Whitney Houston vs Mariah Carey – Who’s the Better Singer?

Whitney Houston vs Mariah Carey: Which singer was better and why?

It’s never fair to pit two talented artists against one another, but in this fun battle between Whitney Houston vs Mariah Carey, we’re going to do just that.  We’ll compare both of these legends based on vocal range, album sales, #1 singles, awards and more to determine which singer was the best!

Whitney Houston vs Mariah Carey: The Battle Begins

Let's talk about Mariah Carey's vocal range!
This photo was taken by Michael for Devoted to Vinyl

Vocal Range

Mariah Carey is a five-octave soprano who is often referred to as the “Songbird Supreme.”  She is known for her high, clear, and melismatic vocal style, which is characterized by her ability to sing a series of rapidly changing notes in a single syllable. Her dynamic control over the note, sound, and volume of her voice is legendary and a feat few can replicate. 

Her music combines elements of pop, R&B, soul, and hip-hop, and she is widely recognized for her ability to convey deep emotions through her voice. Carey’s speaking voice may surprise listeners as it’s a bit deeper and more raspy than one would expect given her notable soprano. 

That being said, Mariah is one of a few singers that are able to reach what’s known as the “whistle register.” As she reaches the upper stratosphere 5th-octave range, Carey is able to sustain and control notes that few artists can even dream of hitting.

Whitney Houston, commonly referred to as “the Voice”, on the other hand, was a contralto known for her soulful powerful voice Houston’s music was primarily R&B and pop, but she also had significant influence in gospel and soul music. Her vocal range was wide, and she was known for her ability to effortlessly switch between her high and low registers. The pure power and richness of Houston’s voice is something that only she could control. 

Let's talk about Whitney Houston's vocal range!
This photo was taken by Michael for Devoted to Vinyl

Whitney’s music often featured her signature belts of resonant notes that would power through songs. This is showcased no better than in her hit song, “I Will Always Love You,” where she stretches the word “I” over six seconds and notes A4 to D5. This impressive stretch of a note made this song a mesmerizing hit for the ages.

  • Winner – Whitney Houston 

These artists have their own unique styles and techniques that make their voices so memorable. Both technically are tied with their five-octave ranges. While the two never went head to head in competition their vocals were perfectly displayed in tandem on their 1998 duet, “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack.

Still, Whitney Houston’s voice is rare. It’s show-stopping. And while Mariah is immensely talented (and can do things no other artists in her peer group could ever dream), Whitney Houston’s vocal talent was just special.

Comparing Album Sales

Let's dig into some of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey's album sales.

This is a clash of two of the titans of record sales internationally. When it comes to commercial success, selecting a winner between Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston is a bit easier.  Both have both enjoyed tremendous popularity and recognition, but as Jay-Z once said, numbers don’t lie.

Whitney Houston has sold over 200 million records worldwide and over 60 million RIAA-certified albums. Houston is the only Black artist to have three albums Diamond certified. Her 1987 second studio album, Whitney, is the latest to reach the certification many thanks to its 5 billboard top 10 singles. This album joins her self-titled debut album along with with the 1992 soundtrack to The Bodyguard film. She also holds claim to the best-selling gospel album of all time for The Preachers Wife soundtrack.

With that said, Mariah Carey beats out her fellow songstress with over 220 million records and 72 million albums sold. She has multiple multi-platinum albums including a pair of diamond certifications for her albums Music Box and Daydream.

Mariah is well known as the “Queen of Christmas” and reigns supreme over the top-selling holiday album of all time. Her 1994 Merry Christmas album has sold over 15 million copies to date and shows no sign of slowing down.

  • Winner: Mariah Carey

Mariah beats Whitney in both album sales and total overall units sold making her the clear winner here. That being said without the never-ending success of her Christmas album and single “All I Want For Christmas”, she would be behind Houston in album sales.

Comparing #1 Singles

Let's dig into Mariah Carey's #1 singles.

Whitney Houston had numerous hit singles throughout her career, including “I Will Always Love You,” “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” and others. Her single, “I Will Always Love You” is the best-selling physical single for a female artist with over 20 million sold to date. It spent 14 weeks at #1 on the charts after its release. 

Another smashing success was her fun and upbeat, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”. The song was a well-received change of pace from Houston’s classic ballads. The pop dance hit was a massive success worldwide and debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in over 15 countries. She would win her second Grammy for Best Female Pop Performance for this song at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Whitney Houston was able to accumulate 11 Number One hits on the Hot 100 during her illustrious career.

Mariah Carey is certainly one of the best female pop singers the world has ever seen—and she has enough number one singles to prove it.  She has had several hit singles, including “Vision of Love,” “We Belong Together,” “Hero,” among others. All together, Carey has had an unbelievable 19 Number One hits on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the female artist with the most Number One hits in history. In totality, Mariah is second only to The Beatles. She also has arguably the most well-known Christmas song of all time: “All I Want for Christmas is You”. 

