No. 65: Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body”

I’m not going to lie to you: I would not have been as interested in this song were it not for the video. But what a video! Jack McBrayer (30 Rock‘s Kenneth) plays a computer technician on an outcall at Mariah’s mansion who fantasies about cavorting with her in oddly Mariah-esque ways.

What makes the clip work is that it’s playing with the R&B-video-in-a-mansion format without parodying it outright, as Kenneth—McBrayer’s character is basically Kenneth—and Mariah play laser tag in an all-white landscape, race stock cars as a banquet table, and play Frisbee on the lawn. The clip combines Mariah’s and Kenneth’s very different kinds of glamour to make Mariah’s more charming; the framing places her as a down-to-earth regular human being who just wants her computer fixed and dresses in casual clothes and knows about wireless protocol. The song itself, though, takes control in a different way, offering the fantasy while retaining control; Mariah tells us “I will hunt you down” if you leak their sex tape. She seems sincere. Together, they work to make a singer who was all too easy to mock seem stronger, less tolerant of bullshit, more focused. As her turn away from emotionalism became a sleek and cold precision, this video solidified it behind glass walls.

Mariah Carey – Touch my body [Dailymotion]
80 ’08 (and Heartbreak)

  • Nunya B

    Together, they work to make a singer who was all too easy to mock seem stronger, less tolerant of bullshit, more focused.

    And then Nick Cannon’s penis ruined her.

  • Chris Molanphy

    As long as we’re counting down 80 things we enjoyed in 2008, I would add to the list my schadenfreude at Mariah’s album failing to produce the predicted army of No. 1 singles.

    I am not the inveterate Mariah-hater I was in the ’90s, when I found the hubris of her promotional machine offensive and borderline-corrupt. I could even name a half-dozen of her hits over the years that I’ve genuinely enjoyed.

    But about nine months ago, on the eve of E=MC2‘s release, Billboard was exulting about this song topping the Hot 100 and Carey beating Elvis’s career total of No. 1 singles (17; Carey now has 18). And they made her eventual topping of the Beatles on the all-time list sound like an inevitability. Surely, they seemed to be saying, she’ll have the record all to herself by the time this album promotional cycle is over.

    I’m as surprised as anyone, because I thought “Bye Bye” was a hella catchy single, and I’m with Maura that “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” was actually quite good. But both flopped, and I must say my residual anti-Mariah feeling trumped my critical faculties in judging the merits of those singles.

    Simply put, I enjoyed watching her flop — and this time it wasn’t tainted by any sympathy for her, like back in 2001-02 when she went through the Glitter debacle. (Her breakdown back then seemed genuine to me.) After “We Belong Together,” she and her promo team were strutting around like it was 1995 all over again and her once-and-future chart dominance was assured, and I hope I don’t sound horribly petty when I say I liked watching the air leak out of that balloon.

  • Anonymous

    Is it weird or just douchey that this might be the first in this series I’ve both understood and agreed with/cared about?

    The whole “I would not have been as interested in this song were it not for the video” thing is fine; “Single Ladies” is like that concept x 100.

    The best part of the video, I think is when the camera pans from her silver mini-dress and you see she’s wearing those super-long cheesy socks. Love it!

    @Chris Molanphy: Despite my general liking of Mariah, I agree with you to a large extent that it was satisfy watching this album fail to live up to expectations. I think part of it is that I thought “Emancipation” was generally overrated to begin with – it was just the one monster single, in my mind.

    I am “Lovin U Long Time”‘s number one fan, but even I thought its success as a single was doubtful (despite it sounding like pure summer). The big question for me is, why wasn’t “Migrate” the second single? Or a single ever? Who dropped the ball on that? I could totally see that have hitting #1.

  • Anonymous

    “weird or douchey of me” that is.

    Also meant to add that 1 MILLION times better than seeing this album underperform was seeing Usher’s new album flop (by his standards). NO promotion or single success after love in this club. I think Usher has had an enormous, totally undeserved ego (talking all that ish about JT a few years back, now slamming Chili) and it’s great to seem him knocked down a peg.

  • kevink.

    The best part of this video is for how much of a cliche the words “Touch My Body” seemingly are, Kenneth never touches her body. Genius.