Music Box (Mariah Carey album)
Music Box Studio album by Mariah Carey Released August 31, 1993 Recorded August 1992–May 1993
Right Track Studios, (Sausalito, CA), The Record Plant (Los Angeles)
Genre Pop, R&B Length 41:58 Label Columbia Producer Mariah Carey, Dave Hall, Walter Afanasieff, David Cole, Robert Clivillés, Babyface, & Daryl Simmons Mariah Carey chronology MTV Unplugged
Singles from Music Box
Music Box is the third studio album by American recording artist Mariah Carey. It was released by Columbia Records on August 31, 1993, in North America. The album comprises ballads primarily co-written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, with whom she had previously worked on Emotions (1991), and a few urban dance tracks. During the course of the album's development, Carey wanted to broaden her audience, choosing a more pop-oriented sound. During this time frame, they experimented with different organs and other musical instruments, leading the album's sound away from her more contemporary previous efforts. Two unused tracks from the album sessions were released as B-sides: "Do You Think of Me" and "Everything Fades Away".
In order to successfully take the album in a new direction, Carey and Afanasieff sought out new and innovative producers, as well as some from Carey's previous releases. Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds first began working with Carey on Music Box, where he helped produce some of the album's softer and more melodious tracks, as well as being part of the songwriting process. Additional writers and producers were Robert Clivillés and David Cole (a pair also known as C+C Music Factory) and Daryl Simmons. While the album featured a range of different talented music producers, the bulk of the songwriting was done by Carey and her writing partner, Walter Afanasieff. In future projects, they would continue writing material for Carey's albums, until her 1999 release Rainbow, where he is absent from the writing credits.
Four singles were released from the album. The first three, "Dreamlover", "Hero" and "Without You", became worldwide chart-topping singles, the latter becoming Carey's highest charting international single of her career. "Without You" became Carey's first number-one single in most European markets and reached the top three in the United States. To promote Music Box, Carey embarked on the short but successful Music Box Tour which traveled to select cities in North America. Carey was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Dreamlover" at the 1994 Grammy Awards and received the same nomination for "Hero" at the 1995 Grammy Awards, although she did not win either time.
After its release, Music Box received generally positive reviews from music critics. However, the album endured criticism regarding Carey's more mellow and lazy tone in comparison to her older work. Despite some unfavorable reviews, the album became a commercial success, topping the Billboard 200 and becoming Carey's first number-one album in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it diamond, for shipments of ten million copies across the United States. Music Box remains Carey's highest seller and one of the best-selling albums of all time, with worldwide sales of over 32 million copies.
- 1 Background
- 2 Writing and development
- 3 Composition
- 4 Critical reception
- 5 Chart performance
- 6 Singles
- 7 Promotion
- 8 Track listing
- 9 Album credits
- 10 Charts and certifications
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Works cited
In 1988, Carey was discovered by Tommy Mottola, CEO of Columbia Records, and was promptly signed to the label. Carey's self-titled debut studio album, released the following year, focused on re-recording and mastering several songs she had already written in high school alongside fellow classmate, Ben Margulies. Aside from the seven songs taken from Carey's demo tape, four other tracks were written and produced by the former and an array of famed record producers. The album was complimented by critics, who called it a mature debut, full of various genre influences ranging from pop, R&B and soul. The album became a commercial success, selling over fifteen million units globally. While making a strong impact on pop music, Carey became interested in altering her sound, and deviating from pop music for her second studio effort, Emotions (1991). Following the success of her debut, Columbia allowed her to take more control over her musical departure, enabling her to change her genre infusions, melodies and production. During the album's recording, Carey worked with several different musicians and producers, aside from Walter Afanasieff, the only hold over from her debut.
Emotions contained influences from mostly 1950's, 60's and 70's balladry and gospel, as well as her continued work of R&B and soul. The album, while praised by some as more mature and raw, failed to reach the critical or commercial heights of her debut effort, while selling far less and failed to introduce Carey into a different market. Following these events, Columbia decided to try and market Carey in a similar fashion to her debut, only having her produce a more commercial and radio-friendly album. Their plans were to tone down Carey's vocals, and soften the album's production, leaving a more contemporary pop/R&B record. Agreeing to the change, Carey and Afanasieff began writing and recording material for her third studio effort, Music Box. On the album's first track "Dreamlover", Carey worked with Dave Hall throughout the song's entire production. In order to help with some of the song's arrangements, Mottola enrolled the help of Walter Afanasieff, who took on the completed track and transformed it into a more commercial hit.