Her duet with the group Boyz II Men, “One Sweet Day” spent 16 weeks at #1 setting a record at the time. The song is now tied with “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee for second behind “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X.

One of Mariah Carey’s most notable accomplishments is her run of success during the 1990s. She is the only person to have a single reach number one in every year of a decade. That streak started with her 1990 debut single, “Visions of Love” and ended with “Thank God I Found You” in 2000 a collaboration with popular boy band 98 Degrees. 

After a failed launch into acting and personal drama seemed to derail the superstar, she returned to the top of the Billboard list in 2005 with “We Belong Together” from her successful “comeback” album, The Emancipation of Mimi. With a streak like this, it’s is clear that if Mariah is at her best, she will deliver a chart-topping hit.

  • Winner: Mariah Carey

This is a tough one but it is hard to argue with numbers! Mariahs streak from 1990 to 2000 produced just as many number ones as Whitney’s entire career. 

Comparing Awards

As you would expect, these women are two of the most decorated artists of all time.  Whitney Houston has won numerous awards including 2 Emmy Awards, 8 Grammy Awards (including 2 Hall of Fame awards), 14 World Music Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, and many others.

Houston even sets records when it comes to winning awards. She has the record for the most World Music Awards won in a year with 5 in 1994 and holds a seemingly unbreakable record of 11 American Music Awards at the 1993 ceremony.

Mariah Carey has won 5 Grammy Awards, 19 World Music Awards, 15 Billboard Music Awards, 10 American Music Awards and numerous other awards throughout her career. 

  • Winner: Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston is no doubt one of the premiere artists of all-time and her over 60 major awards is more than enough proof to her legacy. 

Comparing “Diva” Status

In a match between Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, who wins and why?

Both artists have had their peaks and valleys in their respective careers and personal lives. Despite their similarities, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston had different personalities and lifestyles. 

Carey was known for her eccentric and flamboyant personality, and she often made headlines for her over-the-top outfits and unique personal demands that would somehow seep out into the public. Houston, on the other hand, was known for her more reserved and private personality, and she often kept her personal life out of the public eye—well, at least she attempted to.  Eventually, Whitney would go on to star in a reality TV show, which many enjoyed but might also argue was a “bad look.” 

Both artists also tried their hand in the acting world to mixed reviews. While Mariah Carey received rave reviews for her role in the award winning 2009 film Precious, her contribution to the film world is probably forever remembered by the flop that is Glitter (we forgive you, Mimi.)

Houston, on the other hand, has played prominent roles in the classic films, such The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife. Her acting was tied to her success as an artist as she won Grammy awards for two of her feature film soundtracks.  And personally, I would say Whitney was the better actor.

  • Winner: Mariah Carey

Watch pretty much any Mariah Carey music video (especially in the Emancipation of Mimi era) and it’s clear that Mariah’s diva personality is just as big as her voice. 

Comparing Cultural Impact

In terms of musical influence, both Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston have had a profound impact on the contemporary music scene. Carey’s music has been described as the epitome of contemporary pop and R&B, and her innovative vocal style has been emulated by many aspiring singers. 

Whitney Houston, meanwhile, was known for her powerful voice and soulful delivery, and she has been called the “Queen of Pop” and the “Queen of R&B.” Her music and vocal style have had a lasting impact on the music industry, and she continues to inspire new generations of singers to this day.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of people wonder whether Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston didn’t get along.  That appears to be a highly unsubstantiated rumor that has somehow persisted for decades.  In fact, if you watch the video below, Mariah Carey makes it pretty clear that not only was there no beef with Whitney, but Mariah loved Whitney Houston. 

The reality is that Mariah and Whitney had “weird tension” (as Mariah says in the video), and they certainly had a professional rivalry of sorts, but Carey was inspired by Houston and her success.

  • Winner: Tie

The Winner Is…

Well, at the start, we wanted to see who would win in a fun battle between Whitney Houston vs Mariah Carey.  While Whitney arguably has the best voice of all time, I wanted to probe a bit deeper and factor in all aspects of their professional careers (and even their cultural impact).

In the end, I walk away believing that for this competition, when you factor in all of the information mentioned above, that Mariah Carey is the winner here.  The pure commercial success of Carey alone goes to show that her lasting star power and untouchable voice is second to none.  And at this point, she’s really the only singer I can think of that is inextricably linked to Christmas.

This photo was taken by Michael for Devoted to Vinyl

In conclusion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are two of the most talented and successful vocalists in the contemporary music scene. Both artists have had a profound impact on the music industry, and their influence can be seen in the music of contemporary singers and songwriters.

While they have similarities in terms of their vocal abilities and commercial success, they have distinct personalities and lifestyles that have helped to shape their legacies in the world of music.

This article was written by Justinian and edited by Michael.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *