Mariah Carey’s Tenor of Terror

Her hit ‘Always Be My Baby’ is the portrait of a woman unhinged

Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby is ostensibly a song about a recently separated couple holding out hope that the memories and happiness created by their once strong love will lead to the happy ending of a reconciliation. Mariah and a man we are going to call Tim (this isnt his real name, for the purposes of this story I’ve decided to protect his privacy) used to be very much in love. Somewhere along the way, things changed. It was no ones fault really, sadly, sometimes love can just fade and fade until it’s gone forever. Always Be My Baby is Mariah’s last love letter to her and Tim’s life together. That’s what’s out there, on the surface. A deeper look at the lyrics paint a picture of a crazed, terrifying lunatic in the mold of Alex Forrest or Annie Wilkes.

The unreasonable/reasonable series examines a song-writer’s own lyrics to determine exactly the state of mind the individual is in when releasing a song. Previous installments include Usher’s Yeah and Craig David’s Fill Me In. Both of those tracks revealed themselves to be varying degrees of unreasonable. Neither of those tracks were as chilling and often downright scary as Always Be My Baby. So the question is, how unreasonable is Mariah? In her own words:

We were as one babe, for a moment in time. It seemed everlasting, that you would always be mine.

Sadly, this is a common feeling amongst recently separated partners. At the peak of every romance, it seems impossible to think that the relationship could end in anything less than wedding bells, births, and grandchildren. It doesn’t always end up like that. Reflecting on that familiar feeling in a song is heartbreakingly reasonable.

Now you wanna be free, so I’m letting you fly

An impressively mature statement from Mariah. Admitting that Tim no longer wishes to be romantically involved with her, she appears to be giving him the space he needs to move on. This is I’m-so-proud-of-you reasonable.

Cause I know in my heart babe, our love will never die.

I suddenly don’t like where this is heading. It’s not a totally uncommon or unhealthy thing to hold out hope that a relationship can restart, reload, and recover, but it seems like Mariah is maybe too confident about a reconciliation. This is starting to feel like maybe Mariah’s expectations are mildly unreasonable.

You’ll always be a part of me. I’m part of you indefinitely.

Uh-oh. It is, I suppose, on it’s surface, a nice sentiment to share. “No matter where we are now, I won’t forget you. You’ll always be a part of me,” she says. That’s fair. “HOWEVER, don’t forget that no matter where you go, who you meet, or what you do, I’m a part of YOU as well. INDEFINITELY.” The cracks are starting to show. Tim’s foundation is starting to shake. Apparently, Mariah will decide when or if she will detach herself from his life. That’s not something you can control, nor put an open-ended amount of time on. I’m officially worried about Tim. I just have a bad feeling about what’s in store for him. She’s starting to sound very unreasonable.

Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me? Darling, ‘cause you’ll always be my baby. We’ll linger on. Time can’t erase a feeling this strong. No way you’re gonna shake me. Darling, ‘cause you’ll always be my baby.

No. No. No. This is not good. Mariah Carey has suddenly morphed into Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and we aren’t even halfway into the song. She isn’t going to be ignored after this break-up, is she? She threatens, in a falsetto, to just “linger” on. What exactly does that mean? Showing up at his apartment in the middle of the night? 25 missed calls in an hour? A dead rabbit on the stove? This is potentially criminally unreasonable.

I ain’t gonna cry no, and I won’t beg you to stay, if you’re determined to leave boy, I won’t stand in your way.

Wait a minute, this…this is good? Mariah is proving to be stronger than I initially thought. If her man wants to leave, that’s his choice. She’s not going to cry about it. Her quiet strength is remarkably and suddenly reasonable.

But inevitably, you’ll be back again. ‘Cause you know in your heart babe, our love will never end, no. I know that you’ll be back boy. When your days and your nights get a little bit colder. I know that you’ll be right back baby, believe me, it’s only a matter of time.

Well that didn’t last long. Maybe you know in your heart, Mariah, but I wouldn’t be so sure that he’s anxious for a reconciliation. You’ve been broken up for two minutes and you’ve already told him he can’t escape or shake you. Her statement about it being “only a matter of time” seems sinister and mildly threatening. She is once again starting to sound possessive, crazy, and unreasonable.

Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me? Darling, ‘cause you’ll always be my baby. We’ll linger on. Time can’t erase a feeling this strong. No way you’re gonna shake me. Darling, ‘cause you’ll always be my baby.

Three years have passed since the breakup. Tim is in a great place. He hasn’t seen or heard from Mariah since he filed a restraining order two years ago. He has settled down with a beautiful woman, a local paralegal named Michelle. They met at a laundromat because her washing machine broke down. Can you even believe that? Life’s funny like that sometimes. An inconvenience. A trip to the laundromat. A new love.

Michelle has two kids from a previous marriage, Ellie and Josh. Their father isn’t around. No phone calls, no birthday cards in the mail, nothing. He’s a ghost. Tim, on the other hand, has taken an immense liking to them, and loves them as his own. Ellie (Ellie Bellie, he calls her, and it’s sickeningly adorable) and Josh just recently started calling Tim “Dad”, and he tells his friends in private that it’s the most proud moment of his life.

Today, a Friday in early April, is a very important day for Tim. It’s exactly two years to the day since he filed the order on Mariah. It’s important for other, happier reasons as well. Today he plans on picking the two kids up from school, dropping them off at his parent’s house, and taking Michelle to their favorite restaurant, where he will propose to her.

Stuck in traffic on the way to school, he arrives a few minutes late. The kids are gone. He feels his stomach drop out and his heart rate increase to about 1,000 beats per minute. He checks with the truancy officer. The kids were in school all day. He checks with the principal, Dr. Tramell, who assures him that the children were just picked up by their mother. Back in his car, he breathes a sigh of relief and lets out a nervous chuckle as he dries his sweaty palms on his jeans. Then he remembers. He sent Michelle to the spa today. She’s on a massage table right now. Suddenly, his phone rings. It’s an unknown number. Deep down, he already knows who it is.

“Hello?,” he answers nervously, the panic turning his body numb.

“Dad! Dad! Help!” he hears the panicked screams of Ellie and Josh.

“Ellie! I’m right here! Everything’s going to be ok! Who is this? What are you doing with my kids?” he screams in a panic into the phone. The answer makes his whole body go cold. It’s impossibly, terrifyingly unreasonable.

Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me? Darling, ‘cause you’ll always be my baby. We’ll linger on. Time can’t erase a feeling this strong. No way you’re gonna shake me. Darling, ‘cause you’ll always be my baby”

Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby, a terrifying look into the deranged mind of a totally unreasonable ex-girlfriend.


More Unreasonable Music Moments


Craig David-Fill Me In