In terms of number 1 hits, only The Beatles have more than Mariah Carey. Since her powerful pipes burst on the scene in 1990, Mariah's responsible for some of the most iconic pop and R&B tunes of the last couple of decades. While we all know the big ones like "Vision of Love," "Fantasy," "Honey," and "We Belong Together," having 13 studio albums to her name (with a 14th on the way) means there is lots of buried treasure. While she's certainly released some memorable singles, some of her best songs were left on the shelf.
Die-hard Mariah Carey fans (known as Lambs) consider some of these the best songs Mariah has in her catalogue. If you're not apart of the Lambily, here are 10 Mariah songs to investigate in celebration of the icon's 44th birthday.
1. Sent From Up Above (1990): Further down the tracklist of Mariah's debut is this extremely 90s-sounding gem. There's a smoothness and sensual tone to it, contrasted against fierce, "Everybody Dance Now" chanting. It's breezy and perfect for a lazy summer day.
2. The Wind (1991) The closing track of Emotions has literal wind blowing, because of course, but it also has a smooth, delicate jazz sound featuring Mariah exhibiting complete restraint and control over her voice. It's haunting and dark, almost in a "Strange Fruit" kind of way.
3. Slipping Away (1995) This B-side to Mariah's unforgettable "Always Be My Baby" would have sounded right at home on Daydream, but it ultimately didn't make the cut. Light gospel flourishes alongside a hard, head-nodding beat is the quintessential example of Mariah embracing hip-hop during this era. It was the bridge she needed to meld her classic sound into contemporary pop, and this song is an effortless showcase.
4. Long Ago (1995) This could have easily been one of the last singles of the Daydream era. It doesn't have the sunny disposition of "Fantasy," but "Long Ago" has a strong chorus and a gritty street sound. There are moments and production effects that Timbaland would come to rely on for his work with Aaliyah.
5. Close My Eyes (1997) Mariah has a certain melody that winds up on every one of her albums. They usually showcase her songwriting abilities and have a confident stride in their sound. "Close My Eyes" from Butterfly is one of the strongest of these songs. Themes of familial struggle and the search for identity act as the backbone, and "Close My Eyes" is a confessional, sweeping ballad of the highest order.
6. Petals (1999) Another important song in Mariah's catalogue referencing her troubled upbringing. Listening to "Petals," which found itself on 1999s Rainbows, you'll hear echoes of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose." It has the same rainy night sound with a striking simplicity. We know Mariah can sing her lungs out, but when she dials it back a little, the results are just as impressive.
7. Your Girl (2005) When you listen to this song, it's easy to see where Mariah's latest single "You're Mine (Eternal)" was born. It's structured similarly and has a strong staccato chorus with impassioned vocals. It's representative of Mariah's creative rebirth at the time, when she released the now iconic Emancipation of Mimi album and tapped into every aspect of her music that makes her amazing.
8. I Wish You Well (2008) You'd think a song that directly quotes Bible verses sets itself up to be wretched. But this sparse closer from E=MC² strips away the overproduction that plagued a lot of the album in favor of the reason we listen to Mariah Carey: her angelic voice. Despite "I Wish You Well"'s heavenly sound, the song also acts as kiss-off with just the right amount of attitude and I don't-give-a-damn. "this goes out to you and you - you know who you are." I bet they do.
9. H.A.T.E.U. Remix ft. Gucci Mane, OJ Da Juiceman & Big Boi (2009) Although the original song was a single, this remix is what the song should have sounded like. Sampling the 90s classic "My Boo" by Ghost Town DJs, "H.A.T.E.U" goes from slow dirge to bouncy, smooth R&B. It could do without a couple of the rap features, but utilizing the melody of "My Boo" (which Ciara mimicked on her fantastic single "Body Party"), makes this the superior version.
10. Almost Home We can admit that Oz, The Great and Powerful was somewhat lackluster. Despite that, Mariah contributed the song "Almost Home" to its soundtrack and clearly stole the show. This Stargate production is the definition of an epic movie song; dramatic, anthemic chorus, and a climax that will make you lip sync wherever you are.
And that's it! Which ones did I miss?