Emotions is Mariah Carey's second studio album that was released on September 17, 1991 by Columbia Records.


  1. Emotions 4:08
  2. And You Don't Remember 4:26
  3. Can't Let Go 4:27
  4. Make It Happen 5:07
  5. If It's Over 4:38
  6. You're So Cold 5:05
  7. So Blessed 4:13
  8. To Be Around You 4:37
  9. Till The End Of Time 5:35
  10. The Wind 4:41

Album Background[]

Following the success of Mariah's Carey's self-titled debut album, critics wondered whether or not she would tour in order to promote the album in the major worldwide music markets.

However, Carey expressed in several interviews that due to the strenuous nature and the sheer difficulty of her songs, she feared that a tour with back-to-back shows would not be possible, aside from the long travel times and constant travel.

With the extra time, Carey began writing and producing material for "Emotions" around the same time that her debut's third single, "Someday," was released in December of 1990.

At the time, it was traditional for an artist to release a studio album every two years in their prime, allowing the singles to fully promote the album through airwaves, as well as TV appearances.

Additionally, after a tour that would usually follow, as the next album would be released and would gain new fans, they would search Carey's catalog, and purchase the previous album in hopes of learning of their older work.

However, Sony chose to market Carey in a different fashion, leaning towards the traditional form in the 1960s, where acts would release an LP every year. They felt that her reputation of being a "studio worm" and a songwriter from a young age would be captivating enough to deliver a new album more often than most.

As writing for the album came under way, Carey had a falling out with Ben Margulies, the man whom she had written seven of the eleven songs on her debut album with. Together, they had written and produced seven songs for her demo tape which she handed to Tommy Mottola. Their parting of ways was due to a contract Carey had signed prior to her signing with Columbia.

Carey had agreed to split not only the songwriting royalties from the songs, but half of her earnings as well, something she never thought twice about while writing songs in his father's basement.

However, when the time came to write music for "Emotions", Sony officials made it clear he would only be paid the fair amount given to co-writers on an album.

Following the discussion, Margulies filed a lawsuit against Sony, claiming that under contract, he would be entitled to work with Carey, as well as reap extra benefits.

After an almost a one-year lawsuit, the judge settled that Margulies was to earn ten percent of Carey's direct earnings from her record sales, not including an income from any other ventures. While it was settled, their relationship remained ruined, damaged by what Carey considered treachery.

In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey said the following regarding the contract: "I signed blindly. Later, I tried to make it right so we could continue...but he wouldn't accept it."

After the settlement, Margulies spoke of his feelings on the matter, claiming he would hope to one day write again with Carey, placing most of the blame on the record label and concluding, "Hopefully one day, art will prevail over business."


"Mariah Carey" had originally been recorded in Margulies' father's basement, with old and minimal equipment. After being signed to Columbia Records, the songs that would be used for the album were re-mastered and re-recorded in professional studios.

However, due to Sony's involvement in the project, they didn't allow Carey to produce most of the album, hoping the aid of several famed record producers would be able to ensure Carey's already deemed "exquisite" songs would become popular.

However, after the album's success, Carey was allowed more freedom on "Emotions" than on her debut album.

Since she no longer had a working or personal relationship with Margulies, Carey chose to work with mostly different musicians than those of her previous effort, with the exception of Walter Afanasieff, the only hold over from her debut album.

Even though he had only co-written the song "Love Takes Time," and had only produced part of the album, Carey felt a strong working chemistry with him, soon developing a unique form of songwriting alongside him.

Aside from Afanasieff, she worked with Robert Clivillés and David Cole from the dance-music influenced production duo, C+C Music Factory.

Working with the duo was originally Mottola's suggestion, but after meeting them, Carey agreed and wrote four songs together with them.

Additionally, aside from the three men, Carey worked with Carole King, a female singer-songwriter who had been predominantly popular in the 1970s; however, unlike with C+C Music Factory, King approached Carey, hoping to work with her after hearing her perform live on The Arsenio Hall Show.

During a conversation with Carey, King suggested that she cover "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," a song she had written with Gerry Goffin for Aretha Franklin.

After giving it some thought, Carey declined the offer, feeling uncomfortable about recording a song that she felt one of her musical influences performed so perfectly. Still determined on working with her, King flew to New York for one day, to try to create a ballad of some sort.

The two ladies sat together by a piano over the course of the day, and by nightfall, had written and arranged a song titled "If It's Over."

After working with Carey, King said in an interview: "I love her voice. She's very expressive. She gives a lot of meaning to what she sings."

After recording "If It's Over," Carey expressed the musical connection she shared with Afanasieff, as well as the creative format in which she wrote and produced her music when with him, or working with C+C Music Factory.

When working with Afanasieff, they would sit by a piano, and lead each other vocally and musically, until they would reach the right note and arrangement.

During an interview in 1992, Afanasieff described how Carey would stand next to him, and begin singing different notes and tunes she was thinking of, while he would follow her with the piano.

