Side Effects (song)

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"Side Effects"
Song by Mariah Carey featuring Young Jeezy from the album E=MC²
Format Digital download
Genre [1][2]
Length 4:22
Label Island
Writer Mariah Carey, Scott Storch, Jay Jenkins, Crystal Johnson
Producer Mariah Carey, Scott Storch
E=MC² track listing
"I Stay in Love"
"Side Effects"
"I'm That Chick"

"Side Effects" is a song by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey, included as a track on her eleventh studio album, E=MC² (2008). Written by Carey, Scott Storch, Jay Jenkins and Crystal Johnson, and produced by the former two, the song draws influence from hip-hop, R&B and pop music genres. "Side Effects" features American rapper Young Jeezy, and is based on an electronic thumping beat and many studio-crafted synthesizers. A strong club-beat driven track, its lyrics chronicle Carey's abusive marriage to Tommy Mottola, and the 'side effects' which she lives with due to the nature of the relationship. During the first verse, Carey describes the duo's background, and how she was young and naive, and believed everything he preached to her.

At the time of the album's release, "Side Effects" was met with generally acclaim from music critics, and was considered one of the album's highlights. Several reviewers complimented the song's strong club-beat driven melody and synthesizers, while others concentrated on Carey's personalized lyrics. The song charted due to strong digital downloads in the United States during the debut week of E=MC², and as a result, peaked at number 93 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. As the only live performance of the song, Carey sang "Side Effects" on July 31, 2008, at a free concert at the Hollywood and Highland Center shopping mall in Los Angeles, California. The five-song concert was filmed and presented on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as part of Samsung AT&T Summer Krush concert series.


Cquote1.png Tommy was a deeply controlling husband who left Carey feeling confined to the house (where she obsessively over-decorated). He aggressively dictated every aspect of her career, from the music to her sexless clothes to her holographic public persona, taught as she was 'to say as little as possible, don't be yourself'."
—Silvia Patterson, The Daily Telegraph.[3]

In 1988, Carey moved to Manhattan, New York to pursue a career in music.[4] After working as a background singer for rising pop singer, Brenda K. Starr, Carey was introduced to Tommy Mottola, head of Columbia Records, at a record executives gala.[5] Accompanied by Starr, Carey handed Mottola her demo tape, featuring four of the eleven songs that would eventually comprise her debut studio album.[5] In what has been largely described as a "Cinderella-like story", Mottola heard the tape in his Limousine ride home, and quickly returned to the event to find the girl with the "elusive voice".[6] When he arrived, Carey had already left early, disappointed in the events of the evening.[6] In what became a search, Mottola began to track Carey down through Star's management and eventually signed her to Columbia's roster of artists.[6] After the release of her self-titled debut album, Carey rose to fame, with the album selling over 15 million units globally.[7] During the recording of Carey's third album, Music Box (1993), the pair became romantically involved, and wed by August 1993, only one month short of the album's release.[8] The couple moved into a large 12-bedroom mansion in upstate New York, a home Carey would later come to described as a "private prison" and "golden cage".[9] Referring to Columbia, Carey said in an interview "That company, made a billion dollars from the raggedy girl he met at that party."[3] Throughout the marriage, Mottola, both Carey's husband and boss, carefully manipulated and controlled her career, crafting her into the adult contemporary/pop singer he sought her to be.[10] With each passing album, Carey's genre influences and production styles evolved, leading her farther into R&B and hip-hop territory.[11] By 1994, Carey was already the best-selling artist of the 1990s, and the best-selling act under the label.[6] Due to her continued success, Carey was able to take more creative control over subsequent projects. During the recording sessions for Daydream (1995), the pair had already begun "fighting at the drop of a feather", due to his controlling nature on her and career.[12] By 1997, the pair had already separated, and had divorced only the following year.[10] Carey described her album Butterfly (1997) as her magnum opus, and her greatest and most personal work, due to its personal and emotional background.[13] On the album's title track, which Carey wrote for Mottola, Carey reached out to him, asking to allow her to be free like a 'butterfly', and if the two were 'meant to be', then the butterfly 'would return'.[14] In an interview with Interview magazine, Carey described the importance the song held for her, as well as its meaning:

"It was '97 and I was leaving my marriage [to Tommy Mottola]. which encompassed my life. I was writing the song 'Butterfly' wishing that that's what he would say to me. There's a part that goes, 'I have learned that beauty/has to flourish in the light/wild horses run unbridled/or their spirit dies/you have given me the courage/to be all that I can/and I truly feel ...[sings] and I truly feel your heart will lead you back to me when you're ready to land.' At that point I really believed that I was going to go back to the marriage – I didn't think I was going to leave forever. But then the things that happened to me during that time caused me to not go back. Had it been, 'Go be yourself, you've been with me since you were a kid, let's separate for a while,' I probably would've.[15]"

"Butterfly" became what Carey described as her "favorite and most heartfelt ballad."[14] Its lyrics were very personal, linking to her personal life and relationship with Mottola.[14] Carey wrote "Butterfly" for Mottola, hoping he would say its contents to her, and choose to do what was best for her. She described it as "the best ballad she had ever written" and credited it as the epitome of her opus, Butterfly.[14]


