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Source Material: Mariah Carey, Daydream

by Rachel Devitt

Source Material: Mariah Carey, Daydream


More than 20 years ago, Mariah Carey came into our lives as an exciting young singer with a sprawling, rafters-shaking range and the ability to sing the guts out of some serious adult-contemporary pop. And she could have kept doing just that: after all, even if some critics called it a Whitney Houston impersonation, it was a wildly successful one (and arguably one that out-Whitney'd Whitney).

Instead, Mimi began to chafe at the restraints placed on her by her label, that label's leader (her then-hubby Tommy Mottola) and that shiny but square vocal-pop sound. In 1995, after toying with bits of R&B and hip-hop on earlier albums, she made her intentions to take a dramatic step in that direction crystal clear with her fifth album. Daydream featured production work by Jermaine Dupri and Puffy, cameos from Boyz II Men and (on the remix to "Fantasy") Ol' Dirty Bastard, and a distinctively urban aesthetic -- all of which Mimi had to do battle with Columbia over. But the experiment paid off: "Fantasy" and "Always Be My Baby," both steeped in contemporary R&B, became two of her most career-beloved songs, while "One Sweet Day" became the longest-running No. 1 song in U.S. chart history.

Daydream isn't a simple 180, however. Rather, it's very much a transitional album, one that cozies Mariah's past sound right up to her present and showcases the range of styles she's capable of. Hip-hop and contemporary R&B alternate with quiet storm and adult contemporary, heartfelt gospel breakdowns and satiny boudoir jams, girl-group soul and, um, Journey covers. In other words, it's a testament to the myriad, interconnected influences and inspirations that have colored Mariah's entire career. We broke them down for you in this Source Material guide to the gamut-spanning pop reverie that is Daydream.