July 6, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my means up into the current.

Mariah Carey was early to the Unhealthy Boy celebration. In 1995, Sean “Puffy” Combs’ startup label had already cranked out a bunch of rap and R&B hits, nevertheless it wouldn’t turn out to be a full-on pop juggernaut for a few years. When Mariah Carey received Puff to remix her enormous hit “Fantasy,” the mixture nonetheless made for a vaguely dangerous transfer for each Mariah and Puff. The danger paid off. The “Fantasy” remix was enormous, and it helped pave the best way for the approaching Unhealthy Boy chart takeover. The subsequent time Mariah Carey and Puff Daddy labored collectively, the world was totally different for each of them.

“Honey,” the primary single from Mariah Carey’s 1997 album Butterfly, arrived after uninterrupted months of Puff Daddy productions at #1. The earlier two chart-toppers, Puffy’s personal “I’ll Be Lacking You” and the late Biggie Smalls’ “Mo Cash Mo Issues,” have been each Puff Daddy joints, co-produced with in-house Unhealthy Boy beatmaker Stevie J. At that time, Mariah Carey was beginning a brand new section of her life and profession. Whereas engaged on Butterfly, Mariah separated from Tommy Mottola, the much-older husband who was additionally her record-label boss. On the time, Mariah was arguably the most important star in all of pop music, and he or she didn’t have to fret about her breakup hurting her profession. Tommy Mottola wanted her greater than she wanted him.

Mariah Carey has spoken at size about how she felt that Tommy Mottola managed her. She felt like she was imprisoned of their palatial mansion, and he or she additionally felt hamstrung artistically, with Mottola and different Columbia execs stopping her from absolutely diving into the rap and R&B that she cherished. However “Fantasy” and “All the time Be My Child” had confirmed Mariah’s instincts sharp. “Honey” was a brand new tweak on Mariah Carey’s sound and persona. On “Honey,” Mariah interacted with rap extra effortlessly than she’d ever performed prior to now, and he or she additionally received hornier than she’d ever been on document. These two issues had so much to do with one another.

It’s potential to consider “Honey” as one huge act of revenge towards Tommy Mottola. The track is extra overtly sexual than any of Mariah’s earlier singles, and Mottola positively knew that she wasn’t singing about him. Mottola additionally didn’t like or perceive rap, and in spite of everything these months of Unhealthy Boy at #1, it was fairly clear that rap music had turn out to be the dominant pressure of pop by 1997. Within the “Honey” video, Mariah Carey escapes from a middle-aged Italian man in a mansion. But when “Honey” stands as a private declaration of independence on just a few totally different ranges, it additionally works as pop music. Even when she was making a musical fuck-you for her label-boss ex, Mariah Carey saved issues slick.

Each Mariah Carey album is a balancing act between Mariah’s inventive concepts and the business expectations that have been imposed on her from the very starting of her profession. On Butterfly, Mariah was nonetheless placing in tons of labor with Walter Afanasieff, the old-school adult-contempo ballad specialist who was her important collaborator for years. However Carey additionally regarded elsewhere for inspiration. Butterfly has contributions from rap producers just like the Trackmasters and Cory Rooney. Carey co-wrote one track with Missy Elliott. On one other, she twists tongues alongside Krayzie Bone and Want Bone, from previous Quantity Ones artists Bone Thugs-N-Concord. “The Roof” — launched as single in Europe, however not right here — is constructed from a pattern of Mobb Deep’s guttural stab-your-brain basic “Shook Ones, Half II,” and the video model options Mobb Deep themselves. Mariah Carey was caught off the realness.

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“Honey” began off as a collaboration between Mariah Carey and one other ’90s New York rap genius. On the time, Q-Tip was nonetheless the chief of the nice Queens group A Tribe Known as Quest, and he was additionally the manufacturing mastermind behind most of Tribe’s information. (A Tribe Known as Quest’s highest-charting single, 1993’s “Award Tour,” peaked at #47. As a solo artist, Q-Tip later received as excessive as #26 with 1999’s “Vivrant Factor.”) When Mariah sought out Q-Tip, she already had the essential thought for a track that she’d began writing whereas on a solo trip in Puerto Rico.

In her 2020 memoir, Mariah wrote that she took that journey to Puerto Rico for a really particular motive: She knew Derek Jeter can be there. Mariah had already loved a chaste hookup with the Yankees star in New York, and he or she needed to see him once more. She engineered one other meetup in Puerto Rico, and the 2 of them received collectively once more. (Within the e book, Mariah insists that she didn’t bang Jeter till after her divorce was last. It’s loopy that these two galactically well-known folks managed to maintain their dalliance secret for many years, however they pulled it off.) Mariah began writing the “Honey” lyrics whereas looking on the ocean, they usually’re pure innuendo. Till studying this Wealthy Juzwiak evaluate, I don’t suppose I had any concept that “Honey” was a barely-disguised ode to jizz, however now I can’t unhear it: “It’s similar to honey when your love comes over me.”

