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Emotions (Mariah Carey album)

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Emotions Mariah Carey.png
Studio album by Mariah Carey
Released September 17, 1991
Recorded 1991; Skywalker Sound, The Plant Recording Studios (Sausalito, California), Tarpan Studio, (San Rafael, California), Right Track Recording, Axis Studios, Skyline Studios, Battery Studios & Giant Recording Studios (New York City)
Length 47:01
Label Columbia
Producer Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff, David Cole, Robert Clivillés
Mariah Carey chronology
Mariah Carey
MTV Unplugged
Singles from Emotions
  1. "Emotions"
    Released: August 13, 1991
  2. "Can't Let Go"
    Released: October 23, 1991
  3. "Make It Happen"
    Released: April 4, 1992

Emotions is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey. It was released on September 17, 1991 by Columbia Records. The album deviated from the formula of Carey's 1990 self-titled debut album, as she had more creative control over the material she produced and recorded. Additionally, Emotions features influences from a range of genres such as gospel, R&B, soul, pop and 1950s, 1960s and 1970s balladry infusion. On the record, Carey worked with a variety of producers and writers, including Walter Afanasieff, the only hold over from her previous effort. Additionally, Carey wrote and produced the album's material with Robert Clivillés and David Cole from C+C Music Factory and Carole King, with whom she wrote one song.

Upon release, Emotions received generally mixed reviews from contemporary music critics. The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200, surprising many critics following the success of Carey's debut, which spent eleven weeks atop the chart. While selling far less than Mariah Carey, Emotions was eventually certified quadruple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of four million copies throughout the country, with estimated sales standing at 3,595,000 copies. Emotions achieved moderate success outside the United States, peaking within the top ten in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. Its success in Japan was strong, shipping one million copies there. The album has sold 8 million copies worldwide.

Three commercial singles were released from the album. The title track, the album's lead song, became Carey's fifth chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the only artist in history to have their first five singles reach the chart's summit. Additionally, it became Carey's third chart topper in Canada, and reached the top ten in France, the Netherlands and New Zealand. "Can't Let Go" was released as the second single from Emotions on October 23, 1991. Due to Columbia's removal of the single from stores in an attempt to boost the album's sales, "Can't Let Go" failed to become her sixth chart topper in the US, peaking at number two. European and worldwide success was very limited, reaching the top 20 in only Canada and the UK. Similarly, "Make It Happen" peaked at number five in the US, and achieved relatively weak international charting, prompting Columbia to halt promotion of the album.


Following the success of Carey's self-titled debut album, critics wondered whether or not she would tour in order to promote the album in the major worldwide music markets.[6] However, Carey expressed in several interviews that due to the strenuous nature and the sheer difficulty of her songs, she feared a tour with back-to-back shows would not be possible, aside from the long travel times and constant travel.[6] With the extra time, Carey began writing and producing material for Emotions around the same time that her debut's third single, "Someday", was released in December 1990. During this time period in music, it was traditional for an artist to release a studio album every two years in their prime, allowing the singles to fully promote the album through airwaves, as well as television appearances.[7] Additionally, after a tour that would usually follow, as the next album would be released and would gain new fans, they would search the artist's catalog, and purchase the previous album in hopes of learning of their older work.[7] Sony, however, chose to market Carey in a different fashion, leaning towards the traditional form in the 1960s, where acts would release an LP every year.[8] They felt that Carey's reputation of being a "studio worm" and a songwriter from a young age would be captivating enough to deliver a new album more often than most.[8]

As writing for the album came under way, Carey had a falling out with Ben Margulies, the man whom Carey had written seven of the eleven songs on Carey's debut with.[8] Together, the duo had written and produced seven songs for Carey's demo tape which she handed to Tommy Mottola. Their parting of ways was due to a contract Carey had signed prior to her signing with Columbia.[8] Carey had agreed to split not only the songwriting royalties from the songs, but half of her earnings as well, something she never thought twice about while writing songs in his father's basement.[8] However, when the time came to write music for Emotions, Sony officials made it clear he would only be paid the fair amount given to co-writers on an album.[8] Following the discussion, Margulies filed a lawsuit against Sony, claiming that under contract, he would be entitled to work with Carey, as well as reap extra benefits. After an almost one year lawsuit, the judge settled that Margulies was to earn ten percent of Carey's direct earnings from her record sales, not including an income from any other ventures.[8] While settled, their relationship remained ruined, damaged by what Carey considered treachery. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey said the following regarding the contract: "I signed blindly. Later, I tried to make it right so we could continue...but he wouldn't accept it."[8] After the settlement, Margulies spoke of his feelings on the matter, claiming he would hope to one day write again with Carey, placing most of the blame on the record label and concluding "Hopefully one day, art will prevail over business."[8]