Writing and development
With Carey in the captain's chair, having more control than she had on any other album, she took the album in a new direction, alongside Afanasieff. For Carey's third studio effort, she enrolled the help of a range of songwriters, as well as record producers. Aside from Afanasieff, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, a man who would collaborate with Carey often in the near future, also took part in the project. Babyface, who helped produce much of the album, also co-wrote a track with Carey titled "Never Forget You", a song that was released as a B-side to "Without You" exclusively in the United States. The album, which consisted mostly of slower ballads (with the exception of "Dreamlover" and "Now That I Know"), contained collaborations with some carry-on producers and writers from Emotions. Of these were Clivillés & Cole (of C+C Music Factory), who co-wrote the track "Now That I Know", a danceable pop ballad, which used similar formulas and synthesizers from tracks on Emotions. Another writer–producer that worked on the album was David Hall, who with Carey wrote the U.S. single "Dreamlover".
One of the noticeable differences from Music Box and Carey's previous albums was its sound. The album was described by Afanasieff as a softer and more pop-oriented album, "filling the songs with air", and allowing far more space in the overall sound. Another noticeable change was in the album's production. When Mariah Carey was released, critics took notice of its "overly produced" and "studio perfect" quality, where in comparison, Emotions maintained a "raw, live sound." Music Box however, fell in between the two, a decision made by Carey during the album's production. She would layer each track with live backing vocals, so not to sound too overly produced, but still kept the inclusion of musical synthesizers.
According to Marc Shapiro, Music Box reflected signs of Carey's vocal maturity, as well as representing an album she was truly proud of. The album's first single "Dreamlover" was described as a "slight piece of pop fluff," representing a more commercial side to Carey than the "more ambitious," "Vision of Love". Critics believed the song's chart performance was due to its summer release, as people were still looking for a "not-too-heavy" and more diverse sound. The song's composition was described as "mid tempo and mildly dance-able," with Carey voice being called "perpetually happy," like a "little-girl voice." "Hero", the album's second single, was one of Carey's most inspirational ballads at the time.
The song was described as "a lush ballad," with Carey making use of her impressive, "lower alto register." As one of the more emotional tracks on the album, "Hero" built emotion, verse through verse, where the lyrics and melody finally "broke through." "Anytime You Need a Friend", was another pop ballad in which Carey would, "let her voice roam free," a feature critics felt lacked on the album. The song featured "rough and low vocals,", as well as some glimpses of Carey's upper registers. As with most of the songs on Music Box, the lyrics boasted a positive message, and was the only song on the album to feature traces of gospel-inspired vocals throughout the chorus.
The album's title track, Music Box, was another ballad Carey wrote with Afanasieff. The song was described as one of Carey's more difficult compositions, due to its "softness." The song requires a great deal of legato, to keep "the tunes softness and sweetness, without resorting to volume." Carey's vocals on the track are defined as "soft and controlled," managing to maintain the delicate balance in a manner that seems effortless, floating easily over the keyboard and the shimmer of the guitar. Lyrically, due to the song's message of "commitment and promise," and the "tinkling music-box line played on the synthesizer," the track gives the sensation of a wedding vow recital. "Never Forget You," one of the album's B-sides, is a slow song, further connecting it to the song's message of "lamenting the loss of love, in a very tender way." The song contains lovely keyboard notes that hover over the verses and allow Carey to indulge in her backing vocals. It was described as a "stand out track," one that could have easily become a hit single, "with an appeal that would have easily transcended generational barriers."
