After silencing the doubters and naysayers in 1992 with the MTV Unplugged show and proving she still had her commercial power when her live recording of “I’ll Be There” became a #1 hit, Mariah Carey had more goodies to showcase in 1993.
The first was the lead single from her 3rd studio album, Music Box, which premiered in July. “Dreamlover” was co-written and co-produced with Dave Hall, a young, NY native producer who made a name for himself for collaborating with Mary J. Blige on her acclaimed debut album What’s the 411?
In an interview with Fred Bronson, Mariah explained that she wanted to “do something that had a happy feeling, something that was more open and released.” The two of them decided to use a looped sample of The Emotions’ “Blind Alley” and Mariah started singing the melody over it. The song came together very quickly: according to Dave Hall, they had the hook, melody and instrumental completed in one night. Mariah then started to write the lyrics and gave the new song a title when she was done.
When Tommy Mottola heard the original “Dreamlover,” he felt something was missing and decided to bring Walter Afanasieff in to tweak the instrumental. Afanasieff is credited as a co-producer on the song and he is responsible for smoothing out the drums and the addition of the Hammond B-3 organ in the instrumental.
“Dreamlover” started a trend for Mariah’s lead singles to include samples and it’s a prime example of her balancing her Pop and R&B sensibilities effortlessly. The song was, in fact, seen as a return to the radio friendly sound that characterized her debut record, but it still retained hints of the old school influences Mariah displayed on the Emotions album, thanks to the sample it incorporates.
Upon its release, “Dreamlover” was met with critical and commercial success, becoming her most successful single at that point. It debuted at #12 at CHR/Top 40 radio, a record Mariah held on her own for 21 years, until it was matched by Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” last year. It went on to top the Mainstream Top 40 chart (Mariah’s 9th consecutive #1 single) and the Billboard Hot 100 for 8 weeks. The CD single was certified Platinum by the RIAA, the first of her singles to ship 1 million copies to retailers. The song was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 1994 Grammy Awards as well.
The music video was directed by Diane Martel and filmed in upstate New York. It features Mariah having fun swimming with her dog Jack (who made his debut cameo in this video), boarding a hot air baloon and dancing around in a field. The carefree nature of the visuals matches the vibe of the song perfectly. As Mariah sings and fantasizes about her dream lover, she is seen being happy and relaxed in a dreamy atmosphere.
“Dreamlover” was also the first single of Mariah’s to be remixed by David Morales. The 10 minutes long “Def Club Mix” features new and powerful vocals over a thumping Dance beat. Mariah had incorporated new vocals for the intro of the “Emotions” remixes, but this time she gave the remix a second life by re-doing the whole vocal track. This was also the beginning of a trend Mariah would later extend to her Urban remixes as well and a tradition that she still likes to revamp occasionally. The remix version became her 3rd #1 hit on the Billboard Dance charts.
The “Dreamlover” CD single also included the smooth and sultry “Do You Think of Me” as a B-side. This R&B-leaning song was written and produced with Walter Afanasieff, Cory Rooney and Mark Morales.
“Dreamlover” continues to be one of Mariah’s most appreciated songs for its lighthearted and upbeat nature and its catchiness. It has been a staple in her concert setlists ever since the Music Box Tour in 1993. On The Adventures of Mimi Tour in 2006, Mariah performed a new version of the song that incorporates elements of Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” into the original instrumental to a largely positive response from the fans. It occupies a proud place in Mariah’s vast catalog for being a great representation of her legacy as a singer and a songwriter and it holds a special place in the hearts of her fans around the world as well.