It’s been almost 20 years since Mariah Carey last won a Grammy, so when she received the Global Impact Award from the Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective, she offered a dose of her signature comical shade.
“Is this a real Grammy? I haven’t seen one in soooooo long,” she said Thursday night as she held the award.
“It’s weird. I don’t know,” Carey continued while laughing as the audience at the Fairmont Century Plaza cheered her on. “We’ll figure out what this is later.”
Carey is easily one of the best-selling acts of all-time and holds the record for most No. 1 hits — 20 — by a solo artist. She’s been nominated for 34 Grammys, winning five: best new artist and best female pop vocal performance (“Vision of Love”) in 1991, as well as three R&B honors at the 2006 ceremony for “We Belong Together” and The Emancipation of Mimi.
Carey received the honor from the Black Music Collective for being a “Black music creator whose dedication to the art form has greatly influenced the industry and whose legacy of service inspires countless individuals worldwide.” In her speech, the singer got serious and said she had to fight to sing and write the kind of music she felt closest to.
“When I first started in the music business, I was often told to conform to certain expectations. I was not encouraged to focus on my love for Black music. It took countless arguments, endless tantrums — I’ll call them tantrums — and mostly unwavering determination but, eventually, I was able to reveal my authentic self, as they say, and create music that came from my heart. In doing so, I discovered a newfound sense of freedom and fulfillment,” she said.
“I accept this award on behalf of every person who has ever felt silenced or marginalized, who has ever been told their voice doesn’t matter. Your truth matters,” she added. “We will continue to pave the way together for a future where authenticity is celebrated, diversity is embraced, and music has the power to change the world.”
Several artists paid tribute to Carey onstage. Babyface sang songs he worked on with Carey, including “Every Time I Close My Eyes” and “When You Believe,” her Oscar-winning duet with Whitney Houston; Yolanda Adams brought the house down with a rousing performance of the gospel-tinged upbeat “Make It Happen;” Tori Kelly was a vocal powerhouse with her rendition of “Vision of Love;” and Busta Rhymes enticed the audience with a performance of his collaborative hit with Carey, “I Know What You Want.”
But it was Stevie Wonder who stole the show. He serenaded the diva while singing and playing piano, and he told her: “I love you and that’s going to be forever.”
Like Carey, he was also playful onstage when he spoke. “Every time we talk on the phone or I see you,” Wonder said as the audience made noise, “and we meet up and talk about music…You think I’m going to say, ‘Every time I hear you?’”
The audience erupted in laughter. “I can see her, OK, in spirit,” Wonder continued.
The other half of the night belonged to Lenny Kravitz, who also received the Global Impact Award. “I wanted to play guitar. I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be like Lenny Kravitz,” Grammy-, Oscar- and Emmy-winner H.E.R. said before presenting the award to the rocker. That was followed by a fun performance of “Fly Again” by Quavo, George Clinton, Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith and Andrew Watt.
In his speech, Kravitz joked about wanting to join the Jackson 5.
“Since my dad took me to Madison Square Garden to see the Jackson 5, my head exploded, and after that show, my life was never the same. I was so into their music that I fantasized that I was their long-lost brother and turned the Jackson 5 into the Jackson 6. And in my school notebook, instead of writing my name, I wrote Lenny Jackson.”
The rocker added that his “parents’ records were my teachers. I memorized and sang note for note my mom’s two favorite albums, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ Imagination and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.”
Thursday’s event, held days before the 2024 Grammys, also featured performances by Davido, Andra Day and Erica Campbell, while Mannie Fresh deejayed and Adam Blackstone worked as musical director. Attendees included Niecy Nash, Debbie Allen, Halle Bailey, will.i.am, Muni Long, Jordin Sparks, Rapsody, Omarion and Carey’s 12-year-old daughter, Monroe.