Rewind: Mariah Carey—“Heartbreaker”

By Grace Guimond

In 1978, while most other twelve-year-olds were preoccupied with their first crush and their first year of middle school, Stacey Lattisaw was busy recording her first album. By the time she was a sixteen she would have five hit albums, multiple tracks gracing the R&B Top 40 charts, and an opening slot for The Jackson 5. Despite those accomplishments, however, her most enduring moment might be a brief snippet of synthesizer taken from her 1982 soul jam “Attack of the Name Game” (recorded at the ripe old age of fifteen) and used, seventeen years later, as the foundation for one of the catchiest hooks to one of catchiest R&B songs by one of the biggest Divas to grace us unworthy miscreants with her siren powers. That, of course, would be Mariah Carey, the song her 1999 hit “Heartbreaker”, and the hook its eternal chorus, “Gimme your love (x8)”.

“Heartbreaker” captures the essence of classic Mariah: vocals that dripped honey, layered over bubblegum R&B, and punctuated by the quintessentially Mariah signature whistle note — she was, remember, 29, and her Bagpipes from Baghdad were as oily as her men. “Heartbreaker” was to the late 90s/early 2000s Pop scene what Hot Topic was to 2007: they both epitomized the zeitgeist of their respective eras. If an alien asked you what North American turn-of-the-century pop culture looked like, a good place to start would be “Heartbreaker”. After watching the music video, they would totally get Britney and Justin’s 2001 AMA matching denim jumpsuits.

Nostalgic value aside, this song really does showcase Mariah’s talents as an artist. The obscure, old-school East Coast Sugarhill-Gang-era style song sampled, layered with DJ Clue’s percolating beat, and her (Mariah’s) glossy melodies – mainly griping on how her man can’t stay loyal, paused briefly for the one and only Jay to guest-verse his gripes about how his girl wanna tattoo her arm – reveal the depths of her understanding of music and melody and her prowess as a songwriter. The range of the obvious talent of her vocal repertoire is so self evident it hardly warrants mentioning. Furthermore, if all else fails as a selling point, “Heartbreaker” is the only music video where you can watch a 37 second long fight scene of Mariah Carey beating the shit out of herself.

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