19 February 2008
We Belong Together
I wanted to ensure that I don’t completely turn my back on poetry—as such, I give you Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.” Theoretically she writes her own lyrics (in this case she “composed” the song with seven other parties).
Look—Mariah Carey is not here because I am blinded by her beauty—recalling her epic MTV Cribs appearance, I liked the shiny walls in her apartment but was alarmed at her unacceptably ill-behaved pets.
A few weeks ago I posted a g-chat message to the effect that “We Belong Together” had, shockingly, become my favorite M.C. song. My unimpeachable sexuality took a few shots across the bow but my emotions did not waver: liking Emancipation of Mimi Mariah does feel like cheating. Shouldn’t I prefer the less-airbrushed, flannel-nymph of the “Dreamlover” era?
But allow me to present a close reading of “We Belong Together.” First, the piano plink opening that would almost have to be ironic—schmaltzy even for contemporary pop. This segues into an unremarkable first verse: the narrator stupid, foolish and lying to herself—we’ve all been there. “Oh, what I wouldn't give to have you lying by my side,” etc. But after an above average chorus we get this second verse:
I can't sleep at night when you are on my mind
Bobby Womack's on the radio saying to me:
"If you think you're lonely now"
Wait a minute this is too deep (too deep)
I gotta change the station so I turn the dial
Trying to catch a break and then I hear Babyface
I only think of you and it's breaking my heart
I'm trying to keep it together but I'm falling apart
I'm feeling all out of my element
I'm throwing things, crying
Trying to figure out where the hell I went wrong
The pain reflected in this song it ain't even half of what I'm feeling inside
I need you, need you back in my life, baby
These lyrics are surprisingly concrete—we have specific references to other musicians, even quoting Bobby Womack’s “If you think you’re lonely now” (I wish I knew what radio station would play Bobby Womack late at night around here). How nice to (mentally) contrast M.C.’s mellifluously-modulated voice with Womack’s low growl. And then Babyface stands in for every saccharine ballad that would push anyone over the edge in Mimi’s tragic, lovelorn condition. Then, beginning with “I’m feeling all out of my element,” M.C. starts throwing her voice around until it starts to bounce like Ani Difranco’s in “Both Hands.” It makes me feel all hectic inside then the chorus comes crashing through again and I am compelled to whole-heartedly sing along. I might even dance with my shoulders at a stoplight. This is a modified twitching motion.
In case you can’t listen to the song RIGHT NOW, here is the video link, featuring an odd shoe choice by Wentworth Miller and Faizon Love’s most inspired acting appearance since Blue Crush: