Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Yes, I am writing this post after watching the adorable Netflix film “Always Be My Maybe” over the weekend. And yes, I did bop along as this song played over the ending credits, just before the absolute song of the year “Best Believe I Punched Keanu Reeves,” was unveiled and blew my mind. However, this isn’t about that masterpiece. It’s about why I believe that Mariah Carey‘s “Always Be My Baby” is the best song she’s ever performed. In life. There are reasons. In fact, in honor of the dopeness of the song and Black Music Month, let me give you five.
Here we go.
1. THE LYRICS: They’re perfect. Think about it: what other song succinctly tells the story of the longing one has for an ex-lover? None. That’s how many. Written by Carey, Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal, the midtempo track is hypnotic and could easily serve as a lullaby under different circumstances, especially with Mariah’s pipes. She rides the beat of the groove and croons sullenly about a love gone wrong and the attraction that lingers on long after the relationship ends.
2. THE VIDEO: Sure the video tells the story of a young love gone wrong, but it’s also Mariah in what seems to be her element: casually stunting on water as she swings above it on a swing supreme, letting it know she is in fact better than the universal liquid. The flashbacks that show two youngins sneaking out and meeting up at the same spot. Turns out it was filmed in the Catskills at The Fresh Air Fund‘s Camp Mariah, and yes it was named after Ms. Carey in appreciation of her support and dedication to the not-for-profit.
3. THE PRODUCTION: We already knew Dupri was a musical genius, with the success he garnered producing acts such as Da Brat, Xscape and Usher. Yet what he did here, with Mariah’s voice, was even more stellar. Mariah breaks down how it all came together for the supersong:
“Jermaine, Manuel and I sat down and Jermaine programmed the drums. I told him the feel I wanted and Manuel put his hands on the keyboards and I started singing the melody. We went back and forth with the bridge and the B-section. I had the outline of the lyrics and started singing ‘Always Be My Baby’ off the top of my head.”
Genius say what now?! The song also featured background vocals by Carey featuring her lower registers while she belted high notes over the melody. They called that a “double voice effect” back in 1996. Today, we just call her Lalah Hathaway. Heh.
4. THE CHARTS: Released on March 9, 1996, the track debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for four weeks before hitting the top spot, where it spent two weeks before dropping back down to the second spot for five more weeks. It was the single that followed her hit “One Sweet Day” with Boyz II Men, which also spent time atop the Hot 100.
5. THE REMIX: Also produced by Dupri and known as the “Mr. Dupri Mix,” the remix to “Always Be My Baby” miiiiight be just as good as the original. It features Da Brat and background vocals from Xscape, and uses a sample from the SOS Band‘s “Tell Me If You Still Care.” Straight fire. It extended the life of the song during 1996 and gave all of us who were making homemade mixtapes an alternate version to feature as we got over the one that got away.
Good, good times. Always.