Mariah Carey, a.k.a. the GOAT, is known for her long string of No. 1 hit songs, including “Fantasy” and “We Belong Together,” but real fans know the magic of “Whenever You Call” and “I Only Wanted.”
Mimi’s been cranking out tunes for nearly three decades, which means she has lots of gems in her arsenal that deserve more attention. To celebrate the diva’s birthday, or “anniversary,” here are 25 must-listen tracks.
1. “There’s Got to Be a Way” (1990)
As the second track off Mariah’s debut, eponymous album, “There’s Got to Be a Way” tackles racism and poverty, making the song all the way relevant in the 1-8.
2. “Vanishing” (1990)
Mariah’s voice defined an entire generation. And in the stripped-down ballad “Vanishing,” the singer delivers raw emotion and unleashes that incredible range, with high and low notes and a sprinkle of ravishing, hard-to-duplicate runs.
3. “Alone in Love” (1990)
Some of MC’s best material is buried into her debut album, including the moody pop/R&B hybrid, “Alone in Love.” When Mariah belts out, “You hold me in my dreams/I’m calling out your name,” you can almost feel the abandonment in her voice.
4. “If It’s Over” (1991)
Co-written with Carole King, “If It’s Over” from Emotions failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, which is a bummer because Mariah oozes soul on this track. The ballad slightly echoes Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
5. “To Be Around You” (1991)
From the song’s arrangement to the late David Cole on keyboards, “To Be Around You” is nothing short of musical perfection. If this bop doesn’t instantly put you in a good mood, you might want to check your ears.
6. “Now That I Know” (1993)
Music Box spawned Mariah’s signature ballad “Hero,” but “Now That I Know” is an undeniable ‘90s club banger, with production notes from C&C Music Factory’s Robert Clivillés and the late David Cole.
7. “Do You Think of Me?” (1993)
Mariah embodies passion and sensuality in “Do You Think of Me?” From the lyric, “Am I in your fantasies the way you always wander into mine?” to those jazzy horns that appear midway through the track, it’s a shame this wasn’t released as a single.
8. “Underneath the Stars” (1995)
Taking influences from the late Minnie Riperton, “Underneath the Stars” is a personal favorite because it outshines even the biggest hits from Daydream (i.e. “One Sweet Day”), with its retro style, synthetic record scratches and magical, ethereal vibe.
9. “Long Ago” (1995)
Mariah shifted away from the expected pop sound on her fifth studio album, Daydream, while returning to her roots as someone who grew up in New York—the birthplace of hip-hop. “Long Ago” perfectly captures Mimi’s admiration for the genre as her velvety vocals glide through the track like silk.
10. “Melt Away” (1995)
“Melt Away” is easily one of the most underrated songs of Mariah’s entire discography. Co-written with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, the song’s melody is mesmerizing and lullaby-like, with the most sensual lyrics you can think of: “Imagining that you’re taking it slow/And so tenderly ‘till the feeling overflows.”
11. “Slipping Away” (1995)
Mariah slays with effortless vocals on the incredibly catchy “Slipping Away,” which contains a haunting melody that you can’t escape. The quintessential R&B song is a real groove, but it’s also a hidden gem since it was featured as a B-side to the No. 1 single, “Always Be My Baby.”
12. “The Roof” (1997)
Sampling Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” proves that Mimi is a real G. “The Roof” showcases the singer’s wicked imagination. Case in point: “And then you casually walked in the room/And I was twisted in the web of my desire for you.”
13. “Babydoll” (1997)
Butterfly was a career-defining moment due to Mariah’s new musical direction, which leaned toward an “urban” sound. “Babydoll” declared the songstress’ independence and cemented her grown-woman status.
14. “Close My Eyes” (1997)
In “Close My Eyes,” Mariah declares she was a “wayward child with the weight of the world” who “grew up a little too soon.” The lyrics allude to Mariah’s then separation from Tommy Mottola, who managed her career since the beginning. The couple divorced in 1998.
15. “I Still Believe/Pure Imagination” (1999)
The original “I Still Believe” from the #1s compilation album was a heartfelt tribute to Brenda K. Starr, but the remix is infinitely better. Featuring Krayzie Bone and Da Brat, the track interpolates “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Genius.
16. “Crybaby” (1999)
“Crybaby” from Rainbow didn’t garner the commercial success it deserved, but the song is hella relatable because Mariah sings about losing sleep after a break up. And surprisingly, Mariah’s vocals and Snoop Dogg’s rap verse are a match made in heaven.
17. “Petals” (1999)
A fan favorite, “Petals” is arguably one of Mariah’s most honest songs to date. The song chronicles the singer’s rocky relationship with her older sister, Alison, featuring deeply personal lyrics: “A flower taught me how to pray/But as I grew, that flower changed/She started flailing in the wind/Like golden petals scattering.”
18. “Clown” (2002)
Mimi didn’t mince her words in “Clown,” which is probably the earliest evidence that cites the singer’s feud with rapper Eminem. She sings, “Your pain is so deep rooted/What will your life become/Sure you hide it/But you’re lost and lonesome/Still just a frail shook one.”
19. “Stay the Night” (2005)
MC joined forces with Kanye West for “Stay the Night,” which samples the piano loop from Ramsey Lewis’ version of “Betcha by Golly, Wow.” Perfect to blast on a rainy day, Mariah faces the dilemma of rekindling a flame with an ex-lover.
20. “Fly Like a Bird” (2005)
The Emancipation of Mimi was dubbed as Mariah’s “comeback” album, so you know there had be at least one gospel-influenced track about going through it and coming out the other side stronger and better than ever. Mariah’s buoyant vocals on “Fly Like a Bird” will take you to church.
21. “Cruise Control” (2008)
E=MC2 is most celebrated for Mariah’s 18th No. 1 single, “Touch My Body.” However, the reggae-tinged “Cruise Control” is the most underrated song off the album. Featuring Damian Marley, Mariah keeps it all the way 100: “I’ve been told so many sagas/He brings the drama, six baby mamas.”
22. “I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time” (2008)
Without a doubt, “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” is the best track off the E=MC2 album. The song reigns supreme due to its fun, laid-back style and catchy melody as Mimi swoons about her bae.
23. “Betcha Gon’ Know” (2009)
Don’t sleep on “Betcha Gon’ Know,” which acts as a prologue to Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel. On the track, Mimi warns, “But if you only knew what was in the back of my mind/You already stung, but you really gon’ find out in time," as she plots revenge on a cheating lover. And if you didn’t already know Mariah was a savage, now you know.
24. “Candy Bling” (2009)
Ahmad’s “Back in the Day” is a hip-hop classic about nostalgia, so it made perfect sense when Mariah interpolated the chorus for “Candy Bling,” which reminisces about a teenage love affair.
25. “You Don't Know What To Do” (2014)
The disco-esque, “You Don’t Know What to Do” is a highlight from Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, which is the singer’s most recent album. Featuring rapper Wale, Mariah playfully sings about feeling “brand new” after dumping a no-good boyfriend.