Happy Birthday, Mariah! We Celebrate By Honoring “Can’t Take That Away”

Mike Wass | March 27, 2019 2:19 pm
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Believe it or not, the eternally-youthful Mariah Carey celebrates her 49th birthday today (March 27). While she hasn’t aged a day since entering our lives with “Vision Of Love” in 1990, Mimi’s music has continued to mature and evolve — becoming richer, bolder and more authentic with each release. This dedication to her craft culminated in 2018’s career-best Caution. But, for today’s anniversary (the 18-time chart-topper doesn’t do birthdays), I’m going to throw it all the way back to 1999.

The Lamb Whisperer was really going through it at the turn of the century. She had finally found her sound on 1997’s Butterfly, reinventing herself as a genre-blending queen with hip-hop bops, silky slow jams and rap features. That journey would continue on 1999’s Rainbow, but Sony wouldn’t let Mariah be great. After the success of “Heartbreaker” and “Thank God I Found You,” the label decided on “Crybaby” as the album’s third single. But Mimi wasn’t feeling that way inclined. And she let fans know about it via her website. The 5-Octave angel had something to get off her chest, an important message she channeled into “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme).”

Co-written with the great Diane Warren, “Can’t Take That Away” boats one of Mariah’s best-ever vocal performances and remains a constant source of inspiration to people trying to carry on in the face of hardship. It would have also been a no-brainer hit given pop radio’s preoccupation with power ballads at the time, but Sony insisted on releasing it as a double A-side with “Crybaby,” and then did their best to bury it. Which is almost as unforgivable as Island’s less-is-more approach to promoting Charmbracelet in 2003. But I digress.

“They can say, anything they want to say,” Mariah coos over piano keys in the opening verse. “Try to bring me down, but I will not allow anyone to succeed hanging clouds over me.” The song comes to a stunning crescendo on the goosebump-inducing chorus. “There’s a light in me that shines brightly,” she belts. “They can try, but they can’t take that away from me.” No wonder Mimi holds this song so dear. It’s basically a first person account of her struggle for creative freedom and her life-long habit of beating the odds.

In honor of the great diva’s 49th anniversary, pop open a bottle of Butterfly beverage, dab on some Luscious Pink and watch the still-moving video of “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme) below. This ballad stands toe-to-toe with anything in Mimi’s iconic discography and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

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