Music Box is Mariah Carey's third studio album that was relaesed on August 31, 1993 by Columbia Records.
- Dreamlover 3:53
- Hero 4:19
- Anytime You Need A Friend 4:26
- Music Box 4:57
- Now That I Know 4:19
- Never Forget You 3:46
- Without You 3:36
- Just To Hold You Once Again 3:59
- I've Been Thinking About You 4:48
- All I've Ever Wanted 3:52
Following the success of her debut album, Columbia allowed Mariah Carey to take more control over her musical departure, enabling her to change her genre infusions, melodies and production. With Carey in the captain's chair, having more control than she had on any other album, she took the album in a new direction, alongside Afanasieff.
For her third studio album, she enrolled the help of a range of songwriters, as well as record producers.
Aside from Afanasieff, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, a man who would collaborate with Carey often in the near future, also took part in the project.
Babyface (who helped produce much of the album) also co-wrote a track with Carey titled "Never Forget You", a song that was released as a B-side to "Without You" exclusively in the United States.
The album consisted mostly of slower ballads (with the exception of "Dreamlover", "Now That I Know", and "I've Been Thinking about You") and contained collaborations with some carry-on producers and writers from "Emotions."
Of these were Clivillés & Cole (of C+C Music Factory), who co-wrote the track "Now That I Know", a danceable pop ballad, which used similar formulas and synthesizers from tracks on "Emotions."
Another writer–producer that worked on the album was David Hall, who with Carey wrote the U.S. single "Dreamlover."
During the album's recording, Carey worked with several different musicians and producers, aside from Walter Afanasieff, the only hold over from her debut album.
On the album's first track "Dreamlover", Carey worked with Dave Hall throughout the song's entire production.
In order to help with some of the song's arrangements, Mottola enrolled the help of Walter Afanasieff, who took on the completed track and transformed it into a more commercial hit.
According to Marc Shapiro, "Music Box" reflects signs of Carey's vocal maturity, as well as representing an album she was truly proud of.
The album's first single "Dreamlover" was described as a "slight piece of pop fluff," representing a more commercial side to Carey than the "more ambitious" "Vision of Love". Critics believed the song's chart performance was due to its summer release, as people were still looking for a "not-too-heavy" and more diverse sound.
The song's composition was described as "mid tempo and mildly dance-able," with Carey's voice being called "perpetually happy," like a "little-girl voice."
"Hero", the album's second single, was one of Carey's most inspirational ballads at the time. The song is described as "a lush ballad" with Carey making use of her impressive, "lower alto register."
As one of the more emotional tracks on the album, "Hero" builds emotion, verse through verse, where the lyrics and melody finally "broke through."
"Anytime You Need a Friend" is another pop ballad in which Carey would, "let her voice roam free," a feature critics felt lacked on the album.
The song featured "rough and low vocals" as well as some glimpses of Carey's upper registers. As with most of the songs on the album, the lyrics boast a positive message, and it is the only song on the album to feature traces of gospel-inspired vocals throughout the chorus.
The album's title track, "Music Box", is another ballad Carey wrote with Afanasieff. The song is described as one of Carey's more difficult compositions, due to its "softness." It requires a great deal of legato to keep "the tunes softness and sweetness, without resorting to volume."
Carey's vocals on the track are defined as "soft and controlled," managing to maintain the delicate balance in a manner that seems effortless, floating easily over the keyboard and the shimmer of the guitar.
Lyrically, due to the song's message of "commitment and promise," and the "tinkling music-box line played on the synthesizer," the track gives the sensation of a wedding vow recital.
The track, "Never Forget You" is a slow song and further connects it to the song's message of "lamenting the loss of love, in a very tender way."
The song contains keyboard notes that hover over the verses and allow Carey to indulge in her backing vocals.
It was described by Nickson as a "stand out track," one that could have easily become a hit single, "with an appeal that would have easily transcended generational barriers."
"Music Box" debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 with 174,000 copies sold. During its 15th week after its release, the album topped the chart and enjoyed its highest sales week in December, selling 295,000 copies during its first week at the top of the Billboard 200, 395,000 copies the following week and peaked with 505,000 copies sold the year's final week.
The album topped the chart for 8 non-consecutive weeks. It was certified Diamond by the RIAA, denoting shipments of 10 million copies, making it Carey's best-selling album at the time.
"Music Box" has sold 28 million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling albums of all time.
"Music Box" received mixed reviews from critics, many of whom found the performances uninvolved and devoid of substantial songwriting.
In Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden said the lyrics were "made up entirely of pop and soul clichés" on an album "so precisely calculated to be a blockbuster that its impact is ultimately a little unnerving".
Christopher John Farley from Time called it "perfunctory and almost passionless" in spite of highlights in "Anytime You Need a Friend" and the title track.
In Entertainment Weekly, David Browne found Carey's performance low on energy and her voice no longer soaring above the backup chorus. Instead, he wrote that she "drips over them like syrup instead of overpowering them; she lets the melodies speak for themselves."
Dennis Hunt was particularly critical in the Los Angeles Times, writing that Carey's pop-soul songs still lacked emotion even though she had "toned down her vocal showboating". He accused Music Box of being geared toward an adult contemporary audience that "likes its soul whitewashed and in small doses".
Village Voice critic Robert Christgau labeled the album a "dud", indicating "a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought".
In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Ron Wynn deemed the album "partly successful" and believed it was smart of Carey to explore her vocal approach differently, but she ended up sounding "detached on several selections". With the exception "Hero" and "Dreamlover", the other songs lacked her usual "personality and intensity", according to Wynn.
Q was more impressed by the record, writing that "this 1993 celebration of the all-conquering power of love was her defining moment".