In doing so, he would help lead her to the right note and vice versa. Carey described their working relationship as "very unique," and felt it to be very similar to the form in which she had worked with Margulies.

While similar, Carey's creative process with Cole and Clivillés proved to be different; they would bring her several different tapes and tunes, of which she would choose from. Afterwards, they would work on building the already created melody, and have Carey add and build onto it, as well as writing the lyrics and key


Unlike Carey's debut album, which featured a more contemporary pop and R&B background, "Emotions" proved to be far different. It borrowed from several genres ranging from gospel, R&B, soul, pop and 1960s and 1970s influences.

The album's lead single, "Emotions" borrowed heavily from 1970s disco, and flaunted Carey's upper range and extensive use of the whistle register. Its lyrics were described as "joyful" by author Chris Nickson, and told of a strong and deep emotion felt by the protagonist when with their lover.

One of the album's more gospel infused songs, "And You Don't Remember," featured organ chord changes and held minimal production in order to give the vocals a more "raw and sixties feel."

It and the former song were part of a trio of tracks from the album that were meant to pay homage to Motown ballads, with the inclusion of soft church choir vocals, and sole musical arrangement by Carey.

Its lyrics reflected the song's raw chorus, telling of a girl that is promised the world by her boyfriend, and quickly forget about her and moves to the next one. After the heartbreak, the protagonist asks him "Don't You Remember" all those things he had promised her, and the things they had spoken and dreamed about doing together.

"Can't Let Go," the album's second single, is a slow ballad, featuring sad and yearning lyrical content.

The song's introduction featured minor chord changes, and drew influence from fifties' balladry. For the duration of the first half of the song, Carey sings in her lower and huskier registers, eventually leading to the belted crescendo and falsetto and whistle finish.

Of the ten tracks on the album, Carey felt her most autobiographical lyrics were featured on "Make It Happen," which told of Carey's poor and difficult teen life prior to being signed by Columbia.

It continues telling of the importance of faith and prayer to God. Nickson described its instrumentation as "restrained" and "very Motownish," as well as noting its soft gospel infusion.

Critically, the most anticipated song on the album was Carey's collaboration with King. It was influenced by sixties and seventies gospel and other soulful genres.

According to Nickson, the song's instrumentation and basis was crucial to Carey's performance throughout the song. Additionally, he described its content and instrumentation:

"As a song full of gospel and soulful influences, it allowed Mariah to really tear loose and show what she could do – which in reality was far more than the vocal gymnastics that seemed to comprise her reputation so far. From a deep rumble to a high wail, she covered five octaves wonderfully, as the power of the tune built. The backing vocals – which once again had those churchy harmonies – filled out the spare melody, as did the stately horns, which entered towards the end. The song was truly a vocal showcase for Mariah."

The next song on the album's track list, "You're So Cold," was originally intended to be the lead single from the album, eventually being switched for the title track.

The song's introduction features a piano and a capella vocal, working into its chorus. Chris Nickson wrote: "The song sailed into the chorus, driven by the house-y piano work, the bubbly, snacking rhythm belying the angry lyrics, the upbeat tone of voice."

As Nickson hinted at, its lyrics featured an angry message, calling out an unfaithful lover and asking how he could be "So Cold."

"So Blessed" was a song Carey wrote with Afanasieff, infusing fifties style pop balladry into it. Carey's voice in the song is very restrained, as she stays within her lower registers throughout the duration of the track.

"To Be Around You" was described by Nickson as "far more staccato." Its production and melody was intended to pay tribute to "Got to Be Real" by Cheryl Lynn, as well as featuring spoken voices towards the end of the song.

Nickson described "Till the End of Time" as a "gentle, almost lullaby melody." It was a love ballad, preparing the listener for the song's final track, "The Wind."

The latter song featured the album's strongest jazz influence, and sampled a piano melody from Russell Freeman during the 1950s.

After Afanasieff presented Carey with the melody he had discovered, it inspired her to write the melody and lyrics, which told of a friend that had died in a drunk-driving accident.

Musically, the album fulfilled its greatest challenge, according to critics. It had helped master Carey's usage and infusion of several genres which she had not tapped into during the recording of her debut.

Chart Performance[]

"Emotions" debuted at the number four position on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 129,000 copies, surprising critics following the success of her 1990 debut album.

In total, the album spent twenty-seven weeks in the top twenty and a total of fifty-five on the albums chart, becoming Carey's lowest-peaking album until her 2001 album, "Glitter."

The album was certified quadruple-Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of four million copies within the United States. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album's stateside sales are estimated at 3,595,000.

On the Canadian RPM Albums Chart, the album debuted at number fourteen, on the issue dated October 5, 1991. Four weeks later, it reached its peak position of number six, staying there for one week.

At the end of the year, "Emotions" finished number 35 on the Year-End Albums Chart of 1991; to date, the album has been certified quadruple-platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), denoting shipments of 400,000 units.

