Throwback Thursday: Mariah Carey – “Honey”
Mariah Carey’s sixth LP, Butterfly, turns 25 tomorrow, so in anticipation of this milestone anniversary, it is only right that we revisit its lead single, “Honey.”
Released on July 29, 1997, “Honey” is a landmark in Mariah’s career. It was her first single after separating from Tommy Mottola, and without his influence — or rather, restraint — she was showing the public a new side of her. While she had drawn from hip-hop over the years (most famously on the “Fantasy” remix), you could always sense that there was a concerted effort to maintain her adult-contemporary-adjacent image through it all.
That all changed with “Honey.” Co-produced by Diddy, Stevie J, the Ummah and the singer herself, the beat knocks so hard that you can tell nobody was in the studio thinking about AC radio. For the first time, Mariah didn’t wait for the remix to give us a club banger. And because it was the ’90s, it was perfectly normal to sang down on a club banger, and that is exactly what she did.
The “Honey” video showed more of Mariah than we’d ever seen before — literally and figuratively. Playing a secret agent held captive by a mob boss and his goons (including one played by Eddie Griffin), Mariah escapes by doing a now-iconic leap from a balcony into a pool, where she takes off her dress to reveal a Bond-girl-style bikini. It is the least we had ever seen her wear and the most personality she had ever shown the public.
Though stellar in its own right, the “Honey” remix isn’t thought of as one of Mariah’s greatest remixes because she didn’t do the kind of overhaul she would later become known for. That being said, the LOX and Mase rapped their asses off on that track, and seeing Mariah let loose with the Bad Boy crew was quite radical at the time.
Twenty-one years after its release, Mariah revealed that the “Honey” remix was actually supposed to feature the Notorious B.I.G. (and no one else), but unfortunately, he was killed before they got a chance to work together.
“Honey” would go on to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her third song to do so — a record at the time — and the sixth song in history to accomplish that feat. It would also become her 12th No. 1 hit, breaking a three-way tie with Whitney Houston and Madonna for the most No. 1s among female solo artists, and tying the Supremes’ record for female acts. By the following year, Mariah would break that tie as well, and today, she has a whopping 19 No. 1s — the most among all solo acts.