By Corinna Tomrley aka Lezzer Bangs
Whenever I tell non-Lambily members that Mariah Carey is one of the best lyricists ever they almost universally say, ‘she doesn’t write her own songs, does she?’ or ‘are you sure it’s HER writing the lyrics?’ Eyeroll. Yes and very yes. I always wonder whether if it was a man pop star if the doubt would be so strong as with women who write their own lyrics. Anyway. She DOES. And if you paid attention to Mimi you would know that she does because she doesn’t bloody shut up about it. However, if I was her and every time my lyric authorship was mentioned it was doubted, I wouldn’t bloody shut up, either.
If you’re non-Lambily you’re probably saying, wait there, Lezzer, what the hell is Lambily? And I will again roll my eyes and sigh and condescendingly explain.
Mariah calls her fans her Lambs. So, we are in the Lambily. There. You’re welcome.
There’s many reasons to love Mimi’s lyrics. There’s inventiveness, there’s wit, there’s tons of pop cultural references and she doesn’t give a shit if they’re dated or will date. And there’s words that you would never find in anyone else’s songs. She can turn a phrase that sums up getting cheated on or fancying someone in a club and wanting to get on that and falling in love and having loads of money and bragging about it like no one else even comes close to. She is a fucking lyric genius and should be acknowledged as such.
So, no longer be surprised that Mariah Carey writes her own lyrics. Accept the fact, bitches. And then listen and worship at the alter that is Mimi’s oeuvre and her extraordinary poetry.
Here are some of my faves.
I first noticed Mimi’s lyrical prowess when I was singing along to Heartbreaker and I suddenly cried out, ‘hang on. Who would think to use the word incessantly in a song?’ And it works so well musically. So not only is it an unusual lyric choice, it is the most appropriate choice for the tune. I have to reiterate – GENIUS, darlings.
See also: I was oh so acquiescent, but I learned my lesson – It’s A Wrap
I get kind of hectic inside – Fantasy
I no longer live in your dominion – The Art Of Letting Go
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s kind of assholey to brag about your wealth, especially with so many of us with nothing. But when Mimi does it she’s simultaneously cute, endearing, and hilarious af. And at least she’s not pretending like she doesn’t have all that, she is no Jenny from the block (she, after all, doesn’t know her).
Behold the following examples.
In Get Your Number our girl picks up Jermaine Dupri in a club and asks, ‘tell me a little something about you’ but before he can answer she offers, ‘here’s a little something about me’ and informs him
‘I got a house in Capri and my own G4 and that Benz with the doors that lift up from the floor’
Then for the next verse she slays with
‘I got a pimp penthouse with a sick hot tub, we can watch the flat screen, while the bubbles fill it up’
And that is perhaps my second favourite Mariah Carey lyric.
And the thing is that this is a gender swap. Men are expected to brag about what they’ve got to women to pull them. Here’s a red hot chick who doesn’t need to brag or even open her mouth to speak. But she will. She will speak and be heard and what she is saying is she’s got it all, darling. Listen to her. And what you have to say better measure up to her stuff.
Then there’s the appropriately named Money. Actually called Money ($*/…)
‘Money, this, that, the other
Don’t mean nothing other than
Jets for holidays and
Chefs with hollandaise
Expensive lingerie, cuz I come home to you’
Although I did think it was ‘don’t need nothing other than…’ which would be funnier…
And for Shake It Off she tells the cheating a-hole she’s leaving that
‘See I grabbed all my diamonds and clothes
Just ask your momma she knows’
It’s a Wrap
There is SO much lyric magic in this song. OMFG. Pretty much the whole thing. Even ‘so just scoo da doo da doot, baby’. So where to begin? How about ‘know you seen me calling and calling, I should crack you right in your forehead’. ‘Ain’t no donuts, ain’t no coffee, see ya’. ‘Let me take a breath and regain my composure. Told you one more time if you f-ed up it’s over’. ‘Been sitting here all night, leave me alone. Since one o’clock a.m. been drinking Patron’. Oh. Sigh. And for the filmmakers among us she riffs on the ‘it’s a wrap’ theme and tells him, ‘boy, I ain’t checking the gate’. I mean.
The second verse deserves to be fully recognized:
If I ever misrepresented
Then I’m sorry
I was oh so acquiescent
But I learn my lesson
Boy, you’re sorry
Buh buh buh
All out in the open
Don’t make me go call Maury Povich
I had to look up what acquiescent meant. And I’m a PhD. And a Maury Povich ref? I love you Mimi, so frikkin much.