Mariah Carey had originally been recorded in Margulies' father's basement, with old and minimal equipment. After being signed to Columbia, the songs that would be used for the album were re-mastered and re-recorded in professional studios.[9] However, due to Sony's involvement in the project, they did not allow Carey to produce most of the album, hoping the aid of several famed record producers would be able to ensure Carey's already deemed "exquisite" songs would become popular. After the album's success however, Carey was allowed more freedom on Emotions than on her debut.[9] Since she no longer had a working or personal relationship with Margulies, she chose to work with mostly different musicians than those of her previous effort, with the exception of Walter Afanasieff, the only hold over from Mariah Carey.[9] Even though he had only co-written "Love Takes Time", and had only produced part of the album, Carey felt a strong working chemistry with him, soon developing a unique form of songwriting alongside him. Aside from Afanasieff, Carey worked with Robert Clivillés and David Cole from the dance-music influenced production duo, C+C Music Factory.[9] Working with the duo was originally Mottola's suggestion, but after meeting the pair, Carey agreed and wrote four songs together with them.[9]

Additionally, aside from the three men, Carey worked with Carole King, a female singer-songwriter who had been predominantly popular in the 1970s.[10] However, unlike with C+C Music Factory, King approached Carey, hoping to work with her after hearing her perform live on The Arsenio Hall Show. During a conversation with Carey, King suggested that she cover "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", a song she had written with Gerry Goffin for Aretha Franklin.[10] After giving it some thought, Carey declined the offer, feeling uncomfortable about recording a song she felt one of her musical influences performed so perfectly.[10] Still determined on working with Carey, King flew to New York for one day, to try to create a ballad of some sort.[10] The two ladies sat together by a piano over the course of the day, and by nightfall, had written and arranged a song titled "If It's Over".[11] After working with Carey, King said in an interview "I love her voice. She's very expressive. She gives a lot of meaning to what she sings."[11] After recording "If It's Over", Carey expressed the musical connection she shared with Afanasieff, as well as the creative format in which she wrote and produced her music when with him, or working with C+C Music Factory.[12] When working with Afanasieff, the duo would sit by a piano, and lead each other vocally and musically, until they would reach the right note and arrangement. During an interview in 1992, Afanasieff described how Carey would stand next to him, and begin singing different notes and tunes she was thinking of, while he would follow her with the piano.[12] In doing so, he would help lead her to the right note and vice versa. Carey described their working relationship as "very unique," and felt it to be very similar to the form in which she had worked with Margulies.[12] While similar, Carey's creative process with Cole and Clivillés proved different; they would bring her several different tapes and tunes, of which she would choose from. Afterwards, they would work on building the already created melody, and have Carey add and build onto it, as well as writing the lyrics and key.[12]

Music and lyrics[edit]

A sample from the song's chorus. It features Carey's lower registers an husky vocals, as well as its minimal production.

A sample of the song's bridge. It features Carey's upper registers as well as the song's gospel influence.

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Unlike Carey's debut album, which featured a more contemporary pop and R&B background, Emotions proved to be far different. It borrowed from several genres ranging from gospel, R&B, soul, pop and 1960s and 1970s influences.[13][14] The album's lead single "Emotions" borrowed heavily from 1970s disco, and flaunted Carey's upper range and extensive use of the whistle register.[14] The song's lyrics were described as "joyful" by author Chris Nickson, and told of a strong and deep emotion felt by the protagonist when with their lover.[14] One of the album's more gospel infused songs, "And You Don't Remember", featured organ chord changes and held minimal production in order to give the vocals a more "raw and sixties feel."[14] It and the former song were part of a trio of tracks from the album that were meant to pay homage to Motown ballads, with the inclusion of soft church choir vocals, and sole musical arrangement by Carey.[14] Its lyrics reflected the song's raw chorus, telling of girl that is promised the world by her boyfriend, and quickly forget about her and moves to the next one. After the heartbreak, the protagonist asks him "Don't You Remember" all those things he had promised her, and the things they had spoken and dreamed about doing together.[14] "Can't Let Go", the album's second single, is a slow ballad, featuring sad and yearning lyrical content.[15] The song's introduction featured minor chord changes, and drew influence from fifties balladry.[15] For the duration of the first half of the song, Carey sings in her lower and huskier registers, eventually leading to the belted crescendo and falsetto and whistle finish.[15] Of the ten tracks on the album, Carey felt her most autobiographical lyrics were featured on "Make It Happen", which told of Carey's poor and difficult teen life prior to being signed by Columbia.[15] It continues telling of the importance of faith and prayer to God. Nickson described its instrumentation as "restrained" and "very Motownish," as well as noting its soft gospel infusion.[15] Critically, the most anticipated song on the album was Carey's collaboration with King. It was influenced by sixties and seventies gospel and other soulful genres.[16] According to Nickson, the song's instrumentation and basis was crucial to Carey's performance throughout the song. Additionally, he described its content and instrumentation:

