25 Criminally Underrated Mariah Carey Songs
A treasure trove of the deep Mariah album cuts that have been hiding in plain sight.
From Mariah Carey (1990):
From Emotions (1991):
Go ahead and just TRY not to get chills during the first 30 seconds of this underrated gem. This is Mariah's voice in its prime and her vocal acrobatics are in full effect: low-register growling, soaring belts, whispers, coos, and, yes, whistles. Maybe the best, most chilling intro to a Mariah song too.
From Music Box (1993):
3. "Do You Think Of Me" (B-side to "Dreamlover")
From Merry Christmas (1994):
From Daydream (1995):
8. "Underneath The Stars"
Lambs know the power of this classic Mariah ballad — but it's time it gets its due and joins the canon of Great Love Songs. Mariah narrates the devastating, life-altering moment of falling in love at first sight, and her delivery is so heart-bursting, when she sings, "I could not breathe / I fell so deep," your chest tightens with each note. That the song is about previously not believing this kind of transformative moment was possible ("And I thought it was all untrue / Until there all at once I knew"), gives the final crescendo that much more heft.
10. "Slipping Away" (B-side to "Always Be My Baby")
What makes this track stand out is the fact that Mariah incorporates elements of doo-wop along with contemporary R&B and it actually works. Her enchanting voice flutters on the song, and the "dum dum" of the bass in the song is infectious too. It's a silky smooth '90s jam. You'll have to force yourself to stop hitting replay.
From Butterfly (1997):
It's kind of insane that "The Roof" isn't a monster classic R&B hit, but somehow it just never got its due. It's not only Mariah's sexiest video, it's also a song that still feels just as fresh, sultry, and baby-making today as it did in 1998. And the lyrics are basically as titillating as a soft-core romance novel, but specific and well-written. Basically, this song will make you blush as you remember your last sexcapade.
The release of Mariah's Butterfly not only conveyed an obvious departure from the big, swooping ballads she sang during the early '90s, it was also a sexual awakening for the songbird. On "Babydoll," she sings, "Zoning out thinking 'bout you and me between the sheets / I wanna get intimate but you're not within my reach." The lead single from this album, "Honey," may have been overtly sexual, but "Babydoll" is its polar opposite, combining a syrupy sweet melody with alluring and loving lyrics.
"Breakdown" might be the realest song Mariah's written – for anyone who's going through a breakup or knows the pain of unrequited love, this song cuts straight through all your defenses and forces you to acknowledge your feelings – all of the feelings.
I mean: "Friends ask me how I feel and I lie convincingly / 'Cause I don't want to reveal the fact that I'm suffering / So I wear my disguise till I go home at night / and turn down all the lights and then I break down and cry"
Way to hold up a mirror and force us to acknowledge our pain, Mariah. Well played.
From #1's (1998):
"Sweetheart" shows off the magic of the longstanding relationship between MC and Jermaine Dupri. Mariah pioneered the now ubiquitous marriage between hip-hop/R&B and pop music in the early '90s, and her Butterfly-era jam elevates it into a slick banger that shows off her edgier side.
From Rainbow (1999):
"Bliss" is a slow jam on another level. THIS is what you put on when you want to make a baby or stare googly-eyed into your lover's eyes. Half Mariah's signature coos and whispers, and half insane, soft whistle register, the song shows off her incredible voice control. She brings to life what stretching out and rolling around in your sheets in the morning sunlight feels like.
A melancholic lullaby for adults, "Crybaby" shows off Mariah's versatility as an artist; her typically silky voice turns husky and sing-songy as she narrates walking around her new lover's home during a sleepless night, Bailey's Cream in hand, thinking about her ex and what could have been.
From Charmbracelet (2002):
Charmbracelet is maybe Mariah's most-forgotten album but there are some gems that deserve their due, like the infinitely catchy "Irresistible (West Side Connection)." It's a mid-tempo, crackly jam with an old-school groove – complete with light turntable scratches – that's fun and coyly playful, which is Mariah's sweet spot.
From The Emancipation of Mimi (2005):
20. "Say Somethin'" feat. Snoop Dogg
This Neptunes creation just gets better with age. In 2006, fans were maybe still yearning for Mariah, The Belter, but nearly a decade later, it hits just the right speed. Just put it on the next time you have a party, and watch people start to vibe out – think Groove Theory's "Tell Me" meets Janet's "That's The Way Love Goes."
From E=MC² (2008):
From Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel (2009):
What better way to tell off an ex who did you wrong than by telling them, "It's a wrap"? The song tells the story of an "oh so acquiescent" Mariah, who finally tells her man to put all his "shit in the elevator" and "scoot do do doot," and the result is a delicious, cheeky kiss-off song that may be Mariah's best breakup anthem.
From Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse" (2014):
"Dedicated" makes no secret of being a throwback: The song opens with her and label executive Steve Stoute waxing nostalgic and she sings, "I'll just sit right here and sing that good old school shit to ya," while sampling Wu Tang. She sounds wistful, longing for and sweetly remembering a different time in music (and life): "Long lost friend from way back when / Eric B. was president /Tell me where the melody went." Twenty-four years after she put out her first album, "Dedicated" feels like a well-earned walk down memory lane.