Heck, while we’re here let’s look at the last verse:
Put all your shit in the elevator
It’s going down like a denominator
Trying to keep holding on, holding on
Boy, let me go
You gon’ wake my neighbors, get away from my door
That was your last shot, you ain’t coming back
It’s the martini I mean it baby
Fyi, the martini refers to the ‘martini shot’, which is the final shot of the day on a film set. Let’s look at what else is going on there. ‘It’s going down like a denominator’. Wonderful. Tell me another who would put that word in a song lyric. ‘You’re gon’ wake my neighbours get away from my door’. We’re there, we’re in the scene. That bitch is gone from Mimi’s life. She means it, boy. Get away from her door or you’ll have us to deal with. You would prefer that to Mimi when she’s mad at you, believe us… Especially as she’s been on the tequila all night. That’s why there ain’t no donuts. No donuts for you, baby, ever, ever again.
Mimi isn’t afraid to make cultural references in her songs and she does like to call on some brand names to help her out. These are some of my top choices.
Just like a Calgon commercial I really gotta get up outta here and go somewhere – Shake It Off
Seeing right through you like you’re bathing in Windex – Obsessed
He’s all up in my George Foreman – Obsessed
Boy you’re acting so corny like Fritos – Infinity
Pull down them Tom Fords and act like you see’
And then there’s the talk show refs. We’ve already had Maury Povich in It’s A Wrap but there’s also Betcha Gon’ Know
‘This is for real, for real, for real
Oprah Winfrey, whole segment, for real, for real
20/20, Barbara Walters, for real, for real
60 minutes for real
And for Touch My Body
Cuz baby they be all up in my business, like a Wendy interview
Mimi’s also on it with social media refs, in Touch My Body she warns
If there’s a camera up in here
Then I’d best not catch this flick
And in Thirsty she says
So you stunting on your Instagram
But that shit ain’t everything
Cheating and breaking up
So we’ve had It’s A Wrap, which is a break up song and as he’s not been taking her calls we may assume it’s cuz he was with someone else. Well, there’s a fair old few catching him cheating songs in Mimi’s catalogue. And she captures it like no one else. Well, until Bey’s 90 Lemonade writers came along and made it a manifesto of catching someone cheating, that is.
Mentioned above is Betcha Gon’ Know and this song is about cheating, it’s about catching them in the act and they still fucking deny they’re doing anything. I mean. We’ve been there, Mimi darling, and we’re in that moment with you in Betcha Gon’ Know. It’s a two parter. The first (The Prologue) she catches them and runs off and he doesn’t know she knows. The second she catches him and confronts him. In the second part, we have ‘his’ side when she has (shudder) R Kelly as the ‘she drugged me and took advantage honey honest’ male protagonist caught literally with his pants down and a naked chick in her robe in her bedroom. These tracks are from Me I Am Mariah The Elusive Chanteuse which was her post being cheated on by husband Nick Cannon album so there’s a lot of heavy shit here. Is this what happened? We presume so. Oh hang on, she opens with ‘welcome to a day of my life. The memoirs of an imperfect angel’. So yeah, it is then.
In the prologue she sees them at it and drives away trying to get her head around what she’s found.
So I pulled to the side of the road to fix my face
But I can’t cover with makeup what my tears want to make
Then we have one of the great, extraordinary pieces of lyricism in this song (which is laden with greatness), when she’s come back into the apartment not knowing whether to acknowledge that she knows what happened.
I creep into the driveway
Tip toe through the door
But you’re there wide awake
You’re like ‘where you been?’
I’m like ‘sorry but I fell asleep on Jasmine’s sofa
I could have swore to Ray-Ray
I called you and told ya’
You like, ‘you ok?’
I’m like, ‘Mm, alright. Go to sleep and I’ll be fine’
And it’s that ‘Mm, alright’ that is a perfect simulation of a verbal moment in speech and SHE HAS IT IN THE LYRICS.
Ok, so next we have another example of the extraordinary breaking up song, from the same album: The Art Of Letting Go. It’s beautiful, it’s epic yet understated at the same time. It deserves a full sharing of the lyrics of the song because they are amazing. And it ends with the best Mariah Carey lyric ever. Behold:
I’m making a statement of my own opinion
Just a brief little reminder to help myself remember
I no longer live in your dominion (no, no, no, no, no, no ooh)
You’re just trifling, nothing more than a liability
Got up and laid all your possessions
Outside the kitchen window right now
Letting go, letting go ain’t easy
Oh, it’s just exceedingly hurtful
Cuz somebody you used to know
Is flinging your world around
And they watch, as you’re falling down, down, down
Falling down, baby
Evidently your words were merely lies
Reverberating in my ears
And the echo won’t subside
There’s a deep deep loss of hope
And the anger burns in me
I hope you don’t get no ideas ’bout re-uniting baby
Cuz that’s the last thing I truly need
Your audacity is too much to be believed, so
Go to Mimi on your contacts, press delete
See also: Infinity (the whole thing) and ‘We went round for round til we knocked love out’ – H.A.T.E.U.