In Japan, "Emotions" debuted at number three on the official Oricon chart, and according to Sony Music, has shipped 1,000,000 copies throughout the country.

In Australia, the album debuted at number ninety-six on the ARIA Albums Chart during the week ending October 6, 1991, attaining its peak position of number eight four weeks later. It spent 30 weeks in the top 100, being certified Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).

In France, "Emotions" received a gold certifications from the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP), denoting shipments of 100,000 units.

The album made its debut on the Dutch Top 40 at number seventy-nine.[54] The following week, it moved up to number fifty-nine, which became its peak charting position.

In total, Emotions spent six weeks within the Dutch charts, being certified Platinum by the Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers (NVPI), denoting shipments of 100,000 units.

During the week of October 17, 1991, the album debuted at its peak position of number six, spending a total of sixteen weeks on the New Zealand Albums Chart. The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) certified the album Platinum, denoting shipments of 15,000 units within the country.

In Sweden, "Emotions" debuted at number twenty-six on the Swedish Albums Chart, peaking at number thirteen and spending a total of five weeks fluctuating in the chart.

Following its exit from the chart, the album was certified Platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), denoting shipments of 100,000 units.

On October 13, 1991, "Emotions" debuted at number sixteen on the Swiss Albums Chart, attaining its peak position of fifteen the succeeding week.

Following a run of nine weeks in the albums chart, the album was certified gold by the IFPI, denoting shipments of 50,000 units throughout the country.

On the UK Albums Chart the album debuted at number ten. In its seventeenth week, it attained its peak position of number four, placing higher than Carey's debut album (which reached #6).

After charting in the United Kingdom for forty weeks, the album was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), denoting shipments of 300,000 units.

"Emotions" has sold 8 million copies worldwide, short of the 15 million sold by her debut in 1990.

Critical Reception[]

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone critic Rob Tannenbaum found "Emotions" dependent on "commercial dance-pop" and Carey's indulgent vocal exercises, making it difficult for listeners to connect with the lyrics, saying: "Carey has a remarkable vocal gift, but to date, unfortunately, her singing has been far more impressive than expressive."

Dennis Hunt from the Los Angeles Times said Carey's "spectacular and impressive" voice was comparable to that of Whitney Houston, but criticized the songwriting and production for "playing high on the angst scale."

In The New York Times, Stephen Holden believed the record showcased Carey's vocal strengths more effectively than her debut, but showed no improvement in writing lyrics, which Holden said: "describe the rapturous highs and desperate lows of romance in blunt, strung-together pop clichés, with minimal rhyming."

Arion Berger from Entertainment Weekly found the record "colder and more calculated" than Carey's debut, describing the album as "the hybrid progeny of a venerable tradition — the tradition of the R&B diva — and crass commercial instincts. It's gospel without soul, love songs without passion, pop without buoyancy."

Orlando Sentinel editor Parry Gettelman was also critical of Carey's vocal acrobatics, writing that she had become "so enamored of the ultra-high-frequency part of her range that I'm starting to suspect she may be an intergalactic spy trying to re- establish communications with the far-off Planet of Dogs."

Steve Morse from The Boston Globe was more enthusiastic in his review, deeming the album "a quantum leap in maturity and confidence" from her first album. He called the lyrics "remarkable," the ballads "unspeakably beautiful," and Carey's vocal & songwriting ability "unlimited."

In a retrospective review, Q hailed "Emotions" as "a technically perfect example of mainstream R&B," boasting Carey's shapely vocals and "the customary elegance of a multi-million dollar production."

AllMusic editor Ashley S. Battel called the record a "musical journey" and "strong follow-up" to Carey's first album that successfully replicated its predecessor's formula of "dance/R&B/ballads." Battel named "Emotions" and "Make It Happen" as the album's highlights.

Robert Christgau remained unimpressed, however, and rated the album a "dud," indicating "a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought."


As with her debut album the previous year, Carey didn't embark on a tour to promote the album, due to the long travel times and strenuous schedules on her voice.

However, while not touring the world, she promoted "Emotions" through an array of television and award show appearances, stateside and across Europe.

Carey performed "Emotions" live for the first time at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, backed by several male and female back up vocalists.

Following the award show appearance, she sang "Emotions" on The Arsenio Hall Show, airing on September 23, 1991.

Additionally, Carey performed the song at the 1992 Soul Train Music Awards, and on British music program and talk show Top of the Pops and Des O'Connor.

Additional European stops included Sondagstoppet and Kulan in Sweden during mid-September 1991. All of the above-mentioned performances included "Can't Let Go" as a secondary performance in the night.

"Can't Let Go" was sung on additional programs such as Saturday Night Live, a pre-filmed studio clip on The Today Show.

While the album's final single "Make It Happen" was released only months after Emotions release, the song was not performed during the album's original chart run, however making its way onto the set-list of several of Carey following tours.

On February 26, 1992, Carey performed "If It's Over" at the 34th Annual Grammy Awards, with a full orchestra and several back up singers.