In her e book, Mariah calls Q-Tip “one of many coolest and most artistic guys on the market,” however that doesn’t imply that he was an apparent collaborator for her. Q-Tip by no means actually broke into R&B or pop, and he by no means appeared that focused on doing so, both. However the man’s pop instincts have been there. Q-Tip programmed the drum observe for “Honey,” and he additionally sampled the digital bassline from “The Physique Rock,” the 1980 single from old-school Bronx hip-hop greats the Treacherous Three. (The Treacherous Three by no means had a Sizzling 100 hit, however chief Kool Moe Dee reached #62 along with his 1988 single “Wild Wild West.” A track that samples that exact observe will seem on this column finally.)

Mariah Carey cherished Q-Tip’s “Physique Rock” pattern, and he or she had one other suggestion for an ’80s hip-hop staple to pattern. At her request, Q-Tip took a chunk of “Hey DJ,” the 1984 single from the World’s Well-known Supreme Workforce. That track had been produced by Malcolm McLaren, the previous Intercourse Pistols svengali who’d fallen in love with New York hip-hop within the early ’80s, and McLaren received a songwriting credit score on “Honey.” (The DJ scratching on McLaren’s 1982 single “Buffalo Gals” appeared, in sampled type, on Hanson’s “MMMBop.” It’s fucking loopy that two totally different 1997 chart-toppers had samples from Malcolm McLaren’s rap experiments, however that’s what occurred.) Q-Tip used the bassline and the candy descending synth melody from “Hey DJ.” Mariah cherished that track, however she had an ulterior motive for the pattern. The hook from “Hey DJ” — “hey DJ, simply play that track” — was Mariah’s secret coded message to Derek Jeter.

As soon as Mariah Carey and Q-Tip had the fundamentals of the observe down, Mariah took the observe to Puff Daddy and Stevie J, who turned simply the third group of producers in Sizzling 100 historical past to attain three consecutive #1 hits. (The primary two have been George Martin and the Bee Gees guys.) I don’t understand how a lot of the ultimate “Honey” product is Q-Tip and the way a lot of it’s Puffy and Stevie J, however the track positively has that Unhealthy Boy sheen throughout it. Perhaps Puffy would’ve sampled extra apparent songs, however the shiny midtempo gloss of “Honey” matches proper in with the Puffy aesthetic. In Fred Bronson’s Billboard E book Of Number one Hits, Puffy says that Mariah wouldn’t document her “Honey” vocals with him within the studio: “Lots of people really feel I’m overbearing, so I wasn’t allowed within the studio when she did her vocals. I’m attempting to work on that.” As a substitute, Mariah recorded her vocals time and again, and Puffy says that she gave him 100 tracks. (I can’t inform if he’s exaggerating. I can virtually by no means inform if Puff Daddy is exaggerating.)

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In any case, Mariah Carey slid proper into the Unhealthy Boy takeover with none cognitive dissonance. Within the grand arc of her extraordinarily lengthy hitmaking profession, “Honey” marks a slight departure. The place earlier Mariah singles had been constructed round showcasing her vocal firepower, “Honey” is extra about that sampled groove. Mariah lets her voice get breathy and pillowy, and he or she floats proper over that observe. Mariah nonetheless pulls out the dazzling melismatic runs, however these runs not often really feel like leads. As a substitute, she turn out to be a texture inside the observe. The sampled piano line is likely to be extra memorable than any of Mariah’s personal melodies. That’s not an issue. “Honey” has an unshowy smoothness that matches Mariah’s entire fashion superbly.

“Honey” is likely to be stuffed with coded messages to Tommy Mottola and Derek Jeter, nevertheless it doesn’t sound like an agenda at work. As a substitute, the observe performs out as a protracted, contented sigh. The refrain comes again time and again, and Mariah’s lead vocal twirls out and in of the hook. Puffy murmurs his Puffy ad-libs, and Mase, leaping in on backup vocals, will get a whole lot of mileage out of rhyming “Mariah” with “on hearth.” The track isn’t a monumental work of pop savvy like another Mariah Carey singles, however I’m by no means sorry to listen to it. It breathes.

