Breakdown (Mariah Carey song)

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"Breakdown"
Single by Mariah Carey featuring Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
from the album Butterfly
Released March 22, 1998
Format CD, 12"
Recorded February 1997
at The Hit Factory
(New York City, New York)
Genre
Length 4:43
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Mariah Carey, Anthony Henderson, Charles Scruggs, Stevie J.
Producer(s) Mariah Carey, Stevie J., Puff Daddy
Mariah Carey chronology
"The Roof"
(1998)
"Breakdown"
(1998)
"My All"
(1998)
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony chronology
"Look into My Eyes"
(1997)
"Breakdown"
(1998)
"Ghetto Cowboy"
(1999)

"Breakdown" is a song by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey from her sixth studio album, Butterfly. It was released as the third single from the album on March 22, 1998 by Columbia Records. Like "Butterfly," "Breakdown" received a limited worldwide release due to Carey's conflict at the time with Columbia. The song was written and produced by Carey, Stevie J and Puff Daddy, and features rap verses by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The song's lyrics describe the emotions someone feels when their lover suddenly stops loving and leaves them, and the pain, or breakdown, it causes the person. The song was well received by contemporary music critics.

In the music video, Carey goes through a variety of different colorful outfits, with matching make-up. Of the many changes, two scenes predominantly occupy the video. The first in Carey dressed in flamenco style clothing, while dancing on a chair with two other female dancers. The other features Carey and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony gambling in a casino. Carey performed the song live during select dates of her Butterfly World Tour in 1998 and Adventures of Mimi Tour in 2006. Due to the song's limited release, "Breakdown" did not chart in most major music markets, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, where it peaked at numbers 38 and four, respectively. In the US, due to Billboard rules at the time, the song was unable to chart on the Hot 100, but charted at number 53 on the Hot 100 Airplay Chart.

Background[edit]

I told Bone Thugs-n-Harmony I wanted to record something with them. Their reaction was something like, 'Okay...?' I think I shock people with the ideas I have, but I believe the result is okay.

—Carey, on her decision to work with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony on Butterfly.[1]

Carey recorded the song at the Hit Factory in New York City, throughout 1997.[1][2] "Breakdown" was one of the first of Carey's album tracks to veer in a hip hop direction, and many were surprised when she contacted Bone Thugs-n-Harmony to record the song because she was considered more of a R&B/adult contemporary artist. According to author Chris Nickson, "Breakdown" was an important component of Butterfly: "'Breakdown' showed Mariah treading forcefully into territory that was new for her and making it her own; it had a melody that simmered under her vocal, and a groove that was irresistible."[1] When Carey began recording the album, she had slow and sultry ballads such as "Whenever You Call" and "Butterfly," but also had big R&B and hip-hop like "Honey". For this reason, Carey recorded "Breakdown" in order to fill in the midsection of the album, and serve as the album's "backbone."[1]

Controversy[edit]

Everyone swung it like I didn't want to put something out because I wouldn't accept less than a No. 1 Pop Single. That's not even true. Like I didn't want to "break a streak." My streak was broken a long time ago. I don't even have a streak. I had five number ones, then I had records that didn't go to number one. Whatever I wanted to put out "Breakdown" with Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony. That was a no-brainer. Release it. I'll always be upset "Breakdown" never got its shot.

—Carey, on her disappointment in the singles chosen, during an interview with Vibe.[3]

"Breakdown" was the source of controversy when it came to its release. Carey was having a conflict with Columbia over the singles choices, as they were already not happy with the album's hip-hop transition.[4] Later, in 1998 when Carey was composing the songs for her first compilation album, #1's, the song was again one of the reasons for continued conflict within the label. They disagreed on what content should compose the album.[4] Sony wanted to release an album that featured her US number one singles, void of any new material. Carey on the other hand, felt that a greatest hits album should reflect on her most personal and favorite songs, not her most commercial.[4] To accompany her thirteen number ones, Carey recorded four new songs. She felt that not including any new material would result in cheating her fans, therefore including some new material as well.[4] While compromised, Carey often expressed distaste towards the album's song selection, expressing her disappointment in the omission of her "favorite songs."[4]

For this reason, Sony titled the album #1's, as Carey felt the need to express the album's true content, a collection of her number one hits.[4] Carey has frequently cited "Underneath the Stars" (1996) and "Breakdown" (1998) as examples of songs she was unsuccessful in releasing.[3]

Composition and remixes[edit]

A sample of the last chorus, featuring the song's strong vocal moments backed by synth drums.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Breakdown" is a slow and sultry song, which blends hip-hop and contemporary R&B genres.[5] It incorporates drum notes, including heavy beats and grooves.[1] The song features rap verses from two of the five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Krayzie Bone and Wish Bone. As part of "layering the song," background vocals are featured throughout the chorus and sections of the bridge. It is set in the signature common time, and is written in the key of E major.[6] It features a basic chord progression of A-F-1.[6] Carey's vocal range in the song spans from the note of B2 to the high note of F5; the piano and guitar pieces range from F3 to G5 as well.[6] The song contains choral lyrics written by Carey, who produced the song's melody and chorus as well. Aside from assisting with its writing and chord progression, Combs and Stevie co-arranged and produced the track as well.[5] A different edit of the song, titled The Mo' Thugs remix, features longer raps from Krayzie and Wish Bone and an intro and verse from Layzie Bone, who was absent from the original mix. This version can be found on Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's compilation The Collection Volume One.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