Professional ratings Review scores Source Rating About.com  Allmusic  Billboard (favorable) Robert Christgau  Entertainment Weekly (C+) The New York Times (favorable) Rolling Stone (1993) Rolling Stone (2004)
Upon release, the album received mixed reviews from critics, with positive attention given to its lyrics. The album's energy level and Carey's vocal style, however, were almost unanimously criticized. Critics felt Carey became "too mellow" and "somewhat lazy" on the album, especially in comparison to her previous work, with Ron Wynn writing, "sometimes excessive spirit is preferable to an absence of passion". Bill Lamb from About.com gave the album a generally positive review, calling it "another good collection of dance music and ballads" and writing that "the songwriting is generally high quality, and Nilsson's 'Without You' is a good choice for a cover". On a more critical note, however, Lamb described the album as a "toned down" album, and that Carey's upper registers aren't accessed as often as in previous releases, writing, "Mariah toned down the vocal gymnastics here, but she seemed to lose a lot of her energy as well. There are still strong songs here, but the overall effect is of a formula wearing a bit thin."
Ron Wynn from Allmusic gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, Roc Wynn of Allmusic said that Carey's "octave-leaping" voice was downplayed in favor of the demonstration of "her ability to sing softly and cooly." Although favorably stating that Carey lowered the volume on her vocals, he said that the energy had declined, with the exception of personality-injected songs like "Hero" and "Dreamlover." Overall, however, he claimed the album's "different" approach was wise. Ashley S. Battel from Billboard gave the album a positive review, writing, "While Carey tones down the predominance of her tremendous vocal range throughout much of this release, there is no question that she remains the driving force behind yet anoth[e]r collection of heavy-rotation Top-40 successes."
David Browne from Entertainment Weekly gave the album a mixed review. He said that due to Carey's lower energy level, her voice no longer soars above the backup chorus, instead it only "drip[s] over them like syrup instead of overpowering them; she lets the melodies speak for themselves.". Browne awarded the album an unenthusiastic score of C+. Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone complimented Carey's vocals, but found her lyrics "made up entirely of pop and soul clichés" and stated "Music Box is so precisely calculated to be a blockbuster that its impact is ultimately a little unnerving". However, in his review for The New York Times, Holden wrote that the album "takes aim at the commercial pop mainstream with an even sharper focus" than Carey's previous albums, while noting "If huge ballads like 'Hero,' 'Anytime You Need a Friend' and a gospel-flavored remake of Harry Nilsson's 1971 hit, 'Without You,' traffic in pop cliches, they are the top-of-the-line in generic 90's pop". In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau gave the album a "dud" rating, indicating "a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought". In a retrospective review, The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) noted a "soft-rock slump" and stated "While there's nothing wrong with Carey singing relatively straight for 10 songs, there is a sore lack of power here: baleful soaring ballads, pop optimism along the lines of smiling through the tears and believing in yourself (or him, or Him), and hardly a decent tune in the lot".
Music Box entered the US Billboard 200 at number two, with 174,000 copies sold. In its fifteenth week after release, the album topped the chart and enjoyed its highest sales week, selling 505,000 copies and staying at the top for eight non-consecutive weeks. It remained in the top ten for thirty-one weeks and on the Billboard 200 for 128 weeks (more than two years, longer than any other of her albums), re-entering the chart three times. The album also reached number one on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Music Box was the second-best selling album in the United States in 1994, only behind Ace of Base's The Sign.
The album became a success in Canada, peaking at number two on the charts and being certified seven-times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). Music Box became Carey's best-seller in Europe, topping the charts in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In Germany, it became her highest-charting album, spending eighty weeks on the German Albums Chart, eleven of which were spent at number one. Germany's sales of the album were also very impressive, with a certification of double-platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), for shipments of over one million copies. In Australia, the album became tenth best-selling albums in Australia, being certified twelve-times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), denoting shipments of over 840,000 copies. The album finished at number one on the (ARIA) 1994 End of Year Chart. In the United Kingdom, Music Box remains Carey's highest seller, topping the UK Singles Chart and being certified five-times platinum. It is also the 58th fastest selling album of all time in the United Kingdom, selling over 200,500 copies in its first week of release in 1993. It became one of the few albums to sell over a million copies in France, receiving a diamond certification and topping the French Album Charts. Sales in France have been estimated at 1,418,100. In Brazil, "Music Box" remains one of the best-selling albums by an international artist, selling over 800,000 copies. "Music Box" finished number twenty-three on the all time album chart in the Netherlands, where it was certified six-times platinum.
