Mariah Carey is part black. Ariana Grande sings like she’s black. Both have grown to incorporate their sexuality in their performances, equipped with voices perfect to take on challenging R&B pop songs. Many have taken to comparing these two vocalists, and while one has already cemented her status as a legend and the other has only begun her illustrious career, I have decided to see who is the better singer in Taestful Face-Off fashion. In this first iteration of Singer Face-Off at Taestful Reviews, it will be the first to four that decides the winner of this seven category battle.
Note: This is not a comparison of these singer’s talent or breadth of skills. That would undoubtedly go to Mariah Carey since she is much more versatile as a musician than Ariana Grande. This is also not a comparison of each artist’s accomplishments or accolades. Mariah Carey would win simply by benefit of time.
Category 1: Breath Support
In my opinion, the most underrated aspect of singing technique. My friend in China paid for three months worth of vocal lessons that didn’t even involve a single vibration of his vocal chords. While Carey doesn’t dance around on stage nearly as much as Grande, I was able to find footage of stand-still performances to compare the two singers in this regard.
At first, I thought this was going to go to Carey with ease. Grande cheats in her live performances of Problem just so she can grab some air to hit the building notes of the pre-chorus. However, I’m not quite sure if this is a legitimate after hearing Grande sing with her feet on the ground. I still get the feeling that Grande is short of breathe at times but both are practically flawless in this category.
Category 2: Usable Vocal Range
On Wikipedia, it cites that Grande has a four octave range while Carey sports a five octave range. However, I’m not quite sure how many of these notes have been dished out in live performances. Looking at some comparison videos, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mariah Carey has used higher notes on stage compared to Ariana Grande. But does that mean Carey uses these notes better than Grande? In this case, yes, she does. Both are comparable at the lower registers.
Winner: Mariah Carey (1.5-0.5)
Category 3: Pitch Accuracy/Consistency
Are we going to have a blow-out here? In her prime, Mariah Carey had that rare combination of technique and style. Without compromising artistic flips into head voice or iconic belts with controlled vibrato, there are plenty of live performances you can find where it seems like Carey failed to sing an incorrect note, whistle tone or otherwise. Is she even human? Grande typically struggles hitting high notes live, though her intonation is nothing to scuff at. Still top-class material, just not on Mariah Carey’s level, especially when it comes to runs.
Winner: Mariah Carey (2.5-0.5)
Category 4: Enunciation/Articulation of Words
Contrary to popular belief, Ariana Grande CAN enunciate her words. She started her career with Broadway training and it shows when she sings Broadway songs. I have no idea where this training goes when she sings her brand of music but it’s clearly her choice to slur words in album tracks. Honestly, I can’t really separate these singers apart in this one.
Category 5: Entertainment Value/Stage Presence
I guess it depends on what you are looking for. Do you prefer an emotional performance rooted in acknowledgement of the difficulty of the piece? Or do you prefer a fun, energetic performance that appears effortless? Once again, it’s a tie for me.
Category 6: Best Performance
The chorus of a pop-song is fairly repetitive so that the audience can come out humming to it (or even worse, getting it stuck in their heads). The words are simple in Carey’s performance of Without You, “I can’t live if living is without you.” But I guarantee, you will wish you can hum the notes she sings. Graceful, chilling, beautiful, her performance will resonate, ring, and be remembered in all the right ways. On top of that, there are plenty of performances to pick from for Mariah Carey’s best live performance.
Winner: Mariah Carey (4.5-1.5)
Category 7: Preferred Voice
In this last, completely subjective category I can finally give the slight nod to one of my favorite artists. Is that unfair to Carey? Maybe, but I have to be honest when I say Grande has an extremely unique voice that feels like it has more potential than Carey’s. Her timbre, while not as pure or clear, is nevertheless soaked with flavor. When Ariana sings, it feels bright, raspy, and operatic at the same time, a tone that can be both classy and rachet. As someone who doesn’t even like the popularity of rap, Grande makes it worth listening to and, admittedly, her voice lends itself to such collaborations. Still, she can shine on acoustic songs like My Everything and Moonlight and does great on Broadway songs. Simply put, for however great of a technician Mariah Carey may be, Ariana Grande makes this even a discussion because of her versatile and unprecedented voice. In my mind, she is well-deserving of the comparison, even as Mariah Carey comes up on top as the better singer.
Winner: Ariana Grande (2.5-4.5)
Final Verdict: Mariah Carey (4.5-2.5)