By Princess Gabbara
In addition to being the queen of Christmas, vocals, and an extensive vocabulary, Mariah Carey is notably also the queen of remixes, dahling. It’s no secret that the diva goes to great lengths to deliver a spectacular remix, often re-recording vocals, penning new lyrics, shooting new music videos, and recording different versions to satisfy pop, R&B, hip-hop, and EDM audiences.
The veteran artist even put out an entire album dedicated to some of her most memorable reworks, 2003’s The Remixes. Selling over 40,000 copies in its first week, the double-disc album spent 10 consecutive weeks atop the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. For Mariah, the art of the remix has always been an opportunity for her to flex her own creative muscles and reinvent herself as she glides through the decades.
Take the So So Def remix of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” for instance. Layering the holiday standard over an urban beat with elements from Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force’s “Planet Rock” speaks to Mariah’s willingness to take musical risks, like on the under-appreciated Glitter soundtrack (#JusticeForGlitter). And 2009’s “H.A.T.E.U.” was the gift that kept on giving, using a nostalgic sample of the Ghost Town DJ's song “My Boo” to further solidify Mariah's talent for bringing her most heart-wrenching ballads to life through remixes.
Following the release of her most recent studio album, Caution, in November, Carey revealed to Andy Cohen that a collaboration with Lil’ Kim and Cardi B — potentially even a remix of “A No No” — could be in the works. Carey’s longtime collaborator Jermaine Dupri, who produced the song, even hinted that Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott could appear on the track.
Unfortunately, this star-studded union still remains theoretical, but with Mariah's Caution World Tour kicking off tonight (February 27), there's no better time to highlight the 12 songs that prove MC is the queen of the remix.
“Someday” (New 12” Jackswing) — 1990
In 1991, “Someday” became Mariah’s first of 17 songs to reach No. 1 on the Dance Club Songs chart; veteran DJ Shep Pettibone reworked the dance-pop tune, adding new jack swing influences. Then, she was a newcomer, but soon, she'd take more creative control on her sophomore LP, Emotions.
“Loverboy” (Remix) feat. Da Brat, Ludacris, Shawnna and Twenty II — 2001
Built around the funkalicious groove of Cameo’s “Candy” from 1986, “Loverboy” ushered in a new era for MC as the first creative project following her departure from Columbia Records in 2001 — and its drag race-themed music video marked yet another image overhaul for the songbird supreme.
“Emotions” (12” Club Mix) — 1991
Mariah blessed our ears with a new gospel-style intro for 1991’s club mix to “Emotions.” This one features production credits from C+C Music Factory’s Robert Clivillés and the late David Cole, and was Mariah’s first collaboration with a notable dance producer to create a club remix.
“My All/Stay Awhile” (So So Def Remix) feat. Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz — 1998
This Latin-inflected ballad was one of Mariah’s first remixes to be built around the old R&B classics that she grew up loving as an aspiring performer. For the re-imagination of “My All,” Mariah blended the song’s first half with Loose Ends’ “Stay A While, Child” in another example of how some of Mariah’s finest tunes were constantly being reworked to reach wider audiences.
“Heartbreaker” (Remix) feat. Da Brat and Missy Elliott — 1999
Butterfly redefined Mariah’s career as she shifted toward a hip-hop sound, but 1999’s “Heartbreaker” remix marked the point of no return — heavily sampling and interpolating Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None).”
“Honey” (Classic Mix) — 1997
Mariah is known for using her club remixes as a vocal showcase for her stunning five-octave range — and “Honey” was no exception. In the late ’90s, the native New Yorker traded in her pop sound for her R&B and hip-hop roots, but dance remixes remained a constant throughout her career evolution. Producer-slash-DJ David Morales deserves major props for flipping this R&B standard into a straight club banger.
“Always Be My Baby” (Mr. Dupri Mix) feat. Da Brat and Xscape — 1996
Featuring background vocals from R&B quartet Xscape, this mesmerizing remix is as timeless as the original Daydream classic. Mariah first tested the waters on the album’s lead single “Fantasy,” but “Always Be My Baby” was Mariah’s second remix to feature a rap verse, making her transition into the hip-hop market that much more flawless. It’s also one of the first instances where Mariah collabed with Jermaine Dupri, who would go on to produce the 2005 hits, “Shake It Off” and “We Belong Together” — named “Song of the Decade” by Billboard in 2009.
“Dreamlover” (Def Club Mix) — 1993
A favorite among club-goers, this sultry remix of “Dreamlover” is best remembered for being Mariah’s first-ever collab with David Morales, as well as her first remix to feature re-recorded vocals.
“Thank God I Found You” (Make It Last Remix) feat. Joe and Nas — 2000
The alternate version of Mariah’s 15th chart-topper, “Thank God I Found You” is essentially a remake of Keith Sweat’s 1988 hit, “Make It Last Forever.” Earlier remakes (e.g. Journey’s “Open Arms”) mostly appealed to pop listeners, but as the new millennium was approaching, Carey segued into covering lesser-known R&B classics. This DJ Clue-helmed track is one of the rare instances in Mimi’s catalogue when the remix completely outshines the original production.
“I Still Believe/Pure Imagination” (Damizza Remix) feat. Krayzie Bone and Da Brat — 1999
Mariah’s gift for making over some of her biggest hits, as she did with the #1's cut "I Still Believe," is a bit uncanny. A brilliant interpolation of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’s “Pure Imagination” shows that Mariah has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to reintroducing old classics to younger generations. A few remixes were cut for “I Still Believe,” but this version — being so substantially different from the original — easily could’ve been released as its own single.
“Anytime You Need a Friend” (C+C Club Version) — 1994
This C+C club version ranks among Mariah’s strongest and most ebullient vocal performances to date. From the seemingly improvised scatting to those defiant vocal runs, this nightclub-ready version shows off Mariah’s ingenuity as an artist early on in her career. Moreover, the 11-minute track earned Mariah her first production credit for her remixes.
“Fantasy” (Bad Boy Remix) feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard — 1995
In 1995, Mariah enlisted the Wu-Tang Clan rapper to revamp the Tom Tom Club-sampling “Fantasy” — and in that moment she became a true trailblazer. MC and ODB’s unexpected pairing ignited the now-ubiquitous pop-rap collaboration, from NSYNC teaming up with Nelly for 2001’s “Girlfriend” (The Neptunes Remix) to Maroon 5 joining forces with Cardi B on 2018’s “Girls Like You.” Simply put, this bonafide classic changed pop music forever.
Princess Gabbara is a writer, editor, and storyteller who has penned stories for Billboard, Shondaland, Vibe, Bitch Media, Bustle, and The Boombox, to name a few. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and visit her website.