In 1995 Mariah Carey released the smash hit song Fantasy from her fifth album Daydream. Accompanying the original release was a more hip hop driven remix featuring Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’Dirty Bastard. It would be this song that started a trend in Mariah’s career to take a more pop flavoured song and give it an urban makeover, oftentimes completely reinventing the original track with barely any semblance of its original incarnation. What would follow were some of Mariah’s strongest songs that I think often outshone their parent track. Here are a few of my favourite MC remixes.
HEARTBREAKER (Desert Storm Remix) feat. Da Brat and Missy Elliott
The original version of this song is classic pop Mariah. It’s very reminiscent of Fantasy and for that reason was at the time criticised by some for not breaking new ground. The Desert Storm remix still has a pop feel in the first half of Mariah’s sung part as melodically she keeps things similar to the original, but it’s from the second verse on when we’re treated to new, more confrontational lyrics sung over a different melody that this song starts to hit new territory.
The fact this mix made it on to the Rainbow album as not even a bonus track but a regular song (with only five tracks separating the original from the remix) tells me that Mariah knew of its strength too. She even gave this remix its own music video featuring Da Brat, Missy and Snoop Dogg (whose song Ain’t No Fun is used here as an instrumental sample), and performed the remix version at high profile events including the 1999 MTV EMAs and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
At the time of release, if you wanted to listen to pop Mariah you could go to Fantasy, Dreamlover, Make It Happen, Emotions… But being a fan in 1999 when this remix was released it really felt like we were being given something new. Of course Mariah was no stranger to R&B at this point having released the aforementioned Fantasy remix, Honey, Breakdown, The Roof etc, but the addition of two of rap’s biggest female stars of the time elevated this song not only to pop/R&B/hip hop crossover perfection, but to a place of female empowerment, and that is what felt new for Mariah.
The original version of this song had all the makings of a classic Mariah Carey ballad yet somehow hasn’t stood the test of time against some of her stronger offerings. Perhaps it’s the addition of Joe and 90° (remember them?) that makes it very much a song of its time, not to mention Mariah all but ignoring it from her live set since the conclusion of the Rainbow tour in 2000 which has caused the song to be almost completely wiped from memory (a short snippet of the song was performed during Mariah’s Number 1s to Infinity show in Vegas).
It’s by no means a bad song, but by this point in her career it was clear Mariah was still grappling between two worlds; pop and R&B. The tussle would continue for a few years where Mariah’s albums would feature heavy hip hop influences and R&B driven tracks, but then also a few classic ballads to appease longtime fans and no doubt record execs who were still fearful of this direction. Interestingly, most of the ballads released over those years such as this, Lead The Way (Glitter) and Through The Rain (Charmbracelet) haven’t had the longevity of other Mariah ballads. It’s worth noting that it was only when Mariah fully embraced her R&B leanings that she found commercial success again (See: The Emancipation of Mimi).
The Make It Last remix stands out for me because there was authenticity from Mariah that I felt coming through on these R&B remixes. It just seemed like that’s where Mariah’s passion truly lay at this point. As with Heartbreaker, an altogether separate video was filmed for the remix featuring Mariah and Joe (98° did not make the cut here, instead being replaced by Nas) in a small underground club basically just drinking, dancing and having a lovely old time. Mariah looked relaxed and in her element, although the braids and cowboy hat were questionable (hey it was the 90s). This mix still gets regular play from me and I’ve always loved Mariah’s vocal performance on this one. Check it out below.
THROUGH THE RAIN (Remix) feat. Kelly Price and Joe
When talking about Through The Rain in a recent interview with Genius, Mariah commented that the record label wanted her to release it as the first single from Charmbracelet as a sob story, no doubt to win over the public after her highly publicised breakdown and commercial and critical struggle with Glitter. Once again though this is another ballad which falls short in comparison to her other greats, and whilst the song felt clichéd upon its release in 2002, sixteen years later it gives you the kind of headache you’d get from eating too much sugar. This song is just way too sweet. Thankfully though, she did bless us with a remix that teamed her back with Joe, and gave Kelly Price – a previous backing singer of Carey’s – a chance to come and kill it with some ad libs.
The reason this remix stands out for me is because it gets across the same message as the original but doesn’t take itself as seriously. The vocal arrangement feels organic and unpredictable and therefore more heartfelt. Also, the gospel influence stops this version feeling clinical in its delivery of a message of hope and perseverance as that message sits perfectly in this genre.
I have this remix on a playlist that I listen to when I need uplifting and I defy anyone to get to the end of those three minutes and thirty five seconds not feeling a little more hopeful than they were at the start.
Honourable mention must be given to I Still Believe (Pure Imagination Remix) and Always Be My Baby (Mr Dupri Mix).
Currently Playing: Blessed – Daniel Caesar