Can't Let Go (Mariah Carey song)

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"Can't Let Go"
Can't Let Go by Mariah Carey US cassette single.jpg
Standard artwork (US cassette single pictured)
Single by Mariah Carey
from the album Emotions
B-side"I Don't Wanna Cry"
ReleasedOctober 23, 1991 (1991-10-23)
RecordedAugust 1991
StudioThe Plant Recording Studios (Sausalito, California)
  • Mariah Carey
  • Walter Afanasieff
Mariah Carey singles chronology
"Can't Let Go"
"Make It Happen"

"Can't Let Go" is a song by American singer Mariah Carey from her second album Emotions (1991). It was released as the album's second single in the fourth quarter of 1991 in the United States and the first quarter of 1992 elsewhere. The protagonist of this synthesizer-heavy ballad laments an ex-lover who has moved on, and though she tries she "can't let go."

Carey had fallen out with her songwriting partner Ben Margulies following a financial dispute, and her record label suggested that she work with the other producers of her debut album such as Rhett Lawrence, Ric Wake and Narada Michael Walden. She chose Walter Afanasieff, who had produced her second single "Love Takes Time" (1990), and "Can't Let Go" was one of the songs they created. After the release of the single "Emotions," "Can't Let Go" was promoted on both The Arsenio Hall Show in September 1991 and Saturday Night Live in November 1991 when she was the musical guest in the episode which featured Linda Hamilton as the host. "Can't Let Go" was later included on Carey's compilation album The Ballads (2008).

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Can't Let Go" is written in the key of F major (with minor interminglings), ascending up to F major (with similar qualities) to close the song out — a common pop tonal effect. Mariah's vocals range from the low note of F3 to the high note of B♭6, at a moderately slow tempo of 81 beats per minute, according to[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Allmusic editor Ashley S. Battel wrote that "yearning cries for a lost love in "Can't Let Go" serves to send the listener on a musical journey through time filled with varying emotions.[2] Los Angeles Times editor Dennis Hunt wrote that in this song Mariah is playing a wounded lover.[3] Rob Tannenbaum of Rolling Stone wrote that "moody grandeur" of this song will sound great on radio.[4]

Chart performance[edit]

U.S. CD promotional single

Carey's first five American singles (most recently "Emotions") had reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. "Can't Let Go" ended the streak when it reached number two (kept from the top spot by "All 4 Love" by Color Me Badd), and spent 17 weeks in the top 40. The record company had taken the single off from sales before it could reach number 1, in an attempt to boost sales of Emotions. The song topped the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks, where it became Carey's fourth number one single; the next single "Make It Happen" would break that streak. "Can't Let Go" ranked 23rd on the 1992 Hot 100 year-end charts.

"Can't Let Go" reached the UK top 20 and the Canadian top ten. It became her lowest peaking single at the time in all of the major Anglophone singles markets (with the exception of the UK), and failed to make the Australian top 50.

Music video and songs' versions[edit]

The single's video, directed by Jim Sonzero, features Carey wearing an evening gown and her hair in a bun. Filmed in black and white, the video starts and closes with shots of a rose open and closed respectively.[5]

A radio edit of the song was promoted to radio and used for the video instead of the original song, and the edit eliminates the seraphic pre-intro and removes all of Carey's high notes at the song's beginning and end. The radio edit is the opening track for all releases of the song. Like Carey's previous U.S. singles, "Can't Let Go" won a BMI Pop Award in 1993.

Copyright issues[edit]

In 1992, writers Sharon Taber and Ron Gonzalez filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Carey and Afanasieff citing that "Can't Let Go" was taken from their unknown song, "Right Before My Eyes." The plaintiffs demanded to obtain copies of the studio recording tapes to see if conversation between Carey and Afanasieff would prove them guilty. However, after being reviewed, the only guilty fear apparent was Mariah Carey quoted as saying "Can't Let Go" was sounding "too much like our other song." The lawsuit was later dropped or settled out of court.[6]

Track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

  • Recorded at Skywalker Sound, Marin Country; The Plant Recording Studios, Sausalito; Right Track Recording, NYC.
  • Mixed at Right Track Recording, NYC.
  • Lyrics – Mariah Carey
  • Music – Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff
  • Production – Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff
  • Keyboards, Synthesizers, Synthesizer Bass, Synclavier Acoustic Guitar, Drums and Percussion Arrangement and Programming – Walter Afanasieff
  • Guitars – Michael Landau
  • Synclavier/Akai Programming – Ren Klyce
  • Synclavier/Macintosh Programming – Gary Cirmelli
  • Arrangement – Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff
  • Engineer – Dana Jon Chapelle
  • Assistant engineers; Bruce Calder, Craig Silvey
  • Mixing – Dana Jon Chapelle
  • Vocal arrangement – Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff
  • Background vocals – Mariah Carey

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Emotions.[7]


See also[edit]

List of number-one adult contemporary singles of 1992 (U.S.)


  1. ^ Carey, Mariah. "Mariah Carey "Can't Let Go" Sheet Music in F Major - Download & Print". Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  2. ^ Ashley S. Battel. "Emotions". AllMusic. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "FALL ALBUM SPECIAL : Sappy Songs Underwhelm Carey's 'Emotions' : ** MARIAH CAREY". latimes. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  4. ^ Rob Tannenbaum (November 14, 1991). "Mariah Carey Emotions Album Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  5. ^ Can't Let Go - Music Video
  6. ^ Mariah Carey Accused of Plagiarism. Friedman, Roger. "Mariah: Songwriters Get Permission to Sue." (August 10, 2004).
  7. ^ Emotions (liner notes). Mariah Carey. Columbia Records. 1991. B000026HS0.
  8. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  9. ^ "Hits of the World" (PDF). Billboard. January 25, 1992. p. 47. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  10. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2042." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  11. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 2031." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
  12. ^ " – Mariah Carey – Can't Let Go" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  13. ^ " – Mariah Carey – Can't Let Go". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  14. ^ "Mariah Carey: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Mariah Carey Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  16. ^ "Mariah Carey Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  17. ^ "Mariah Carey Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "The RPM Top 100 Adult Contemporary Tracks of 1992". RPM. December 19, 1992. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c "The Year in Music: 1992" (PDF). Billboard. December 26, 1992. Retrieved May 20, 2015.

External links[edit]