The Many Forms of Metamorphosis: A review of Mariah Carey’s “Honey” remixes

Starting with 1995’s “Fantasy,” Mariah Carey began to transform her more pop-leaning singles to become full-fledged hip-hop recreations.  In addition, she would also re-imagine the songs in fully re-sung house remixes, which began with 1993’s “Dreamlover.”  Mariah continued this practice with the lead single from Butterfly, “Honey.”

While the original track is already heavily influenced by hip-hop, Mariah took it a step further with it’s Bad Boy and So So Def remixes.  The Bad Boy remix, already mentioned in my first “Honey” article, is not drastically changed from the original.  There are minor changes to it’s production, such as the omission of certain string elements, which make the song a bit less pop and a little more hip-hop.  Of course, the song also features verses from Mase and the L.O.X. who were new, upcoming hip-hop stars.  This makes the song seem more like a collaborative effort rather than a pop song featuring guest rap verses.  One of the highlights of this collaboration is how Mariah layers her low octave background vocals beneath Mase’s verse, truly melding her sultry voice with Mase’s hip-hop flow.  This sort of seamless fusion has become a trademark of Mariah’s hip-hop collaborations.

Bad Boy was the leading hip-hop label in 1997, and its artists were crossing over to pop radio in a big way.  Its leader, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, appeared in the remix video, co-produced the original and Bad Boy remix, as well as his own hit singles that year, such as “I’ll Be Missing You.”  Additionally, Mase had crossed over as well, appearing on alongside Puffy and Biggie’s “Mo Money Mo Problems,” another #1 hit.   They owned the charts and the airwaves and Mariah stayed current by working with these artists.  However, with Mariah it didn’t appear forced.  “Honey” feels fresh and natural, almost effortless, even today.

For the So So Def remix, Mariah teamed up with “Always Be My Baby” collaborator Jermaine Dupri who co-produced and provided a guest verse on the remix alongside Da Brat.  By using different elements from “Hey DJ,” sampled in the original, and a new Jackson 5 sample, the So So Def remix transformed “Honey” into a completely different song musically and vocally.  All that remains from the original version are its lyrics.  This remix has a playful vibe, as its bouncy beat encourages the listener to bop along.

Finally there is the Classic Mix, a house version of “Honey,” co-produced by David Morales.  On this remix, Mariah took the song’s essence of sexual yearning to the next level.  The vocal is more impassioned and sung over the vivacious house track provided by Morales.  While the original song is sexy and sensual, and the So So Def remix is a bit more playful,  the house mix is best described as intense.  Mariah closes the remix by very zealously repeating of the phrase “I need it” with soaring, soulful runs that jump octaves in a way only she can.

This innovative approach of creating multiple reincarnations of the same song in the form of remixes was not completely unique to Mariah.  However she indeed pioneered the art of creating hip-hop and house remixes of “pop” songs.  If you listen to the “Honey” CD single, it’s almost like listening to four different songs.  By the end, you’ll be saying, “I can hardly wait for another taste of honey…”

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