Mariah Carey, Songwriter

By | April 16, 2008

On American Idol last night, they had Mariah Careyas the star mentor.  One thing they said really shocked me.  Mariah has written almost all of her own songs.  This page says the same thing.  Additionally, Mariah has surpassed Elvis as the artist with the most number 1 singles.

Seriously??  18 number one hits?  That is unbelievable.  Why isn’t she considered one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the history of music?  John Lennon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain?  They are nothing comparred to Mariah!

I truly believe that if Mariah Carey was a man, she would be considered a genius.  Why do women get such diminished coverage?  I remember watching Shakira and how she has written tons of hits in multiple languages.  Sure, she is a star, but she is not called a phenom.  I thought she was awesome in her MTV special unplugged special.  Then she felt she had to lose weight and dye her hair blonde to make more money.  She and Mariah would not need to get boob jobs and diet to insanity if they were men.  They could be fat and bald and it would be ok.

Well, I didn’t think it before, but I have to include Mariah Carey from now on in all conversations about the greatest singer-songwriter artists in history.

UPDATE:  Hmmm.  The story gets a little blurrier.  I looked at each of her songs to find the writing credits.  She never seems to be listed alone.  Always with another person or group of people.  She is always listed first, but what does this mean?  Is she writing the songs or just the lyrics?  Is she writing the music or just collaborating with serious song-writers?  What is the dealy-yo?

How will I ever get clarity on this issue?  It is truly the conundrum of our age.

18 thoughts on “Mariah Carey, Songwriter

  1. mdmadph

    This post _deserved_ to be filed under Random. :p But I think you answered your question when you found out the other “authors” of her songs — she’s probably hardly collaborating on them at all. I mean, she’s probably capable of it, but if you can pay someone else to do the work and you still get the credit, why not?

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  2. Denise

    Hi! I think as a songwriter Mariah Carey is really more of a lyricist than anything else. If you listen to her songs, especially post-Tony Mottola, the lyrics are really far too personal to have been written by someone else. Maybe that’s why she’s known more as a singer/diva than a songwriter and why her writing credits are always limited to collaborations – because she needs help in adding melody to her music.

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  3. P J W

    Mariah Carey has written every song shes sung with the obvious exception of covers. There are many songs shes written on her own, however, she has quite often collaborated with others too.
    it’s extremely extremely rare that an artist writes solely on their own.

    Here are the technicalities –

    – if a name is listed first, that person is the majority songwriter, legally. They have written most of the song. Names are listed in order of contribution. Therefore, if someone else has had an input into it (even just suggesting the writer switch X word for Y word), they must be written down as a songwriter.

    – If an artist samples anything from a song, the original writers of the song theyre sampling (irrelevant of how many there are) must be listed. Mariah Carey has sampled tracks alot and therefore, youll often find perhaps 5 names listed in her later work. Really, theyve not contributed to the songwriting, but Mariah would have used a line from the song

    (a good example is We Belong Together – mariah using Bobby Womacks “if you think you’re lonely now” will mean she must list all the writers of both We Belong Together and If You Think Youre Lonely Now)

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    1. INFJ1961@gmail.com

      “Therefore, if someone else has had an input into it (even just suggesting the writer switch X word for Y word), they must be written down as a songwriter.”

      Not according to copyright law, which states that any contribution to a song has to be eligible for copyright registration on its own. A single word, a few words, a complete sentence – none of these qualifies. That myth has been perpetuated by label executives and producers looking to take advantage of the majority of the public – including most artists – not knowing this. Besides not knowing this, the other factor that allows this to take place is that copyright law leaves a large amount of room for negotiation. For instance, a writer can agree to add someone else as a co-writer for pretty much any reason, including changing one word. But if I, as a writer, do not agree to let Superstar Singer add their name as a co-author, then the law is on my side. Had said Singer studied up on copyright law, they wouldn’t have signed away the 50% ownership of the masters that copyright law bestows on them by default (that figure is also negotiable. Labels take advantage of artists not knowing this either). That 50% ownership would have been far more lucrative than a co-writing credit, as it would in all likelihood also mean 50% of royalties. “The money’s in writing” is misdirection. There is indeed considerable money to be made from writing, that’s no lie. But “I Will Always Love You” earned writer Dolly Parton (who still owns the copyright to the song) millions, but Arista Records (who owns the master recording and the copyright to that recording) made a lot more. Whitney Houston, probably not so much. She may have gotten 10% in royalties (a rather high estimate for even an established artist) – considerably than 50. It addition to singles, the soundtrack album which included it also sold in huge numbers.

      Reply
  4. P J W

    Further, yes, as another person commented, shes a lyricst, not a songwriter in a way… Many times, its listed that Walter A. co wrote with her when infact Mariah Carey often wrote the lyrics and Walter would write the music. This would be considered a collaboration as walter would suggest changing words to fit the music and visa versa..

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  5. L'aurence

    Mariah Carey is definitely a songwriter…When publishing companies determine what constitutes a song, the AND the melody are separate parts. So when she sings words that are in a particular melodic fashion…it’s a song. She then sings the arrangements to a pianist who will sometimes help her interpret. It is a shame that people dont recognize what a gifted talent she is.. lyrics

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  6. Ann

    In her earlier albums, she’s listed as the sole lyricist to most of the songs, and a collaborator on the music. Even though Walter A. is obsolete in her later albums, the “sound” of the ballads are the same. Mariah doesn’t play the piano well, and she writes like most song writers – from listening to chords and singing a melody over it. If you look at the ballads that she writes, they are collaborated often with a pianist, who is then listed as a songwriter. Other times a song like “Heartbreaker” Mariah has “solely” written them, the only other writer’s listed are from a sample, proving that she writes and sings a melody over chords that she hears.

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  7. Nathan Barmes

    Mariah Carey will be a great mom when she has a baby. I am not sure if she is already pregnant but I wish she is and that she will have a wonderful family life with Nick Cannon

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  8. devi

    Mariah Says:

    “The way I usually work is I do an untitled song. We’ll grab the hook, whether sampled or created, and use it as the working title. I wrote the verses first, as well as the melody and the inclusion of several instrumentals. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for lyrics. If I’m collaborating with someone, I’ll direct them in the direction that I’m going chord wise, because I get all these melody ideas and then I lose them if I don’t have someone really good with the keyboard with me. That’s why I tend to collaborate because I lose the ideas by the time I figure out the chord. All these melody ideas just go.”

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  9. Adam

    Remember she was working with different people because she is working on all type of music. Fast influenced from ballad to hip-hop to R&B to rap and many more. On wikipedia she is everything that all singers want to be!

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  10. Rachael

    She’s like the flip-side of Elton John; he composes the music but doesn’t actually write the lyrics to his songs. Yet that doesn’t seem to detract from his reputation as a fantastic songsmith.

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  11. Jorge

    Songwriters often have certain chord progressions they naturally gravitate towards. You’ll find that a lot of Mariah’s earlier melodies are consistently similar (Dreamlover, Heartbreaker, Fantasy). I think Sony really pushed her as a songwriter and all around entertainer. I do not think she writes as much now. After hearing her whole song list you can tell which songs have more Mariah the writer. I think the Butterfly albums melodies are a great representation of Mariah as a writer. The melodies rhythm are very similar and her music is all structured similarly to her previous work.

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  12. Or lamb

    Mariah Carey is a great singer-songwriter,composer etc..
    She is a great artist! I’m proud to be a lamb.

    Reply

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