As a song full of gospel and soulful influences, it allowed Mariah to really tear loose and show what she could do – which in reality was far more than the vocal gymnastics that seemed to comprise her reputation so far. From a deep rumble to a high wail, she covered five octaves wonderfully, as the power of the tune built. The backing vocals – which once again had those churchy harmonies – filled out the spare melody, as did the stately horns, which entered towards the end. The song was truly a vocal showcase for Mariah.[16]

The next song on the album's track list, "You're So Cold", was originally intended to be the lead single from Emotions, eventually being switched for the title track. The song's introduction features a piano and a capella vocal, working into its chorus.[16] Chris Nickson wrote "The song sailed into the chorus, driven by the house-y piano work, the bubbly, snacking rhythm belying the angry lyrics, the upbeat tone of voice."[16] As Nickson hinted at, its lyrics featured an angry message, calling out an unfaithful lover and asking how he could be "So Cold." "So Blessed" was a song Carey wrote with Afanasieff, infusing fifties style pop balladry into it. Carey's voice in the song is very restrained, as she stays within her lower registers throughout the duration of the track.[16] "To Be Around You" was described by Nickson as "far more staccato." Its production and melody was intended to pay tribute to "Got to Be Real" by Cheryl Lynn, as well as featuring spoken voices towards the end of the song.[16] Nickson described "Till the End of Time" as a "gentle, almost lullaby melody."[17] It was a love ballad, preparing the listener for the song's final track, "The Wind". The latter song featured the album's strongest jazz influence, and sampled a piano melody from Russell Freeman during the 1950s.[17] After Afanasieff presented Carey with the melody he had discovered, it inspired her to write the melody and lyrics, which told of a friend that perished in a drunk-driving accident.[17] Musically, the album fulfilled its greatest challenge, according to critics. It had helped master Carey's usage and infusion of several genres which she had not tapped into during the recording of her debut.[17]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating 3.5/5 stars[18]
Allmusic 4/5 stars[19]
The Boston Globe (Positive)[20]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[21]
Entertainment Weekly (C)[22]
Orlando Sentinel (Mixed)[23]
Los Angeles Times 2/4 stars[24]
Robert Christgau (dud)[25]
Rolling Stone 2/5 stars[26]
Sun-Sentinel (Mixed)[27]

Upon its release, Emotions garnered generally mixed to positive reviews from contemporary music critics, many of whom both praised and criticized the album's content alongside Carey's vocal acrobatics. Bill Lamb from gave Emotions three and a half out of five stars, complimenting the album as a whole, claiming it to be "tightened" when in comparison to the original. He described the album's lead single as "bone chilling," however criticizing some of the Carey's high notes as "vocal range overkill."[18] Allmusic editor, Ashley Battel, gave the album four out of five stars, calling it a "musical journey." Additionally, Erlewine picked "Emotions" and "Make It Happen" as the album's standout tracks and wrote "The one emotion that prevails upon completion of the album is definitely a positive one: satisfaction."[19] Parry Gettelman, editor from the Orlando Sentinel, was critical on Carey's vocal acrobatics, writing "Carey has become so enamored of the ultra-high-frequency part of her range that I'm starting to suspect she may be an intergalactic spy trying to re- establish communications with the far-off Planet of Dogs."[23] Jonathan Kurant from the Sun-Sentinel gave Emotions a mixed review, writing "Oddly, the album gets more original at the end, where not all people will bother getting to." Further in the review, he outed "The Wind" and "Till the End of Time" as the album's stand out tracks, but felt most of the album was unoriginal and not an improvement over her debut.[28]