A sample of "Side Effects", featuring the "electro-tinged"[16] and "sweaty synth hazed"[17] melody, and production that incorporates "buzzing synths and taut beats".[18] Lyrically, the song relates Carey's abusive marriage to Tommy Mottola, and the 'side effects' which she lives with due to the nature of the relationship.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Side Effects" is a fast-paced tempo song, which features a "hip-hop oriented beat",[1] and draws influence from R&B and pop music genre.[1][2] The "electro-tinged"[16] and "sweaty synth hazed"[17] song is built on a strong bass, and incorporates "buzzing synths and taut beats".[18] The song was written by Carey, Scott Storch, Jay Jenkins and Crystal Johnson, and produced by the former two. Additionally, "Side Effects" features American rapper Young Jeezy, who provides ad-libs at the song's start, and has a verse prior to the track's bridge.[19] According to the sheet music published at by W.B.M. Music Corporation, "Migrate" is set in common time with a tempo of 98 beats per minute.[20] It is composed in the key of A Minor, with Carey's vocal range spanning from the low-note of A3 to the high-note of E5.[20] The song follows in the chord progression of Bm7–Am7–Gmaj7[20] Lyrically, the song relates Carey's abusive marriage to Tommy Mottola, and the 'side effects' which she lives with due to the nature of the relationship. During the first verse, Carey describes the duo's background, and how she was young and naive, and believed everything he preached to her.[16] The lyrics read "Keepin' me there, under your thumb / Cause you were scared that I'd become much / More than you could handle," she confesses, and refers to herself as "Shining like a chandelier / That decorated every room inside / The private hell we built / And I dealt with it / Like a kid I wished / I could fly away."[16] According to Freedom De Luc of The Washington Post, on the song Carey uploads on Mottola, "'sleeping with the enemy, aware that he was smothering every last part of me.' She finally walked away, she sings, 'but I still live with the side effects.'[18] Sarah Rodman from The Boston Globe described it as "another look at her fractious marriage to Mottola", and wrote "Although the union ended in 1998, Carey is still suffering, including dreams of the 'violent times"'and 'sleeping with the enemy'. Interestingly, her vocal approach here is almost emo, as she hits her rock-solid middle register and refuses to be held captive by the demons of her past."[21] MTV News writer Jennifer Vineyard described the song's lyrics in detail:

'Side Effects' finally reveals a side of Mariah we don't see that often — her true self. The Mariah we usually see and hear is a glossy one. Psychologists might say her affect is 'off' — meaning her gestures and facial expressions don't match her mood. There's a reason for that, as she explains on 'Side Effects', which is the emotional abuse she says she suffered during her marriage to music mogul Tommy Mottola. Mariah, who is usually quite guarded, has alluded to the subject in songs like 'Petals', but never has she gone into such detail as she does on 'Side Effects', in which she refers to the marriage as a 'private hell that we built'. Even though it's been 11 years since they split up, she sings in a lower register that she's still 'wakin' up scared some nights ... dreaming about the violent times'. Her emotional scars left her 'a little protective ... a little defensive ... a little depressed', which makes her 'fake a smile' as she 'deal[s] with the side effects'. Even though "Side Effects" features Young Jeezy, it sounds like a rock power ballad.[22]

In an interview with MTV News, Carey opened up about her sentiments regarding the song. Vineyard related the interview, and elaborated on several of Carey's comments: "I wrote it because it was necessary for me to write it," Mariah said of her most personal, and angriest, song to date. Fans might be surprised at her references to "the hell that we built" and the "violent times," but Mariah thinks this song is for "anyone who's been in an abusive relationship." "You know what? I've been through too much at this point," she said. "I want happiness and I want pure and real love, but the side effects of what other relationships have put me through cause me to be kind of on the defensive a lot of the time. And if somebody isn't mature or caring and loving and open-hearted enough to understand that, then it's tough, but this is a song for people who need that." Mariah hopes that this song helps people feel "a little bit stronger."[23]


"Side Effects" received universal acclaim from music critics, who praised it for its strong electronically synthesized production, as well as Carey's personal lyrics regarding her marriage to Mottola, which they described as its highlight. Joey Guerra from the Houston Chronicle picked it as a "standout" track from E=MC², and felt the addition of Young Jeezy gave the song "a menacing mood".[16] Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine chose "Side Effectss" as a "top pick" in his review of the album, and complimented Carey's incorporation of her past relationship.[24] Aside from recommending it as one of the top three best songs from E=MC², The Washington Post '​s Freedom De Luc compared some of the song's vocal effects to Rihanna's "Umbrella" (2007).[18] Nick Levine from Digital Spy described it as "[Carey's] rawest, most personal track in years" and wrote "[It] is as coruscating as it is catchy".[25] Writing in for Fox News, Roger Friedman wrote "You will be in love with 'Side Effects'", and described it as a "gorgeous vocal, a cool rap by Young Jeezy and lyrics that should make Mariah’s ex, Tommy Mottola, do a spit-take."[2] An anonymous writer from the Boston Herald called the song "chilling", and chose it as a "top choice" from the album.[26]The Guardian '​s Alex Macpherson heavily complimented the song, writing "the magnificent Side Effects finds Carey at the height of her powers. Over synths as slow as molasses, she intones some of the darkest lyrics of her career, a meditation on the long-term effects of an abusive relationship. Verbose to the point of opulence, she crams syllables into the verses, races against her own emotions and perfectly conveys the song's claustrophobic intensity."[27] Due to the strong chart success of "Touch My Body", E=MC² opened with over 463,000 copies sold in its opening week, a career high for Carey.[28] During its opening week, "Side Effects" charted at number 93 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[29]

