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Miss Carey does have a special place in my heart; back in the day I was a huge fan. Friends of mine from my MIT days remember the Mariah poster (a secret Santa present) that always occupied a place of honor on my dorm wall from 1993 to 1995. Not so much today since, well, Mariah went insane back in 2001 and I did what any guy does when a woman goes insane: I ran the other way. Quickly. But from 1990 to 2000, she was more than a star… she was Mimi. Yes, well before she was emancipated.
I got her debut CD Mariah Carey back in 1990 (senior year, HS) as a hand-me-down - my older sister bought the CD, hated it, and gave it to me. I had heard her first single (“Vision of Love”) on the radio and didn’t have high expectations but I gave the album a chance. Yes, it was the generic mainstream watered-down R & B sound typical of Producer Walter Afanasieff (who also produced Celene Dion’s albums in that era), but I absolutely loved it! I didn’t even mind Mariah’s pathetic attempt at rapping on “Prisoner.”
In September 1991 Mariah released her second album just as I started my freshmen year at college. Once again I hated the first single. In fact, I hated all of the singles released from that album, but it didn’t matter - Till the End of Time had become one of my favorite songs ever and I would have gladly paid $15 for that one song alone. In fact, I’m listening to that song right now.
I had to wait two years for the next album, but it was worth it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked the debut single from Music Box. My most vivid memory from the period was the suffering not-so-silently in my dorm room from mononucleosis - that little illness caused me to miss out on dorm rush activities and the varsity football season. As I lay in bed downing painkillers and anti-inflammatory by the bucketfull, the sweet sound of Mariah singing Never Forget You and Music Box helped to ease my suffering. Along with lots of booze.
Daydream and Butterfly were released after I graduated college. As I was moving on in the world, so was Mariah. Walter Afanasieff’s influence began to wane as Mariah started producing her own tracks, and collaborating with hip hop impresarios like Sean Combs, ODB, and Jermaine Dupri. Daydream contained the landmark track One Sweet Day with Boyz II Men and Mimi began to make clear her desire to move to a more urban sound. 1997’s Butterfly, which cemented the transition was the last Mariah Carey album I purchased.
I’m no longer rushing out to buy her singles (like I said, she did go insane) but in addition to the fond memories I still use the jackswing remix of Someday and Dreamlover as demo songs for audio systems. Both tracks contain heavy bass which can sound sloppy in underdamped systems. I guess I should be amused to find that Mariah has weaseled her way into both my personal and professional lives.
Today I still long for that innocent (to me!) girl belting out those power ballads and flaunting her whistle register. But we’ll always have the 1990’s… Until the End of Time.