Steve Morse from The Boston Globe gave the album a positive review, calling it "a quantum leap in maturity and confidence." Morse felt Emotions was superior to Carey's debut, calling its lyrics "remarkable," its ballads "unspeakably beautiful," and Carey's vocal and songwriting ability "unlimited."[20] Rob Tannenbaum from Rolling Stone was critical on the album, expressing how Carey's extensive use of her range made it difficult to truly feel and connect to the lyrics within the songs. Tannenbaum concluded his review on Emotions with "Carey has a remarkable vocal gift, but to date, unfortunately, her singing has been far more impressive than expressive."[26] Arion Berger from Entertainment Weekly gave the album a C, calling it "colder and more calculated" than Carey's debut. Additionally, Berger mirrored similar sentiments written by Tannenbaum, writing "[Emotions] is the hybrid progeny of a venerable tradition — the tradition of the R&B diva — and crass commercial instincts. it's gospel without soul, love songs without passion, pop without buoyancy."[22] Robert Christgau said nothing on the album, but gave it a "dud" score.[25] Deborah Wilker, editor of the Sun-Sentinel, complimented Carey's vocal and singing abilities, however criticizing some of the album's content as a whole. Wilker wrote "With her elite industry connections and top-notch voice, Carey can do better. Sure this set is enjoyable and provides pop fans with a new diva to idolize, but Carey and company don`t come close to exploiting the full range of her musical potential."[27] Dennis Hunt from the Los Angeles Times gave the album two out of a possible four stars. After comparing calling Carey's voice to that of Whitney Houston's, he called it "spectacular and impressive," but criticized the album's songs and production for "playing high on the angst scale."[24] Editor of the Chicago Tribune, Jan DeKnock, gave the album three stars, indicating a "Good" review. She called some of the album's ballads "boring," but described Carey's voice as "breathtaking."[21]

Commercial performance[edit]

Carey performing "Make It Happen" in Florida, during her Adventures of Mimi Tour

Emotions debuted at the number four position on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 129,000 copies, surprising critics following the success of Mariah Carey (1990). In total, the album spent twenty-seven weeks in the top twenty and a total of fifty-five on the albums chart, becoming Carey's lowest-peaking album until Glitter (2001). Emotions was certified quadruple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of four million copies within the United States.[29] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album's stateside sales are estimated at 3,595,000.[30] On the Canadian RPM Albums Chart, Emotions debuted at number fourteen, on the issue dated October 5, 1991.[31] Four weeks later, on the issue date November 2, 1991, the album reached its peak position of number six, staying there for one week.[32] At the end of the year, Emotions finished number 35 on the Year-End Albums Chart of 1991.[33] To date, the album has been certified quadruple-platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), denoting shipments of 400,000 units.[34] In Japan, Emotions debuted at number three on the official Oricon chart, and according to Sony Music, has sold 1,000,000 copies throughout the country.[35][36] In Australia, the album debuted at number twelve on the Australian Albums Chart during the week of October 10, 1991, attaining its peak position of number eight the following week.[37] After eighteen weeks fluctuating within the chart, Emotions dropped out of the top forty, being certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[37][38]

In France, Emotions received a gold certifications from the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP), denoting shipments of 100,000 units.[39] The album made its debut on the Dutch Top 40 at number seventy-nine.[40] The following week, it moved up to number fifty-nine, which became its peak charting position.[40] In total, Emotions spent six weeks within the Dutch charts, being certified platinum by the Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers (NVPI), denoting shipments of 100,000 units.[41] During the week of October 17, 1991, Emotions debuted at its peak position of number six, spending a total of sixteen weeks on the New Zealand Albums Chart.[42] The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) certified the album platinum, denoting shipments of 15,000 units within the country.[43] In Sweden, Emotions debuted at number twenty-six on the Swedish Albums Chart, peaking at number thirteen and spending a total of five weeks fluctuating in the chart.[44] Following its exit from the chart, the album was certified platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), denoting shipments of 100,000 units.[45] On October 13, 1991, Emotions debuted at number sixteen on the Swiss Albums Chart, attaining its peak position of fifteen the succeeding week.[46] Following a run of nine weeks in the albums chart, the album was certified gold by the IFPI, denoting shipments of 50,000 units throughout the country.[47] On the UK Albums Chart, dated October 26, 1991, the album debuted at number ten.[48] In its seventeenth week, Emotions attained its peak position of number four, placing higher than Carey's debut reach of six.[49] After charting in the United Kingdom for forty weeks, the album was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), denoting shipments of 300,000 units.[50] Emotions has sold eight million copies worldwide, short of the 15 million sold by her debut in 1990.[36][51]


A sample from the song's final chorus, featuring Carey's usage of the whistle register.