In Asia, Music Box became one of the best-selling albums of 1994, selling over 2,200,000 copies in Japan alone. The album's sales continued to skyrocket in Asia, topping sales of over 1,000,000 in South Korea and 320,000 copies in Taiwan as of 1996. In Singapore and Hong Kong, sales reached 110,000 and 80,000 copies respectively. In the United States, Music Box became Carey's best-selling album at the time, being certified diamond by the RIAA, denoting shipments of at least ten million copies. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold 7,189,000 copies in the United States. Music Box has sold over 32 million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling albums of all time.
"Dreamlover" was released as the album's first single on July 27, 1993. The single debuted at number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100, and due to its massive airplay, the song reached the top of the Hot 100, staying there for eight weeks. Dreamlover topped the charts in Canada, and reached the top-ten in many other countries. The song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of over one million copies, as well as receiving a gold certification in Australia and New Zealand. The music video for "Dreamlover" featured "summer scenery," with scenes of Carey swimming in a pool by a waterfall, lying in a bed of sunflowers, as well as singing in front of hip-hop dancers. The video tried to capture, a "home video" feel, adding to the song's subtle and airy nature, something that only helped the song dominate the charts "Hero" served as the album's second single, and was released on October 19, 1993. Music critics praised the song, calling it her most directly inspirational song since "Make It Happen". The song topped the charts in the United States and the top-five in many other major music markets. The music video for "Hero," featured footage from Carey's concert at Proctor's Theatre, as was done for Carey's following music video for "Without You."
"Without You", the album's third single, became the biggest international hit of Carey's career. "Without You" reached number three in the United States, but experienced its real success throughout Europe. The song became Carey's first number one chart topper in France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, propelling the sales of Music Box throughout the world. Carey brought the song renewed popularity, through her highly successful adaptation. It became on of the "fifty most-played songs of the year" and even outsold Harry Nilsson's version, receiving many awards and recognition. "Anytime You Need a Friend", the album's final single, experienced success on the charts, reaching the top-ten in many countries, as well as peaking at number twelve in the United States. It became the second single in Music Box to perform better throughout Europe than in the U.S.
In order to promote the album, Carey embarked on her first-headlining tour. Originally, Carey had not planned to tour due to stage fright, a feat she followed during her previous album releases. However, after the continued success of Music Box and persuasion from Tommy Mottola, Carey agreed to tour, supporting her current and previous albums. As Carey was not physically or emotionally ready for an extensive tour, six shows were dated, each with many days in between, in order to give Carey's voice time to rest. An extra performance, taking place at Proctor's Theatre was planned, where Carey would film the one-hour special, Here Is Mariah Carey, to be released during the Christmas season.
When the tickets went on sales, the shows did not sell-out instantly; but were selling at a healthy pace. On the opening night of Carey's tour, she sang at the Miami Arena. The show was only about two-thirds full, something that worried Carey's management, as it was the tour's opening night. However, Carey did not seem to mind, and began the show with high spirits. The first show in Miami received scathing reviews, with critics "ripping her opening-night performance to shreds." The following shows were more favorable to Carey, not only were her succeeding shows sold-out, they also won rave-reviews. Regarding Carey's show in New York, The New York Times wrote the following remarks regarding Carey's voice and performance on the tour:
"Beyond any doubt, Ms. Carey's voice is no studio concoction. Her range extends from a rich, husky alto to dog-whistle high notes; she can linger over sensual turns, growl with playful confidence, syncopate like a scat singer. Although rock concerts aren't known for precise intonation, she sang with startlingly exact pitch."
Aside from touring for the first time in her career, Carey visited various American and European television programs, where she performed different singles from the album. In late 1993, Carey appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, where she performed both "Dreamlover" and "Hero." Other performances Carey staged during 1993 included, "Hero" on The Jay Leno Show and "Dreamlover" on her first visit to Top of the Pops. Throughout 1994, Carey continued the album's promotion, performing "Without You" on a second visit to "Top of the Pops," as well as visiting France, Germany, Japan, Spain and Sweden. In the midst of her "Music Box Tour," Carey had already began working with Walter Afanasieff on her holiday album Merry Christmas, which was to be released during the Christmas season of the following year. Additionally, Carey and Affanasieff reportedly already began experimenting with different ideas and musical components for her 1995 studio album, Daydream.
