Today marks 31 years since Mariah Carey’s debut single ‘Vision of Love’ was released. The timeless classic introduced her incredible talent to the world and launched her extraordinary career.
“The song is very special to me because it encapsulates the story of my dream of becoming a recording artist, although most people interpret it as a love song”.Mariah Carey | ‘#1 to Infinity’ liner notes
Shortly after Mariah found out she would be signing a record contract with Columbia Records, she began to write ‘Vision of Love’ alone on a keyboard and later finalised it with Ben Margulies. A rough version was recorded in the back of Ben’s father’s cabinet making factory, where the songwriting duo had also recorded the famous demo tape which led to Mariah’s deal. Parts of the original demo recording, including the remarkable whistle note, remained on the final production and were used as background vocals.
‘Vision of Love’ became Mariah’s first of nineteen #1 singles, spending four weeks on top of Billboard’s Hot 100. It also topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts. The song was certified Gold in the US within only a few months of release, and has since been certified Platinum.
Internationally, it topped the charts in New Zealand and Canada, and became a Top 10 hit in a number of other countries, including the UK and Australia.
‘Vision of Love’ earned Mariah a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, as well as a BMI Pop Music Award for Best Songwriter, and a Soul Train Music Award for Best Female R&B/Soul Single.
The song was performed for the first time on The Arsenio Hall Show. Over the years, the live performances of ‘Vision of Love’ have continued to be a delight for fans, with unique variations of the soaring outro, “and it was all that you turned out to be”.
The song has been credited for inspiring an entire generation of vocalists, and the use of melisma in particular would go on to change pop music forever. Artists such as Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson, Brandy and more have cited Mariah’s enthralling vocals on this enduring track as an inspiration.
The music video for ‘Vision of Love’ was originally filmed with a more seductive look, but was scrapped by the label in favour of the iconic video we know and love today. At the end of the day, it was the perfect way to introduce Mariah to the world. She didn’t need anything flashy or tacky; all she needed to do was be herself, and the rest was history. In the chapter ‘Light of My Life’ in her memoir ‘The Meaning Of Mariah Carey’, Mariah spoke of the deep significance of swinging while holding her cat in the music video. In 2020, it was remastered in HD as part of ‘#MC30‘.
Mariah herself may not have even realised at the time, but ‘Vision of Love’ was the beginning of what is today regarded one of the most legendary discographies and music careers of all time.