Elevator Pitch: Most ’80s and ’90s babies groan and moan that R&B music isn’t what it used to be and they’re right. Mariah Carey’s Daydream LP is MC’s graduation from Titanic-y ballad voice box to R&B&Pop queen.
Singles That Get Infinite Spins: Daydream’s lead, “Fantasy”; the Kleenex-soaked “One Sweet Day”; nostalgia pusher “Always Be My Baby”; the twinkly-eyed “Underneath The Stars”
Peak Moment: Track No. 1. Soaked in the feel good thrills from Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” “Fantasy” set the stage for pop music today. Despite some pushback from her then-label, Columbia Records, and ex-husbandger/ then-chief of Sony, Tommy Motola, who tried to fashioned Mimi into the “next Whitney Houston,” the Long Island native and self-professed hip-hop head orchestrated a collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan’s late rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Diddy (then Puff Daddy) for the “Fantasy” remix to help her glide into the hip-hop space.
She expressed these differences with Columbia, telling Entertainment Weekly at the time, “Everybody was like ‘What, are you crazy?’ They’re nervous about breaking the formula. It works to have me sing a ballad on stage in a long dress with my hair up.”
With long gowns still a staple in her stage wardrobe, Mariah etched the blueprint for modern-day pop melodies featuring rap verses (see: Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé’s hits) and continues to incorporate that same formula into her post-1995 catalog.
Lines Best For Status Updates—When You’re In Your Feelings:
“Oh when you walk by every night, talking sweet and looking fine, I get kind of hectic inside”
“Feels like I’m dreaming but I’m not sleeping”
“Although the sun will never shine the same again, I’ll always look to a brighter day”
“No way you’re never gonna shake me, ooh darling ’cause you’ll always be my baby”
“Only once in a lifetime, love rushes in, changing you with the tide”
“You knew how to get your way, ignorance was bliss in your warm embrace”
“Thoughts run wild as I sit and rhapsodize, paint pretty pictures of what I’d do if you were mine”
Most Slept-on: “Melt Away”—The SWV feels plus Babyface’s imprint should have pushed this sensual sleeper further up on the track list, instead of being buried by the gospel-inspired “I Am Free” and the hip-hop-heavy “Long Ago.”
Bet You Didn’t Know: Mariah Carey traded pens with R&B quartet Boyz II Men to write one of the deepest album cuts on death (ever!). Both artists were coping with personal losses—MC lost her friend and collaborator David Cole while the Boyz lost their road manager Kahlil Roundtree—and each scribed a different song that turned out to be nearly identical.
“[Mariah] played us the melody and the hook, and it was amazing. It was almost the same song I was writing,” B2M member Nathan Morris said. “I told her that I was working on a song with a similar melody and, while the lyrics were, of course, different, the premise was the same. They complemented each other.”
The duet—which marked Carey’s 10th No. 1 and Boyz II Men’s fourth—was recorded in a matter of hours, a speedy session that also churned out the visual below.
Bet You (Also) Didn’t Know: Before covers on YouTube became A&R gold, Mariah often saluted classics on her albums. On 1993’s Music Box, she performed Air Supply’s “Without You” and eventually remade the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross marriage anthem “Endless Love” with Luther Vandross.
For Daydream, Mariah said it with her chest for a cover of Journey’s “Open Arms.” Toning down the booming vocals of the group’s original frontman Steve Perry, Carey’s baby smooth riffs and tender coos did the 1982 single—a karaoke magnet for Filipinos because of Arnel Pineda—justice.
Synopsis: Pushing play on The Elusive Chanteuse requires more effort than pulling up Daydream. As a member of the Lambily for the past two decades, a collaboration with Boyz II Men > collaboration with Rich Homie Quan, IMO. But in an age where relevance is measured by a song’s level of ratchet, the standard of Pop/R&B excellence Mariah Carey helped set has gotten lost in the sauce, specifically DJ Mustard beats.
The innocent Mimi who floated on ’90s relics like “Always Be My Baby” isn’t the same as the diva who birthed #DemBabies and is currently struggling to sing overseas. Regardless, this album was a major reality check (more than 25 million copies sold in the U.S.) and cemented her musical chemistry with the likes of Jermaine Dupri and Walter Afanasieff. Love life aside, Mariah’s Daydream will remain a super high note for now and forever.—Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton)