Breakdown: Debating the True Successes of Mariah Carey’s Career

Mariah Carey

FourFour re-evaluates a New Yorker article on Mariah Carey and her influence in music through the years:

Disciples of Mariah like to paint her as a pioneer for asking ODB to spit on Diddy's remix of "Fantasy." Sure, it was an unexpected move from someone whom, up to that point, you could listen to with your mom. But mostly, it was just a realization of hip-hop's inevitable saturation and takeover of pop music. All this on top of the fact that it wasn't even the first of such pairings. For example, in 1989, Jody Watley teamed up with Rakim for "Friends". Watley was almost the same sort of boundary-dodging diva as Mariah (except the kind of pop that Watley intertwined with R&B wasn't showy balladry, but the watered-down boogie of dance-pop). The ODB-Mariah collabo resulted in a great record, perhaps Carey's finest, but the fantasizing is best left to her. 

Instead of paying lip service to her supposed trailblazing, it'd be more productive to give Mariah props for something she really was among the first to do, namely, the fast slow jam with double-time singing that's sort of inescapable if you turn on R&B radio today (I think "Say My Name" first brought it to No. 1 and a track like T-Pain and Akon's "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)" is helping preserve the legacy). "Breakdown", a 1997 collaboration with Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony helped kick off the craze (I can think of only one record that did it earlier – Aaliyah's "One in a Million," although with that one it was much easier to get lost in the futurism of the production than to pay attention the songwriting and vocal arrangement). "Breakdown," was, in fact, so seminal that almost 10 years later, Carey's still replicating its template and releasing the results as singles. "We Belong Together," "Shake It Off" and "Don't Forget About Us" are the commercial realization of the greatness of "Breakdown." Now everyone's caught up.

The rest can be found here

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