For almost three decades, Mariah Carey’s unparalleled five-octave range and anointed voice has earned her unbeatable prestige and countless accolades including 18 number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. But what many don’t always experience are the dozens of tracks that truly define her artistry. While Carey’s music vitae of hits is downright impressive, her deep album cuts are the gateway to discovering the true depths of Mimi.
As we wait for her 15th studio album, Caution, to drop, we turn over the record bin to revisit ten overlooked MC songs that you may not be aware of from her first-class catalog (unless you’re a die-hard lamb).
10. “Vanishing” — Mariah Carey (1990)
Carey made one of her first declarations as a singer’s singer with this super ballad from her acclaimed debut album. The piano-led song is a somber tale of diminishing love and false promises. Carey summons all of the gravel from her lower register and resonates with monstrous volume at precise moments to flaunt her upper vocal range.
9. “The Wind” — Emotions (1991)
On this slow-burning Emotions closer, the songstress ventures into the realm of jazz. The lyrics, inspired by a fallen friend, reflect on fleeting memories and the lasting impression that loss can create. Listeners will appreciate the finesse she employs as she utilizes breathy phrases and coos before she scalps listeners with a soaring belt from above. The wordplay in this touching score demonstrates Carey’s multifaceted songwriting abilities. She paints a vivid picture with strong metaphors and symbolism.
8. “Everything Fades Away” — Music Box [International Release] (1993)
Hailing from her Music Box album, “Everything Fades Away” came at a time in Carey’s career where she found herself compelled do step outside of her patrolled ‘music box.’ While this recording doesn’t offer a drastic change in the landscape of her previous ballads, it is one of the most impressive vocal recordings from Music Box. Even when the lyrical content didn’t match the quality of her glamorous voice, Carey still knew how to enthrall listeners by giving them an experience with her golden pipes. It’s the perfect song to lament a failed relationship, or an opportune sing-along song on a bleak road trip.
7. “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)” — Merry Christmas (1994)
“I gaze out the window, this cold winter’s night / At all of the twinkling lights / Alone in the darkness, remembering when you were mine.” Those haunting lines describe the melancholy this underrated holiday cut embodies. Penned by Carey herself, the fire-burning ode singes deep with its ability to dredge up nostalgia with your passed loved ones. It also helps that the vocals are sultry and soothing; a magical tone only Mimi is capable of tapping into.
6. “Slipping Away” [B-side to “Always Be My Baby”] — Daydream (1995)
For this agonizing record, which was kept off the final version of Daydream, it was rumored to have been written about Carey’s disillusionment with her then-husband, Tommy Mottola. In hindsight, it does seem a little on the nose. However, this song had no right playing second fiddle to “Always Be My Baby” as amazing as that classic is. If given the chance to be heard by the 20 million who bought Daydream, “Slipping Away” would have surely become a massive hit. Its thumping melody and the way the hip-hop aficionado diva rides the beat is otherworldly. She makes the act of being petty into a beautiful treat.
5. “The Roof” — Butterfly (1997)
Sampling “Shook Ones” by Mobb Deep, “The Roof” is known by a select few listeners outside of the Lambily. The treasured song, along with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony assisted track “Breakdown,” never received proper treatment when the ‘97 album dropped due to alleged label conflicts with Sony. “The Roof,” however, supersedes the high bar of “Breakdown” by capturing the seductive siren at her most elegant. When Carey is singing over a minimalist beat and lets her clever pen flow, she’s absolutely captivating on a level few pop songwriters can compare to.
4. “Crybaby” — Rainbow (1999)
Snoop Dogg hopping on a song with a reigning pop princess was the last thing the world knew it needed in 1999. Fortunately for us, Snoop brought his A-game to pair with Carey’s zaniness and created a standout track that is perfect for any hectic karaoke moment. With a signature West Coast melody supplying life to the record and Mariah going tit-for-tat with Snoop, it’s a felony crime this song didn’t chart higher (No. 28) on the Billboard Hot 100.
3. “The One” — Charmbracelet (2004)
By the time she released “The One,” Carey had experienced her fair share of love with suitors such as a Luis Miguel and other brief flings. On the Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox production, Mimi lends out a dose of advice for starry-eyed lovers who are smitten with their significant others. And once you think she’s preached it all to you, she hits you with a flutter of whistle notes at the end to nail the point. It’s classic Mariah Carey, but with much of the fire she developed post-exhaustion from her Glitter era.
2. “Languishing” [Interlude] — Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel (2009)
Everyone knows the elite diva as a consummate writer of love songs and all that comes with that. However, on this laconic interlude she shows that her repertoire is nothing short of expansive by tackling topics such as alienation and self-dread. Carey is valued for her capacity to bring things to life, but we must also give her credit for being able to break us down so we can get to a place of healing.
1. “4real4real” — E=MC² (2008)
One thing to love about Carey is she is a versatile artist. She’ll make you weep endlessly and have you bopping for joy all in the span of two tracks. This international bonus track from this sonically plentiful album reminds us that Carey is at her most comfortable when she’s being her goofy self. On the comedic, witty up-tempo, which features Da Brat, you can feel the positivity she emanates when she is playing around. Lyrics like, “Hotter than cable TV / Like something out of your dreams” are staples of Carey’s sardonic humor. You can only claim you know MC as an artist if you know that she’s capable of giving you a bit of everything; even laughter.
Make sure to pre-order your copy of Caution now. Carey’s new album, due this Friday (Nov. 16), features guest stars Ty Dolla $ign, Slick Rick, Blood Orange and Gunna. The LP includes previously released songs “GTFO,” “The Distance,” “With You” and fan-favorite, “A No No.”
Follow Edward on Twitter at @eddy_564.