The “Honey” video, directed by Unhealthy Boy favourite Paul Hunter, price two million {dollars}, and it goes for full blockbuster sweep. Throughout the prolonged comedy-sketch intro, we see Mariah Carey as “Agent M,” a gorgeous and harmful spy imprisoned in a Puerto Rican mansion. Our pretend Tommy Mottola is Frank Sivero, Frankie Carbone from Goodfellas, and Mariah tells him that she doesn’t perceive his hair. Then she escapes from his two bumbling underlings, performed by Eddie Griffin and the Jerky Boys’ Johnny Brennan. (Mariah in her e book: “I lived for the Jerky Boys; they have been so foolish.” Shout out to anybody keen to go to bat for the rattling Jerky Boys on this decade.) Mariah then jumps from a balcony right into a swimming pool, does an entire striptease routine, and leads her captors in a jet ski chase earlier than assembly a cute boy on a abandoned island. She’s made as much as seem like a Russ Meyer heroine or a Bond woman, and he or she appears sizzling as hell.

The “Honey” video performs out so much like Paul Hunter’s video for Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” proper all the way down to the boat chases. Hunter could have been the Salieri to Hype Williams’ Mozart, however he may stage a enjoyable boat chase. Hunter additionally directed a video for the Unhealthy Boy remix of “Honey,” which has verses from the Lox and Mase. That remix was imagined to have Biggie, too, and Mariah talked to him on the cellphone about it earlier than he died. (Earlier than they might focus on collaborating, Biggie needed to make clear that he was simply enjoying round when he known as Mariah “kinda scary” on his observe “Desires.”) Biggie died earlier than he may document his verse, although, so Mariah needed to make do with the remainder of the Unhealthy Boy roster. Within the video for the remix, the Unhealthy Boy crew rescues Mariah through helicopter, and Mase’s attraction is at its full insane wattage.

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There have been different “Honey” remixes, too. Mariah’s “All the time Be My Child” collaborator Jermaine Dupri put collectively a So So Def mixture of the observe, sampling the Jackson 5’s “It’s Nice To Be Right here” and including his personal rap verse. Mariah’s buddy Da Brat jumped on that remix, too, however the So So Def remix didn’t get the complete blockbuster-video remedy.

“Honey” debuted at #1, turning into the third Mariah Carey single to realize that distinction. When “Honey” hit #1, Mariah reached an entire new chart milestone. Earlier than “Honey,” Mariah had 11 totally different chart-toppers, which put her in a three-way tie with Madonna and Whitney Houston. “Honey” was Mariah’s twelfth, which made her probably the most dominant feminine solo star of all time; the achievement put her even with the Supremes. At that time, solely two artists had extra #1 hits: The Beatles and Michael Jackson. (Elvis Presley additionally had extra, however a lot of these have been within the pre-Sizzling 100 period.) Mariah Carey wasn’t performed but, both. We’ll see her on this column once more.

The success of “Honey” marks the tip of that lengthy, dominant Unhealthy Boy summer season, which couldn’t preserve going without end. Unhealthy Boy made a lot extra hits, however the tides have been beginning to flip. Puffy had opted to not signal DMX, the feverishly intense Yonkers rapper who was already making a reputation for himself in New York. DMX as an alternative signed to Def Jam, and the guttural rawness of his large 1998 debut album It’s Darkish And Hell Is Sizzling felt like a direct rebuke to Puffy’s fashion, regardless that loads of Unhealthy Boy artists, Mase included, appeared on the document. Quickly sufficient, the Lox launched an in the end profitable grassroots marketing campaign to get themselves dropped from Unhealthy Boy in order that they might signal with DMX’s Ruff Ryders crew as an alternative. (DMX’s highest-charting single, 1998’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” peaked at #16 after his demise final 12 months. When it was new, “Ruff Ryders Anthem” solely received to #93.)

Shortly after that DMX album arrived, Puff Daddy tried to push his entire theatrical-slickness factor more durable than it ought to’ve ever gone. Puff’s track “Come With Me,” recorded for the godawful Roland Emmerich Godzilla film, featured Jimmy Web page and tried to make a self-aggrandizing fire-and-brimstone rap anthem out of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” “Come With Me” turned an on the spot punchline. I virtually respect the track for having the braveness to be that unapologetically, unambiguously unhealthy. “Come With Me” reached #4, however I don’t keep in mind anybody liking that track. I keep in mind an entire lot of “include these nuts” jokes that summer season. Puffy had misplaced his mysterious magic contact. (“Come With Me” is a 2.)

Unhealthy Boy by no means had one other dominant stretch like what occurred in 1997, however Puff Daddy wasn’t performed. His success may’ve taken a dip, however he remained a chart fixture for years after that one all-conquering summer season. We’ll see Puff Daddy on this column once more underneath a few totally different names.

GRADE: 7/10

BONUS BEATS: I’m frankly fairly shocked that “Honey” hasn’t ever been sampled prominently or proven up on very many soundtracks, so that is going to be a fairly unsatisfying Bonus Beat. Right here’s Mariah and shiny-suit Mase doing their finest to recreate the “Honey” video on Prime Of The Pops: