For the lead single from her first album in 3 years, E=MC², Mariah Carey released the slinky “Touch My Body.” The song Entertainment Weekly called “deliciously sexy” would be another record breaker for Carey. It became her 18th #1 on the Hot 100, the most for any solo artist, and it also sold 286,000 downloads, the most digital singles ever sold in a week by a female up to that point. At the time Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak commented that the song was “so ubiquitous that it’s kind of hard to imagine what radio was like before it.” Carey wrote and produced the song with the famous team of The-Dream and Tricky, as well as Cristyle Johnson. She has said they were influenced by old-school hip-hop.
As a lead single, “Touch My Body” was a bit of a surprise because of the understated nature of its charms. The song is simple and cheeky, and also, as Juzwiak called it, “ultra-femme.” Those aren’t necessarily terms commonly associated with lead singles from superstar artists since lead singles are typically meant to be attention-grabbers. Rolling Stone described it as a “spare, slick track composed mostly of synths and finger snaps.” There isn’t any notable bass in the song, so the focus is more on the rhythm and keyboards. Vocally Carey plays with tempo more than range. “Touch My Body” does contain some of Carey’s trademarks, though, which was perhaps part of the point. It’s a mid-tempo R&B song with a syncopated vocal on the verses. Billboard noted Carey’s use of “harmonic layers,” Slant described Carey’s vocal as “coquettish,” and there is of course a great melody. Billboard noted the song has “a chorus as catchy as a winter sniffle,” and Entertainment Weekly highlighted a piano cover of the song and noted Carey’s gift for melody. “Touch My Body” was also another example that showed how Carey had been a leader in merging pop and urban music. As Newsday writer Glenn Gamboa noted, the single has “street-wise touches” but also elements of “balladry.” Perhaps most succinctly, Blender summarized the single as, “A pop genius making genius pop.”
The lyrics of “Touch My Body” found Carey at her most cheeky and overtly sexy. The song features notable pop culture references (to YouTube and Wendy Williams), but perhaps most notably Carey warns her potential lover that if he publicizes their romance “I will hunt you down.” Jamieson Cox of Time referred to it all as “relaxed silliness.”
The video for “Touch My Body” was directed by Brett Ratner and famously features 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer as an IT worker who comes to Carey’s aid, though not in the way he fantasizes. The humorous video features several instances of Carey winking her eye at her diva image. The opening scene has Carey answering her door in nothing but an open robe and lingerie, which would seem to be a nod to the criticisms that Carey doesn’t wear much clothing. A later scene shows Carey walking a unicorn; ‘Unicorn’ is a word press had joked would be a likely Carey album title due to its girly, one-word nature…”I will hunt you down”… The “Touch My Body” video hit #1 on TRL and was one of the most streamed videos of 2008, including being top 10 for the year at MTV.com and the 2nd most watched video on Yahoo Music. The video won a BET Award, landed Carey an MTV Video Music Award nomination for Female Video, and was named one of the best music videos of the 2000s by Complex Magazine.
“Touch My Body” managed to leave a strong mark on pop culture impact, too. In addition to the memorable video and its impact, R. Kelly and Aretha Franklin each paid tribute to the track. Kelly released an unofficial remix of the song, and Franklin performed the song in a few concerts. Madonna, who’s never been a major fan of Mariah or her music, mentioned in several interviews that she liked the song and worked out to the track. After confirming it was a current favorite song of hers, TV personality Gayle King sang “Touch My Body” during a dare on Rachel Ray’s talk show in May 2008. Jay Leno featured someone performing the song in one of his Jaywalk segments, and Ross the Intern from the show sang it in one of his video blogs.
Even if “Touch My Body” won’t go down as one of Carey’s most enduring #1s like “Fantasy” or “Hero,” it still showcased her ability to tap into the masses and was a strong addition to her legacy.
EST. 1997 is a "contemporary, yet nostalgic" online music magazine focusing on popular music and its symbiotic relationship with its surrounding culture over time. A particular focus will be placed on the music and musicians of the 1990s. However, EST. 1997 also aims to keep up with contemporary artists who themselves may have either debuted in the 90s, or been influenced by prominent artists from the 90s. Our goal is to provide quality, thoughtful writing that is purely about the music. Finally, we want to make the experience as inclusive as possible, by soliciting contributions from our readers, as well.