Daydream: A Musical Demarcation


By Austin B. Hahn

Stepping into a more contemporary R&B and hip-hop direction, from Tom Tom Club’s upbeat tempo to the grandiose ballad, “One Sweet Day”, the harmonious melodies of Mariah Carey’s Daydream are sure to leave listeners in a reverie. The album was nominated for six Grammy awards including record of the year (Crowe). In spite of being acclaimed as a success by critics (Grein and Hilburn), Carey lost in every category. The 1996 Grammy awards were a travesty and underestimated the album’s artistic quality; nevertheless,Daydream is a marvel of work that exemplifies the songstress’s vocal prowess.

With the 1995 release, Carey diverged from her previous pop material with the urban R&B hit, “Fantasy”, which lasted 8 weeks at number one on the billboard chart (Trust). While featuring elements of hip-hop and dance-pop, the record heavily sampled Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” (Holden). Carey’s melismatic technique blends evenly with the song’s chord progression and parallels the merits of her earlier work.

“Underneath the Stars” brings a childlike wonder to romance. The added synthetic scratches give it a 70s retro melody that will have lovers slow dancing under the moonlight. “Underneath the Stars” is my personal favorite because it’s redolent of an elusive summer romance on a late, balmy night. Moreover, I love how it captivates the naivety and exhilaration of being in love without sounding like a saccharine love story. This classic will enrapture any dreamer’s imagination.

In “One Sweet Day”, Carey collaborated with Boyz II Men. The ballad reflects upon the loss of a loved one and words that were left unsaid. “Sorry. I never told you all I wanted to say, and now it’s too late to hold you,” (Carey). The song takes the emotions out of someone’s heart who’s mourning the death of their significant other and puts them into lyrical context; it’s no wonder why the song spent sixteen weeks at number one, making it the longest running number in U.S. chart history (Ankeny).

As a personal choice, Carey covered Journey’s 1982 hit, “Open Arms.” Although she delivered a soulful rendition, the cover received negative reception from critics calling it “uninspired” (Lamb). This track is great for any Mariah Carey fan to listen to because it showcases her chest voice.

“Always Be My Baby” expresses the emotional connection a faithful lover feels towards their distant partner. Carey layers the background vocals with her lower register and higher octaves. Fans who have admired her work from the beginning of her career will adore “Always Be My Baby” because of the soft-hearted candor it exudes.

The gospel-influenced tune, “I Am Free”, the sensational adult contemporary R&B, “When I Saw You”, and the 60s slow jam of “Forever” evince the sentiment of her previous albums. Even though Daydream demarcates new musical boundaries for Mariah Carey, she doesn’t abandon the ballads that made her famous. A variety of vocal dynamics are incorporated into the album ranging from the riffs and whistling in “I Am Free” to the belting of “When I Saw You.” The power of her voice and unique style can be heard in each one of these songs.

“Long Ago” was one of the firsts that Mariah co-wrote with record producer, Jermaine Dupri, who eventually became a regular songwriter throughout her career. This song’s darker hip-hop oriented baseline synchronizes with its lyrical content. “You told me pretty lies as I held onto you tight. You knew how to get your way,” (Carey). I would recommend anyone who’s reminiscing about a bittersweet, past love affair to listen to this.

Sensual and seductive, “Melt Away” is a mellow tempo that romanticizes the idea of being the beloved one of another. I believe that the sultry groove should be noted for its vocal versatility. Carey hits notes from as low as D3 to as high as B6. The diverse range of this woman’s voice is remarkable! In addition, “Melt Away” is an intricately articulate masterpiece that communicates the splendor of imagination and ethereal love through song. Overall, the record helps elucidate why Daydream is a must have.

Carey worked with David Morales, a house music producer, on “Daydream Interlude (Fantasy Sweet Dub Mix)”, which was a remix of “Fantasy”, and the first that Carey had ever done. This club beat was just one of the many remixes she would make throughout her career. “Daydream Interlude (Fantasy Sweet Dub Mix)”, is a funky jam evocative of the “feel-good” 90s era and will have anyone at a party dancing along to the rhythm of the beat.

“Looking In” became Mariah Carey’s most personal song at the time; it divulged personal information about her childhood experiences and the transitions that she was going through. The accompaniment of the orchestration and piano complimented her voice. “She smiles through a thousand tears and harbors adolescent fears,” (Carey). Intimate and melancholic, “Looking In” was a suitable concluding track for the album since Mariah became more confident in herself and in her artistry which led her to the next chapter of her life: Butterfly.

As a Mariah Carey and longtime R&B fan, I think Daydream is her best work. She took control of the creative process in this album and tapped into her own artistic style. Most importantly, she balances emotional content with her vocal ability to create a semblance of life in every song. Mariah integrates her emotive songwriting skills and various vocal techniques throughout the album that transcend commercialized music. Daydream is an elaborate, irrevocable work of musical refinement that affirms Mariah as a universally renowned artist and will have listeners drifting into “another state of mind,” (Carey).

Works Cited

Ankeny, Jason. “Mariah Carey: Biography.” Billboard. n.d. Web. 1 November, 2013.

Crowe, Jerry. “The 38th Annual Grammy Nominations: The Grammy’s New Vitalogy.” Los Angeles Times 5 January, 1996.

Grein, Paul, and Robert Hilburn. “Grammy Carey-Over? : It’s a rock fan’s worst daydream.” Los Angeles Times 25 February, 1996.

Holden, Stephen. “POP MUSIC; Mariah Carey Glides Into New Territory.” New York Times 8 October 1995. Web. 1 November, 2013.

Lamb, Bill. “Mariah Carey ‘Daydream’.” Rev. of Daydream, by Mariah n.d. Mariah Carey. Daydream, 1995. Colombia. CD.

Trust, Gary. “Happy Birthday Mariah Carey, Chart Icon.” Billboard. 27 March, 2012. Web. 1 November, 2013.


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