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The Roof (Back in Time)

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"The Roof (Back in Time)"
The Roof Mariah Carey.png
Single by Mariah Carey featuring Mobb Deep
from the album Butterfly
ReleasedMarch 20, 1998 (1998-03-20)
  • Mariah Carey
  • Poke and Tone
Mariah Carey singles chronology
"The Roof (Back in Time)"

"The Roof (Back in Time)" is a song by American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey, taken from her sixth studio album, Butterfly (1997). It was released as the third single from the album in Europe, on March 20, 1998 by Columbia Records. Similar to the treatments of "Butterfly" and "Breakdown", "The Roof" received a limited worldwide release due to Carey's conflict at the time with Sony. The song was written and produced by Carey and Trackmasters, and is built around a sample from "Shook Ones part II" by Mobb Deep. The song's lyrics recount an intimate roof-top encounter between lovers, and how the memory affects the protagonist. The extended remix features a rap verse by Mobb Deep; both versions were well received by contemporary music critics.

In the music video, Carey is seen in a limousine recounting an encounter she shared on a rainy night. Additionally, past scenes of the event are shown, with Carey caressing her lover at a roof-top party. During the videos climax, Carey open the limousines sun-roof and stands in the rain, trying to recapture the moments she shared in the rain. Aside from the Japanese concerts, Carey performed the song live during her Butterfly World Tour in 1998. Due to the song's limited release, "The Roof" did not chart in most major music markets, with the exception of The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, where it peaked at numbers 63 and 96, respectively.

In addition, "The Roof" was added to Carey's compilation album The Ballads (2009).


"The Roof" was released on July 28, 1998 by Columbia Records.[1] The song is a slow and sultry song, which blends hip-hop and contemporary R&B genres.[1] It incorporates drum notes, including heavy beats and grooves.[1] The song's second version features a rap version from Mobb Deep. The song samples the melody from "Shook Ones Part II" by Mobb Deep, incorporating it into chorus and bridge. 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 B-flat minor.[2] It features a basic chord progression of A-F1.[2] Carey's vocal range in the song spans from the low note of E3 to the high note of F5; the piano and guitar pieces range from F3 to G5 as well.[2] The song contains choral lyrics written by Carey, who produced the song's melody and chorus as well. Aside from assisting with its chord progression, Cory Rooney co-arranged and produced the track as well.[1] Author Chris Nickson felt the song was extremely important for Carey's musical transition, writing "Lyrically, this was some of her best work ever, the melody slinky and overtly sexy, confirmation – as if any was needed at this point! – that this was the new Mariah."[1]

Critical reception[edit]

"The Roof" was acclaimed by contemporary music critics for its choice of vocal work, instrumentation and lyrics. David Browne from Entertainment Weekly praised the song as well as Carey's choice of vocals, writing "Carey is still a vocal grandstander capable of turning all into a six-syllable word. Yet for most of the album she keeps her notorious octave-climbing chops at bay. Showing some admirable restraint, she nestles herself into the downy-soft beats of 'The Roof'."[3] Rich Juzwiak from Slant wrote "Little more than yearning, kissing, and remembering happens during the course of 'The Roof,' a rough-enough R&B revision of Mobb Deep's 'The Shook Ones.' But lyrically Mariah the writer is vivid, sometimes shockingly clever (rhyming 'liberated' with 'Moet' is a stroke of genius)."[4]

Chart performance[edit]

"The Roof" was chosen as the third single from Butterfly, receiving an airplay-only release. Because of conflict between Carey and her record label at the time, Sony Music Entertainment, it was only given a commercial release in Europe, while "Breakdown" was released throughout Oceania.[1] In the UK, the song peaked at number 96 during the week of April 4, 1998.[5] "The Roof" stayed in the UK Singles Chart for one week before falling outside the top 100.[5] In the Netherlands, it performed weakly as well, peaking at number 63 while spending five weeks fluctuating in the Single Top 100.[6]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "The Roof" garnered critical acclaim, and was ranked 18th on Slant's "100 Greatest Music Videos".[7] Sal Ciquemani, from Slant, gave the video a positive review, complimenting Carey's choice to pair the sultry song with a "sophisticated tale of a sexy rooftop encounter".[7] The video re-tells a story of Carey reminiscing a past love and a night they shared together on a rainy roof-top. The video's setting revolves around a dark limousine, a decrepit NYC apartment, and a rainy roof-top, where "Carey is featured at her most vulnerable, with runny mascara and drenched in the cold rainy night."[7] In the conclusion of his review of the video, Ciquemani wrote: "When Carey rises through the limo's sunroof and relishes the warm November rain, she's not drunk on the bubbly but on the memory of past delights."[7]

The video was directed by Carey and Diane Martel during the spring of 1998. The music video begins with Carey sitting alone in a limousine, recalling a night she shared some time previous. As scenes of Carey reminiscing in the limo are shown, clips of her dressing in an old apartment are presented. Eventually, Carey joins a roof-top party one night, where she begins dancing and caressing her lover. As the passion between them grown, rain begins to fall, showering everyone atop the edifice. As these scenes end, Carey in the present opens the sun-roof of the limo and stands into the rainy night, trying to recapture those magical moments she shared on that rainy roof-top encounter. The video ends with a wet Carey lying in the back of the limousine, sad and lonely.

Live performances[edit]

"The Roof" was performed few times throughout Carey's career. The song was performed during her Butterfly World Tour in 1998. During the performances, live male and female dancers were present on stage, grooving and performing classic routines.[8] Carey wore a short beige ensemble and performed light classical dances, alongside a male partner.[8] The song was performed on select dates of Carey's 2014 The Elusive Chanteuse Show tour.[9]. Carey would later perform a snippet of it acapella during her set at Jimmy Kimmel Live! while promoting #1 To Infinity, later expressing to be happy at the fact the audience knew the lyrics to the song.[10]

Tracks listing[edit]

CD Single[11]
  1. "The Roof (Back In Time) (Album Version)" – 5:15
  2. "The Roof (Back In Time) (Mobb Deep Radio Edit)" - 4:26
  3. "The Roof (Back In Time) (Mobb Deep Extended Version)" – 5:31
  4. "The Roof (Back In Time) (Full Crews' Club Mix)" – 5:02
  5. "The Roof (Back In Time) (Full Crew Mix)" – 3:50


Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Butterfly liner notes.[12]


Chart (1998) Peak
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 63
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[5] 87
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[14] 15


  1. ^ a b c d e f Nickson 1998, p. 167
  2. ^ a b c Abrego 1998, pp. 30–35
  3. ^ Browne, David (September 19, 1997). "Music Review – Mariah Carey: Butterfly". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  4. ^ Juzwiak, Rich (December 18, 2003). "Music Review: Mariah Carey: Butterfly". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on October 3, 2009. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "Mariah Carey UK Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  6. ^ "Mariah Carey – The Roof" (in Dutch). Stichting Nederlands Top 40. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Cinquemani, Sal (June 30, 2003). "100 Greatest Music Videos". Slant Magazine. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Nickson 1998, p. 168
  9. ^ The Elusive Chanteuse Show
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Butterfly (Liner Notes). Mariah Carey. Columbia Records. 1997.CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ " – Mariah Carey – The Roof" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 25, 2015.
  14. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 5, 2010.