Live performances[edit]

On July 31, 2008, Carey performed a free concert at the Hollywood and Highland Center shopping mall in Los Angeles, California in front of over 5,000 fans.[30] The concert was filmed and presented on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as part of Samsung AT&T Summer Krush concert series.[31] She performed five songs, beginning with "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" and a mash-up with "Touch My Body", and her previous songs, "Shake It Off" and "We Belong Together" from The Emancipation of Mimi (2005).[32] As the last song on the short set-list, Carey was joined on stage by Jeezy for a live rendition of "Side Effects".[33]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits for E=MC² adapted from the album's liner notes.[34]


Chart (2009) Peak
US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[29] 93


  1. ^ a b c Daniel, Jayanthi (2008-04-16). "Mariah Carey Solves Equation". The New York Sun (Ronald Weintraub). Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  2. ^ a b c Friedman, Roger (2008-04-09). "Mariah Carey's New Album: First Review". Fox News (News Corporation). Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  3. ^ a b Patterson, Silvia (2008-03-17). "Maraih Carey: Come In And Smell The Perfume". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  4. ^ Nickson 2001, p. 33
  5. ^ a b Nickson 2001, p. 40
  6. ^ a b c d Nickson 2001, p. 43
  7. ^ Cane, Clay (2010-06-12). "Mariah Celebrates Twenty Years". Black Entertainment Television. Viacom. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  8. ^ Shapiro 2001, pp. 70
  9. ^ Shapiro 2001, pp. 91
  10. ^ a b Shapiro 2001, pp. 98
  11. ^ Nickson 2001, p. 83
  12. ^ Shapiro 2001, pp. 93
  13. ^ Shapiro 2001, pp. 109
  14. ^ a b c d Nickson 2001, p. 167
  15. ^ Sischy, Ingrid (2007-09-20). "Mariah Carey: The Naked Truth From The World's Biggest Diva". Interview. pp. 156–165. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Guerra, Joey (2008-04-15). "Mariah Gets Equation Right With 'E=MC²'". Houston Chronicle (Hearst Corporation). Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  17. ^ a b Sawey, Evan (2008-05-01). "Mariah Carey: E=MC² < Reviews". PopMatters. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  18. ^ a b c d De Luc, Freedom (2008-04-15). "Mariah Sticks to Known Equation". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  19. ^ Ratliff, Ben (2008-04-14). "New CDs". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  20. ^ a b c Mariah Carey (Composers and Lyricists) (2008). "Side Effects: Mariah Carey Digital Sheet Music" (Musicnotes). Alfred Music Publishing. MN0068511 (Product Number). Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  21. ^ Rodman, Sarah (2008-04-12). "An Early Listen to Possible Hits". The Boston Globe (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  22. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (2008-04-02). "Mariah Carey Album Preview: E=MC² Is Focused On Fun, But Mimi Is At Her Best When She's Keeping It Real". VH1. Viacom. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  23. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (2008-04-09). "Mariah Carey Leads A Track-By-Track Tour Of E=MC², Which She Calls '100 Percent Of Me'". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved 2011-05-10. 
  24. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2002-12-13). "((( E=MC2 > Overview )))". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  25. ^ Levine, Nick (2008-04-27). "Mariah Carey: E=MC²". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  26. ^ "Stars Shine Spotlight on Needy During Katrina Relief Telethon". Boston Herald (Herald Media Inc.). 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  27. ^ Macpherson, Alex (2008-04-16). "Mariah Carey: E=MC²". The Guardian (London: Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  28. ^ McKay, Hollie (2008-04-03). "Mariah Carey Surpasses Elvis in No. 1s". Fox News (News Corporation). Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  29. ^ a b "Mariah Carey Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  30. ^ "Carey Caps '05 By Capping Fiddy". E! Entertainment Television. NBCUniversal. 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  31. ^ West, Dave (2010-09-28). "Mariah Plays Free Shopping Mall Gig". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  32. ^ Arman, Danna (2010-09-28). "Mariah Carey Does It For Free". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  33. ^ "Carey Kicks Off Crush". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  34. ^ Carey, Mariah (2008). E=MC² (Liner Notes) (Compact Disc). Mariah Carey. New York City, New York: Island Records. 

External links[edit]