‘Daydream’ paved way for future genre blending collabs 25 years later

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@MariahCarey / Twitter

'Daydream' was nominated for six Grammy Awards but ended up winning none. The album sold 224,000 copies in its first week.

You might have heard about the emancipation of Mimi, but what about the evolution of Mimi? Mariah Carey’s fifth studio album, “Daydream” was the catalyst for this  shift in her music career. 

The 1995 album rocked the music scene due to the cross-genre collaborations it featured. Carey is often credited as the first pop artist to collaborate with a rapper after she released a remix of her hit song “Fantasy” featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Even if Carey had shied away from the remix with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Fantasy” would have maintained its nod to hip-hop with the sample from Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love.” Carey’s powerful vocals plus ODB’s high energy rap equals a bubbly and fun hit. 

Like many artists, Carey faced uphill battles when it came to expressing her true self. Particularly when it came to her first “hip-pop” collaboration. 

“They laughed at me at the label when I played them my ‘Fantasy’ remix with Ol’ Dirty Bastard,” she told Rolling Stone.

The fusion of pop, hip-hop and R&B is a trend that we often take for granted today because it has become so common. We see the aftereffects today with collabs that may seem out of the ordinary like Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz and Ariana Grande or Ed Sheeran and Travis Scott. 

This album marked Carey’s move to an R&B sound that incorporated hip-hop as well. While it boasts some of her purest pop songs, it set the tone for how a true MC song should sound. It was the beginning of Carey exerting her creative independence as an artist. Her 1997 album, “Butterfly” would be the final transformation with its heavy R&B nature with hip-hop influences. 

In a sense, the album is reflective of Carey’s loss of innocence. “Daydream” opens with “Fantasy,” an effervescent hit but concludes with “Looking In,” a gloomy track that seems to foreshadow Carey’s issues in her personal life and her career.

The album featured, ”One Sweet Day” which was the first track by Carey to be named song of the decade by Billboard. “Always Be My Baby” was Carey’s 11th number-one hit and spent 32 weeks on the chart. It’s clear that Carey’s ear for music and her blending of various sounds has undoubtedly led her to success. Even in recent years, Carey has kept her allegiance to blending different sounds by featuring the rapper, Gunna, on her 2018 album, “Caution.”

Change is a natural part of an artist’s career and we should embrace it instead of trying to box them in. They should be free to bend the arbitrary lines of genres. Think of  Swift’s crossover from country to pop and more recently, Hayley Williams previewing her solo album with her pop single, “Over Yet.”

The landscape of current music as we know it would be vastly different had it not been for Carey trailblazing a path that celebrates cross-genre genius.