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length 1. "Dreamlover" Mariah Carey, Dave Hall M. Carey, D. Hall, W. Afanasieff 3:54 2. "Hero" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 4:19 3. "Anytime You Need a Friend" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 4:26 4. "Music Box" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 4:57 5. "Now That I Know" M. Carey, David Cole, Robert Clivillés M. Carey, D. Cole, R. Clivillés 4:19 6. "Never Forget You" M. Carey, Babyface, Daryl Simmons M. Carey, Babyface 3:46 7. "Without You" Pete Ham, Tom Evans M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 3:36 8. "Just to Hold You Once Again" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 3:59 9. "I've Been Thinking About You" M. Carey, D. Cole, R. Clivillés M. Carey, D. Cole, R. Clivillés 4:48 10. "All I've Ever Wanted" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 3:51
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length 11. "Everything Fades Away" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 5:25
Latin American edition
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length 12. "Héroe" M. Carey, W. Afanasieff M. Carey, W. Afanasieff 4:19
- Mariah Carey – lead vocals, background vocals
- Walter Afanasieff – keyboards, additional keyboards, synthesizers
- Dave Hall – synthesizers, keyboards, rhythm programming
- David Cole – keyboards
- Babyface – keyboards, percussion, background vocals
- Ren Klyce – Akai and Roland programming
- Gary Cirimelli – MacIntosh and synthesizer programming
- Ricky Crespo – programming
- Shawn Lucas – programming
- James T. Alfano – programming
- Michael Landau – guitars
- Kayo – bass
- Robert Clivillés – drums, percussion
- Mark C. Rooney – background vocals
- Cindy Mizelle – background vocals
- Melonie Daniels – background vocals
- Kelly Price – background vocals
- Shanrae Price – background vocals
- Mariah Carey – arranger
- Dave Hall – arranger
- Walter Afanasieff – arranger
- Robert Clivilles – arrager
- David Cole – arranger
- Babyface – arranger
- Bob Rosa – engineer, mix engineer
- David Gleeson – engineer
- Dana Jon Chappelle – engineer, vocal engineering
- Acar Key – engineer
- Frank Filipetti – engineer
- Jim Zumpano – engineer
- Jim Caruana – 2nd engineer
- Jen Monnar – 2nd engineer
- Kent Matcke – 2nd engineer
- Mark Krieg – 2nd engineer
- Kirk Yano – additional tracking engineer
- Mick Guzauski – mixing
- Bob Ludwig – mastering, Gateway Master Studios
Charts and certifications
Australian Albums Chart 1 Austrian Albums Chart 1 Belgium (Wallonia) Ultratop 50 Albums Chart 3 Canadian RPM Albums Chart 2 Dutch Albums Chart 1 French Albums Chart 1 German Albums Chart 1 Hungarian Albums Chart 4 Italian Albums Chart 2 Japanese Albums Chart 2 New Zealand Albums Chart 2 Norwegian Albums Chart 2 Spanish Albums Chart 2 Swedish Albums Chart 3 Swiss Albums Chart 1 UK Albums Chart 1 US Billboard 200 1 US R&B/Hip hop Albums 1
Chart (1994) Position Austrian Albums Chart 1 Australian Albums Chart 1 Canadian Albums Chart 2 French Albums Chart 2 Swiss Albums Chart 1
End of decade charts
Chart (1990–1999) Position Austrian Albums Chart 32 U.S. Billboard 200 26
All time charts
Chart Position Australian Albums Chart 10 Dutch Albums Chart 23 New Zealand Albums Chart 20 Norwegian Albums Chart 33 Swiss Albums Chart 23 Swedish Albums Chart 22
Country (Provider) Certifications Australia (ARIA) 12× Platinum Austria (IFPI) 2× Platinum Brazil (ABPD) Gold Canada (CRIA) 7× Platinum Finland (IFPI) Gold France (SNEP) Diamond Germany (BVMI) 2× Platinum Netherlands (NVPI) 6× Platinum New Zealand (RIANZ) 5× Platinum Norway (IFPI) Platinum Spain (PROMUSICAE) 4× Platinum Sweden (IFPI) Platinum Switzerland (IFPI) 4× Platinum United Kingdom (BPI) 5× Platinum United States (RIAA) Diamond
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