’90s No. 1s Revisited: “My All”
The one hundred twentieth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “My All” by Mariah Carey. This track was the singer’s 13th No. 1 hit, tying Michael Jackson’s record, which she would soon surpass. As the new millennium was coming into view, Carey had carved her name on the tablet of all-time greats. It was also in 1998 that she co-headlined VH1 Divas Live, categorizing her alongside the likes of Aretha Franklin and Carole King in terms of talent, and alongside the likes of Celine Dion in terms of temperament. In this phase of her career, Carey was glamming up and establishing that she was not just a gifted singer adept at writing catchy melodies, she was a legendary diva who deserved to be compared to, and treated like, the best of the best.
“My All” comes from the album Butterfly, which is often cited as Carey’s magnum opus. The album’s promotional strategy, however, was a bit bizarre, due perhaps to her divorce from Sony executive Tommy Mottola. After the lead single “Honey” went to No. 1 in 1997, Sony released three more tracks off Butterfly as airplay-only releases, ineligible to chart on the Hot 100. These were “Butterfly,” “The Roof” and “Breakdown,” which happen to be three of her best songs and videos ever. “My All” then landed as the “fifth” single, but really the second. It also would mark her last collaboration with Sony songwriter Walter Afanasieff, who co-wrote lots of great hits in the ’90s, including several by Carey such as “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” “Can’t Let Go” and “Hero.”
“My All” is a sparse, Latin-influenced ballad on which Carey longs desperately to be reunited with a past lover. The melody is complicated and difficult to sing. (Just try!) The overall effect is romantic, moody and tender — characteristics enhanced by the video, directed by famed photographer Herb Ritts, whose credits included the image-shifting clip for Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” as well as another No. 1 hit from the ’90s, Toni Braxton’s “Let It Flow.”
Let’s listen again to “My All”:
The simplicity of the instrumental on this track puts emphasis on Carey’s vocals, which are especially impressive delivering this tricky melody. The overall effect, though, feels more like a lullaby than a moving romantic plea. Especially compared to the innovation and excitement in the airplay-only tracks from Bufferfly, “My All” feels anesthetized.
Does it hold up? It is currently the eighth most-watched video on her YouTube channel, and the highest from the Butterfly album. The track and its video also are free from most trends that would otherwise date it.
Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?