Carey releases Rainbow, her final album on Columbia Records. Although it charts two No. 1 singles, album sales are the lowest of her career. She blames it on record execs. "The political situation in my career is not stellar," she says on her Web site. "I am getting a lot of negative feedback from certain corporate people...It's a complete mess." In 2001, Virgin Records signs Carey to a four-album, $80 million deal, one of the largest industry contracts ever. In addition, Virgin also buys the rights to Carey's final album in her Sony contract, freeing her of any ties to Mottola.
After an erratic appearance on MTV's Total Request Live, where Carey strips down and hands Popsicles to the audience, Carey checks into a hospital for treatment of "an emotional and physical breakdown." She is reportedly reeling from the end of her three-year relationship with Latin singer Luis Miguel and poor sales of the Glitter soundtrack. Six weeks later, she suffers a relapse, entering another facility for treatment.
Carey's film debut, Glitter, is a critical and commercial bomb, grossing only $4.2 million. EW says, "It's doubtful that even a real actress could have triumphed over the rusty tinsel of Glitter." In January 2002, troubled by her behavior, movie performance and lackluster sales of the soundtrack and a greatest hits album, Virgin and EMI pay Carey $28 million to end her contract (she ultimately receives $49 million for making one record at Virgin).
After signing a new deal with Island Records, Carey escapes to Italy to regroup and write music. The result is Charmbracelet, which goes platinum. The album includes a song dedicated to her father, who died of cancer in July. "The album is kind of like a hopeful celebration of life," she tells Larry King. "During that celebration, we have the ups and the downs, and the different songs."
With contributions from producers such as The Neptunes, Kanye West and Jermaine Dupri and full backing from Island Records honcho L.A. Reid, Carey makes a monster comeback with the release of The Emancipation of Mimi, which becomes the year's best-selling album due to such hit singles as "We Belong Together" and "Shake It Off."
Carey wins three Grammy awards (Female R&B Vocal Performance, Contemporary R&B Album, and R&B Song) ending a 15-year trophy drought at the yearly music ceremony. "All I can really do is just thank God and thank my fans and really just try to enjoy this moment for them too," she told CBS's The Early Show a few days before the awards. "Because this is their moment too."
Eminem claims he and Carey dated on his uncensored radio show, claiming that the two dated for six or seven months. "I can never deny her talent," the rapper continues, "but the fact that she denied we ever had something, that's bad." Carey responded to the accusations in the March 2007 issue of Playboy, stating, "Something is clearly askew with him... I'm curious as to why he's so obsessed with me."
After taking it all off for the cover of Interview, Carey debuts her first fragrance, M by Mariah Carey. "This is going to be the first fragrance that I've ever worn," the star tells PEOPLE. She also reveals to the magazine that she's completing her next album and finished filming the upcoming indie flick, Tennessee: "I play Krystal. The character is very different from me and I think people are going to be surprised – she's very unglamorous, very raw."
Carey's song, "Touch My Body" – from her upcoming album, E=MC2 – becomes her eighteenth No. 1 single. The 39-year-old singer beats Elvis Presley, who last had a No. 1 single with 1969's "Suspicious Minds." Now only the Beatles, who have 20, stand in her way. Upon its release, E=MC2 debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts, marking her sixth time at the top spot.
After reports of an engagement between Carey and Nick Cannon surface, the pop diva marries the 27-year-old actor in an impromptu ceremony at her Bahamian estate. "We really do feel we are soulmates," Carey tells PEOPLE of Cannon – who she met in 2005. "I never felt a love like this was in the cards for me." Cannon adds, "She is beautiful on the outside and 10 times as beautiful on the inside."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): amazon.com; Kevin Winter/GETTY; Julie Jacobson/AP; Jeff Christensen/AP