30 years ago this week, Mariah Carey released her third studio album, ‘Music Box’. The streamlined 10-track collection is one of the best-selling albums in the world, and remains the Songbird Supreme’s biggest seller in the UK.
‘Music Box’ saw Carey co-create more extensively with producer Walter Afanasieff, exploring a softer more pop-oriented sonic palette than the more buoyant ‘Emotions’. Bar lead single ‘Dream Lover’ and deep cut ‘Now That I Know’, the album features some of Carey’s most enduring ballads, ‘Anytime You Need A Friend’, ‘Without You’ and ‘Hero’.
Unlike Carey’s later solo efforts ‘Daydream’ and ‘Butterfly’, which benefited from Carey’s popularisation of experimental R&B-Rap hybrids and greater creative autonomy, ‘Music Box’ was by comparison a sleek adult contemporary record embracing universal themes of all-encompassing love and commitment – filtering dreamy, semi-confessional reveries to the masses. Its legacy is evident in the countless covers and renditions of Carey’s songs on reality TV shows around the world, but as ‘Music Box’ conveyed across resplendent power ballads, Carey’s multi-octave range can’t so easily be imitated. With ‘Music Box’, Mariah Carey the pop savant had been awakened.
Clash spoke to Mariah Carey in 2016, and she mused in the intimate relationship she holds with her fans. “The whole point about me and my fans is that we have a very exceptional relationship; it’s not typical,” she explains. “They are there to have an experience with me – it’s not just like, ‘Come and see me because I think I’m so…something,’ you know? I’m literally there to have an experience with them.”
Before we discussed her need for creative independence, and an enduring sense of control in her artistry. “I’ve always been about being in control of my music,” she upholds, “and even as a teenage girl, when I first got my record deal, I said, ‘You can’t make me do other people’s songs.’ I had two other record companies that wanted me, and I said, ‘I have to do my own songs. I’ll write with somebody else, I’ll work with somebody else, but I refuse to just be told what to sing.’ Because even as a little kid, I knew that a lot of the songs that I was hearing were not what I would have chosen, you know?”
What are your memories of ‘Music Box’? Revisit the album below.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain