25 Years of ‘Daydream’
This past weekend marked 25 years since the release of one of the greatest albums ever made: Mariah Carey’s Daydream.
Released just five years into her career, Daydream was Mariah’s fourth “studio album” — I consider Merry Christmas a studio album, but whatevs — and her sixth project overall. Under normal circumstances, everyone would be muhfuckin’ tide of an artist that releases that many albums in the first half-decade of her career — especially one that enjoys major success with each release. Mariah, however, was able to avoid — or perhaps, withstand — overexposure. We could probably attribute some of it to a general insatiable demand for her, but nonetheless, the music was just that good. And in the case of Daydream, it had gotten even better.
Daydream is a melody galore and one of a very small group of albums that I consider to have no skips. I’m tempted to describe the album as the precise point where “pop” and R&B meet, but the fact of the matter is that it is an R&B album through and through. However, every song on the album is so easy to love that I’m sure a lot of people will ignorantly describe it as a “pop”-leaning album.
With the album’s first track, which also happened to be its first single, Mariah made history by becomng the first woman to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The “Fantasy” hook is one that sticks on the first listen, and 25 years later, we can comfortably describe that song as timeless. Also, its remix, which featured Ol’ Dirty Bastard, was basically a cultural reset, making rap features the new normal.
With an eight-week run at No. 1, “Fantasy” tied “Dreamlover” as her longest-running No. 1 yet. Cue “One Sweet Day.”
“One Sweet Day” is the kind of synergy that record labels dream of. Two of the hottest acts in the game — Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men — get together to create a song that not only works perfectly for both styles but achieves a kind of success that neither had achieved alone. The single not only broke Mariah’s personal record, it broke every record there ever was. It debuted at No. 1., making her the first artist to accomplish that twice, and then went on to spend a then-record-breaking 16 weeks at the summit — a record that would last till Lil Nas X released four heavily promoted remixes of the same song to secure 19 weeks at No. 1. But I digress.
The album’s third and final single in the States’ was “Always Be My Baby,” which almost had Mariah go three-for-three, but it debuted at No. 2 before eventually ascending to No. 1. “Always Be My Baby” didn’t reign nearly as long as either of its two immediate predecessors, but one could argue that it has had a bigger legacy — and if you’ve ever been to a karaoke bar, you probably understand what I mean. The track is also notable for being the first collabo between Mariah and Jermaine Dupri.
“Underneath the Stars” was supposed to be the fourth single in the States — a video was shot and everything — but got shelved along the way. It would have been her most mature-sounding single to date, and perhaps one that might’ve been harder to describe as pop — because it was just that soulful. The song was the first one written and recorded for this album, and is a fan favorite till this day. Columbia Records’ decision to not release it exemplifies fumbling the bag. No official reason was ever given as to why, so we’re just going to assume that Tommy Mottola was being a hater.
Elsewhere on the album, Mariah gave us the lavish ballads that so many love her for, and with her cover of “Open Arms,” she continued her tradition of shitting on originals.
Among what’s left of the album, the most noteworthy tracks is undoubtedly “Melt Away,” Mariah’s second collabo with Babyface and her first real slow jam.
One of the more unfortunate yet illuminating parts of Daydream’s legacy is that it showed us the extent to which the Recording Academy can get it wrong. Despite dominating the charts in ways rarely ever seen, and being nominated for six awards (including all of the biggest ones), Mariah Carey left the 38th Grammy Awards empty-handed.
When the “opinion leaders” commit to disrespecting true talent, all you have left is the numbers. And while I hate saying that “numbers don’t lie” — because they so often do — the numbers did, in fact, not lie this time around. Daydream sold over 25 million copies worldwide, becoming MC’s second-highest selling album — Music Box did 32 million.
Mariah has never been deeper in her bag than she was on Daydream. Vocally, she was still in her prime, and creatively, she has never had more juice.
Picking a favorite from a masterpiece is no easy task, but there’s something about “Underneath the Stars.”