David Browne from Entertainment Weekly praised the song, writing "for most of the album she keeps her notorious octave-climbing chops at bay. Showing some admirable restraint, she nestles herself into downy-soft beats. In 'Breakdown', she demonstrates she can match the staccato, lite-reggae phrasing of her guests, two members of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony."[7] Rich Juzwiak from Slant called "Breakdown" "the song of Carey's career" and wrote "It's the song of Carey's career, where the lyrical strokes are as broad and obvious as they are naked. Mariah the chanter flawlessly adapts to their singsong style, largely boxing her multi-octave range into a sly, hypnotic melody so that when she really wails at the end, you really feel it. As with 'The Roof', Carey lunges toward musical maturity by embracing, not shunning hip-hop. This is the height of her elegance and maybe hip-hop-soul's, too."[8]

Chart performance[edit]

It was released as the album's third single in 1998 in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia only (in Europe, "The Roof" was chosen as the third single instead).[1] Because of conflict between Carey and her record label at the time, Sony Music Entertainment, it was only given a commercial release in Australia, where it performed modestly and remained in the top 40 for three weeks. A remix of the song was promoted to U.S. radio stations and debuted on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in October 1997. However, it wasn't released commercially in the U.S. until April 1998, as a double A-side with "My All."[1] It reached the top five on the Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as "My All/Breakdown." However, the song itself independently appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart and reached the top twenty on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rhythmic Airplay Chart charts.[1] In New Zealand, the song performed well, peaking at number four and being certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), denoting shipments of over 7,500 units.[9]

Music video[edit]

The single's video (released in March 1998) was directed by Carey with the assistance of Diane Martel.[5] It sees her take on the role of various "casino girl" roles, including a cabaret girl, showgirl, cowgirl and lucky charm. The members of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony make appearances as well.[5] In the video, Carey plays her part a cabaret girl, by dancing on a chair, accompanied by two other females. other scenes include Carey in a main casino hall, where Wish and Krayzie Bone make appearances. While they gamble with a large crowd surrounding them, Carey lounges on the table and cheers for them.[5] While this is taking place, Carey is seen lying on a cat walk stage, alone and weeping from her breakup.

Live performances[edit]

Carey performed the song live during her 1998 Butterfly World Tour. Throughout the performances, Carey wore a short beige outfit and long semi-teased up hair, accompanied by male and female dancers.[10] During the song's act, Carey would slowly sway hand-in-hand with other male dancers, giving the illusion of sultry compassion.[11] Carey performed the song A Capella in Chicago during her 2000 Rainbow World Tour. During her Adventures of Mimi Tour in 2006, Carey performed the song during select dates on the tour. The performance included many exotic female dancers, performing seductive pole dances and other similar routines. Carey, while singing, danced light routines on a chair, while wearing a red one piece suit.[12]

Track listing and formats[edit]

  • U.S. CD Single[13]
  1. "My All" – 3:51
  2. "Breakdown" – 4:58
  • CD Maxi-Single[14]
  1. "Breakdown" (Radio Edit) – 4:15
  2. "Breakdown" (The Mo' Thugs Remix) – 4:58
  3. "Breakdown" – 4:58
  4. "Honey" (Morales Dub Club) – 10:58
  5. "Honey" (Mo' Honey Club) – 7:23

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the Butterfly liner notes.[15]

  • Mariah Carey – vocals, songwriting, co-producing
  • Stevie J. – songwriting, co-producing
  • Anthony Henderson – songwriting
  • Charles Scruggs – songwriting
  • Puff Daddy – co-producing

Charts[edit]

| style="width:50%; text-align:left; vertical-align:top;" |

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
New Zealand (RMNZ)[19] Gold 7,500*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

|}

1 "Breakdown"/"My All"

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Nickson 1998, pp. 167–168
  2. ^ "Mariah Carey Rolls Out Crave Records". MTV Networks. MTV. 1997-02-19. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  3. ^ a b Higher and Higher. Vibe (LLC). 1998-11-12. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Shapiro 2001, p. 116
  5. ^ a b c d e f Nickson 1998, p. 166
  6. ^ a b c Abrego 1998, pp. 30–35
  7. ^ Browne, David (1997-09-19). "Music Review – Mariah Carey: Butterfly". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  8. ^ Juzwiak, Rich (2003-12-18). "Music Review: Mariah Carey: Butterfly". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  9. ^ Scapolo, Dean (2007). The Complete New Zealand Music Charts 1966–2006. ISBN 978-1-877443-00-8. 
  10. ^ Argenson 2010, pp. 23–28
  11. ^ Argenson 2010, pp. 29–33
  12. ^ Argenson 2010, pp. 36–44
  13. ^ My All/Breakdown (U.S. CD Single liner notes). Mariah Carey. Columbia Records. 1998. 38K 78821. 
  14. ^ Breakdown (CD Maxi-Single liner notes). Mariah Carey. Columbia Records. 1998. 665531 2. 
  15. ^ Carey, Mariah (1997). Butterfly (Liner Notes) (Compact Disc). Mariah Carey. New York City, New York: Columbia Records. 
  16. ^ "australian-charts.com – Discography Mariah Carey". australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  17. ^ "charts.org.nz – Discography Mariah Carey". charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  18. ^ a b c "Mariah Carey Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  19. ^ THE FIELD id (chart number) MUST BE PROVIDED for NEW ZEALAND CERTIFICATION.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]