey Songz, Drake, Minaj, Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowland and Britney Spears. Minaj’s ubiquitous crossover smash, “Super Bass,” took home urban song of the year.