Also, X-Girlfriend – If Mimi can write a poisonous song to a lover or ex lover she also knows how to tell off the ex-girlfriend of a new lover. You know, the kind who have not learned the art of letting go.
Seduction and getting it on
As she’s one of the hottest women on the planet and she knows it, Mimi can spin a lyric like nobody’s business about fancying someone, knowing they fancy her and that they’re gonna do it.
My personal favourite is from one of my favourite Mariah tunes, Say Something (with Snoop Dog)
I am over here, looking at you
You are over there, watching me too
Both painting pictures of
Of how we’ll kiss and fuck
So what we gonna do?
I mean. Amirite? Yeah? Yeah.
Tell me why we’re standing here
The moment’s fresh and so sincere
You got my mind blown
And baby I’m ready to go
So they’ve pulled Mimi. But wait… not so easy, partner
But, uh, if it’s worth your while
Then say somethin’ say somethin’
If it’s worth your while then say something good to me
And isn’t that all we really want when we pull? Sure I want you and I can see you want me. But it won’t hurt to use the words. The words. Goddamn how many times I’ve just wanted some words. Words are miraculous. Words are wonderful. Yeah actions, body language, looks are great. But words are sometimes the best thing. Tell me how you feel. Tell me what you want. Say something good to me. Cuz if you do, you might just get to shag Mariah in the loo as happens in this song. Just sayin’ (something good to me).
Another great example is her duet with Miguel, #Beautiful, and her part is great but his first verse and chorus is so hot and sexy and respectful. Again with the words. Oysh.
Hop on the back of my bike
Let the good wind blow through your hair
With a ass like that
And a smile so bright
Oh you’re killing me you know it ain’t fair
Ride on through the middle of the night
Let the moonlight kiss your skin
When you dance like that
With your cheeks so tight
Oh you’re killing me
Baby do it again
And your mind is fucking beautiful
And I can’t pretend that that doesn’t mean a thing
To me to me
Good lord you’re fucking beautiful
And I can’t pretend that that doesn’t mean a thing
To me to me
He loves her body and her mind and that’s just the most fucking beautiful thing
See also: Get Your Number (see example above for how to pull Mariah when she’s bragging about all the stuff she’s got); and I’m That Chick
Finally, my actual favourite lyric in a Mariah Carey song is not a Mariah Carey lyric but comes from a rap by her sometime gf (yes, really. It was in The National Enquirer and everything), Da Brat, in the remix of Loverboy.
I first heard Loverboy when my ex-bf (who is responsible for getting me into Mimi’s music. I was already a fan of her ass, see here for details) bought the enhanced CD. Remember, those kids? It had the video on it! Why you would ever play the audio single when you had that to look at, I have no idea. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a decent version of that video on Youtube, just blurry ones. Someone get an enhanced CD from ebay and rip it and upload it, will ya? Thanks. Anyway, I was smitten. And Loverboy became my favourite Mimi song, by miles. It is an absolute coinkidink that I ended up working for a glorious, queer magazine called Loverboy, named after that same song. Well, perhaps it was fated, if you believe in that sort of thing. So, there’s Mimi with a kerchief for a top and short short shorts and there’s racing cars and blah blah blah. It’s magnificent. But it’s not just the visuals actually, I promise. The song is AMAYYYYYYYZING!!! And, of course lyrically it’s stunning.
I got myself a lover, who knows what I like
When he invites me over I come every time
So so so so so hot. When you get one of them, keep ‘em.
And when my sugar daddy takes me for a ride
Everywhere we go is delirium time
Delirium time!!!!!! I love delirium time! It’s my favourite time!
I’ve got myself a lover, and he’s so sublime
It’s quite a bit of heaven to feel him inside
This song is filthy and it’s wonderful.
So, anyway, there’s an inevitable remix and on it Da Brat raps the best thing ever.
Banana split my dairy queen
Butterfinger my tangerine
And there we have it: a food metaphor lyric which pretty much sums up bisexual sex. How perfect is it? Very, very perfect, darlings.
And I am going to have a tramp stamp tattoo (reclaiming the slut shaming of the concept of tramp stamp) of that lyric with a Dairy Queen logo, a stylized banana split, the Butterfinger logo and a cute anthropomorphic tangerine fluttering her eyelashes. And the kickstarter to fund that will be up shortly. Tattoo artists, please get in touch. Especially if you want to do it for free and I don’t have to try to do a failed kickstarter for it. Go on, you know you want to have that as the prime example of your work. And to mark me.