Throwback Thursday: Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men – “One Sweet Day”
In case you missed it, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” is now the longest-running No. 1 in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, with 17 weeks so far. Though impressive, the deployment of a thousand remixes has earned this achievement a much-needed asterisk. The truly iconic don’t need remixes to dominate the charts.
And when I say “the truly iconic,” I’m referring to the likes of Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, who now have the second-longest-running No. 1 in the history of the US charts: “One Sweet Day.”
Before I go any further, it’s worth noting that these two acts also have songs that rank as the third-longest-running No. 1s ever: Mariah with “We Belong Together” and Boyz II Men with “I’ll Make Love to You,” both with 14 weeks at the throne. Boyz II Men also have the fourth-longest-running No. 1 of all time: “End of the Road” (13 weeks). When I said iconic, I truly meant it.
“One Sweet Day” came about when Mariah and former writing partner Walter Afanasieff wrote a mournful song inspired by the passing of David Cole of C+C Music Factory, who was Mariah’s friend and collaborator. As they composed the song, Mariah thought it sounded like something that she could hear Boyz II Men singing, so she reached out for a possible collaboration.
Around the same time, Boyz II Men’s road manager had just passed away and Nathan Morris had written a song paying homage to him. When Boyz II Men finally linked up with Mariah and heard the first draft of “One Sweet Day,” they were stunned. The song Nathan had worked on sounded eerily similar to what Mariah played for them. Not only were they both about grief, but the lyrics and chord progressions were similar. The lyrics from Nathan’s version can be heard in the acappella version of “One Sweet Day,” and in the video below, you can actually hear his lyrics over the the instrumentals of the main version.
Mariah and the Boyz essentially merged songs to produce the final result we now know and love. And in a stroke of serendipitous genius, they decided to film the writing and recording session because their tight schedules would’ve made it impossible for them to link up again to shoot an actual video. It is hard to imagine what video treatment could’ve done this song justice, so I’m somewhat glad they never bothered. The studio clips seem just right.
“One Sweet Day” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming just the fourth song to do so and Mariah’s second to accomplish said feat — “Fantasy” had done so just months earlier. In the almost 24 years since its release, the song has remained evergreen and is considered one of the greatest collaborations of all time. No horse in the back can change that.