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Three commercial singles were released from Emotions. The album's lead single of the same name became Carey's fifth chart topper in the United States, making her the only act in history to have their first five singles reach the charts summit in the country.[18][52] Additionally, "Emotions" topped the singles chart in Canada, reached the top five in New Zealand, and peaked within the top twenty in Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.[53][54][55][56][57] The song garnered positive critical response, with Bill Lamb from rating it "among her best."[18] Steve Morse from The Boston Globe called Carey's high registers in the song a "feeling of pure joy," whereas Jan DeKnock from the Chicago Tribune described Carey's voice as "breathtaking."[20][21] The song's music video features different scenes of Carey singing and enjoying herself throughout a car ride by the countryside, as well as a small celebration with several dancers.

The album's second release, "Can't Let Go", only reached the number two position on the Billboard Hot 100, failing to top the chart due to Columbia's retraction of the single in order to boost sales of the album.[52] Aside from Canada, where it attained a peak of number three, "Can't Let Go" performed weakly across continental Europe, reaching the top twenty in only the UK.[58][59] The song's corresponding video was filmed in black and white, and featured Carey's hair in a straightened style for the first time in her career. The video predominantly features close-up scenes of Carey by a small outdoor fountain, as well as blooming white roses. "Make It Happen" was released as the third and final single from Emotions on April 4, 1992. It peaked at number five in the United States, and as "Can't Let Go", charted weakly throughout Europe, coming in at number seven in Canada, seventeen in the UK, and thirty-five and forty-seven in Australia and the Netherlands, respectively.[52][60][61][62][63] The song was praised by critics; Morse called it "a clear slice of spiritual autobiography," and called the last chorus "glorious."[20] Similarly, DeKnock called the song "upbeat and inspirational."[21] The video filmed for "Make It Happen" featured Carey performing in front of an audience in a large cathedral-like church, alongside back-up singers and child dancers.


As with Mariah Carey the previous year, Carey did not embark on a tour to promote the album, due to the long travel times and strenuous schedules on her voice.[64] However, while not touring the world, Carey promoted Emotions through an array of television and award show appearances, stateside and across Europe.[64] Carey performed "Emotions" live for the first time at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, backed by several male and female back up vocalists.[64] Following the award show appearance, she sang "Emotions" on The Arsenio Hall Show, airing on September 23, 1991. Additionally, Carey performed the song at the 1992 Soul Train Music Awards, and on British music program and talk show Top of the Pops and Des O'Connor.[65] Additional European stops included Sondagstoppet and Kulan in Sweden during mid-September 1991. All of the above mentioned performances included "Can't Let Go" as a secondary performance in the night.[65] "Can't Let Go" was sung on additional programs such as Saturday Night Live, a pre-filmed studio clip on The Today Show. While the album's final single "Make It Happen" was released only months after Emotions release, the song was not performed during the album's original chart run, however making its way onto the set-list of several of Carey following tours.[65] On February 26, 1992, Carey performed "If It's Over" at the 34th annual Grammy Award, with a full orchestra and several back up singers.[64]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Throughout 1992, Carey, the album and its accompanying singles received recognition by the music industry in the form of several awards. At the 19th annual American Music Awards, Carey took home the award for Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist.[66] At the 3rd annual Billboard Music Awards, Carey took home two trophies for the album and "Emotions", Top Female Album Artist and Top Female Single.[66] Additionally, Carey was nominated for two Grammy Award at the 34th annual ceremony, for Producer of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, losing in both categories.[66] All three of the album's singles were awarded BMI Pop Awards in 1993.[67][68][69]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Emotions"   Mariah Carey, Robert Clivillés, David Cole Carey, Clivillés, Cole 4:09
2. "And You Don't Remember"   Carey, Walter Afanasieff Carey, Afanasieff 4:26
3. "Can't Let Go"   Carey, Afanasieff Carey, Afanasieff 4:27
4. "Make It Happen"   Carey, Clivillés, Cole Carey, Clivillés, Cole 5:10
5. "If It's Over"   Carey, Carole King Carey, King 4:38
6. "You're So Cold"   Carey, Cole Carey, Clivillés 5:05
7. "So Blessed"   Carey, Afanasieff Carey, Afanasieff 4:13
8. "To Be Around You"   Carey, Clivillés Carey, Cole 4:37
9. "Till the End of Time"   Carey, Afanasieff Carey, Afanasieff 5:35
10. "The Wind"   Carey, Russell Freeman Carey, Freeman 4:41


Credits for Emotions adapted from Allmusic.[70]

Charts and certifications[edit]


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  7. ^ a b Nickson 2001, p. 51
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Works cited[edit]