"Dreamlover" is a song by American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey, first released on July 27, 1993 by Columbia Records, as the lead single from Carey's third studio album Music Box (1993). It was written by Carey and Dave Hall, and was produced by the pair and Walter Afanasieff. The song incorporates a sample of the hook from "Blind Alley" by The Emotions into its melody and instrumentation. "Dreamlover" helped Carey's transition into the pop music market, a choice made following the mixed reception to her previous studio effort Emotions(1991), which featured gospel and 1960s soul influences. Lyrically, the song pictures a protagonist calling for a perfect lover, her "dreamlover," that will whisk her away into the night and not disillusion her like her exes did in the past.
"Dreamlover" received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics, many of whom praised the song's incorporated sample, as well as Carey's carefree vocal style. The song was the first of several of her lead singles that sampled older tunes as a musical bed, as seen in "Fantasy" (1995), "Honey" (1997), "Heartbreaker" (1999), and "Loverboy" (2001). It experienced strong worldwide success, becoming Carey's seventh chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining there for eight weeks. It peaked at number one in Canada and became a top-ten single in Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Carey performed "Dreamlover" live on several televised talk shows around the world, including The Arsenio Hall Show in September 1993, the British music chart program Top of the Pops, and the 1993 Music Fair in Japan. In 1999, following the release of Carey's Rainbow, the song was included in the Mariah Carey Homecoming Special, and her appearance on The Today Show. Additionally, "Dreamlover" was featured in the set-lists of most of her succeeding tours, making its debut on the Music Box Tour (1993). The song was included on Carey's compilation albums, Number 1's (1998), Greatest Hits (2001), and #1 to Infinity (2015).
The song's music video was filmed by Diane Martel in Copake, NY in upstate New York during August 1993. It features a cameo appearance by Carey's dog Jack, and shows her frolicking through a flowerbed and field, swimming in a large pond, boarding a hot air balloon, and dancing alongside several shirtless male dancers. According to author Chris Nickson, the video's carefree setting harmonized well with the song's soft instrumentation. Due to the song's strong radio airplay and extended charting, the video received frequent play on several music video channels throughout the summer of 1993.
Carey's debut studio album made a strong impact on pop music, but the singer became interested in altering her sound and branching out into other genres for her second studio effort, Emotions (1991). Columbia allowed her to take more control over her musical direction, enabling her to change the musical genre, melodies, and production style. Carey worked with many new musicians and producers on the album; Walter Afanasieff being the only holdover from her debut. Emotions contained influences from 1950s, 60s, and 70s balladry, gospel, R&B and soul music. The album, while praised by some as being more mature and raw, failed to reach the critical or commercial heights of her debut effort; selling fewer units and failing to introduce Carey into new markets. Columbia decided to return Carey to the same genre as her debut album and have her produce a more commercial and radio-friendly record. Their plans were to tone down Carey's vocals and soften the album's production to create a contemporary pop record. Carey and Afanasieff agreed to the change and began writing and recording material for her third studio effort, Music Box (1993).
While recording Music Box, Carey began to alter her songwriting style and genre choices, most notably in "Dreamlover". The song is different from anything she had recorded on her previous album, as it leans on pop and light R&B influences. While searching for new record producers for the album, Carey came across Dave Hall, a New York native who was known from his work on Mary J. Blige's debut album, What's the 411? (1992). Carey wanted to incorporate a sampled loop from an older song into "Dreamlover", her second song to do so. The pair reviewed several older tunes and melodies, and chose "Blind Alley", performed by The Emotions in 1972. This song had previously been sampled in Big Daddy Kane's "Ain't No Half-Steppin'", which led Mariah to use the sample for Dreamlover. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey described working with Hall:
"I wanted to do something that had a happy feeling, something that was more open and released, and that's really not Dave. It's very anti what he's about. So he said, 'Oh, you want to do that happy stuff? All right, all right.' He was not into doing it. Then we started listening to a lot of different and old loops and we used the 'Blind Alley' loop and I started singing the melody over it."
Although Carey had heard the hook used in several other songs over the years, she felt her use of the sample was done in a more innovative way. "We built the song from there and I wrote the lyrics and the melody and Dave ended up liking it," she continued. After having completed the song, Hall complimented Carey's work ethic and form of writing, calling her a "perfectionist" and "very professional." He explained that they incorporated the hook, a melody, and the sample into the song over the course of one night. The song's title was not added until the end of production. Hall said Carey works in a unique fashion, usually developing the song's instrumentals and hook prior to the lyrics and title. Carey describes the songwriting process:
"The way I usually work is I do an untitled song. We'll grab the hook, whether sampled or created, and use it as the working title. I wrote the verses first, as well as the melody and the inclusion of several instrumentals. Sometimes I'll have an idea for a lyrics. If I'm collaborating with someone, I'll direct them in the direction that I'm going chord wise, because I get all these melody ideas and then I lose them if I don't have someone really good with the keyboard with me. That's why I tend to collaborate because I lose the ideas by the time I figure out the chord. All these melody ideas just go."
When Carey's fiancé at the time, Tommy Mottola, came to hear the song in the studio, he had mixed feelings. He approached Walter Afanasieff and asked him to add some additional instrumentation and flavor. Afanasieff changed the song at the production level, altering the way in which the hook sample was incorporated into the song, as well as adding several new instruments. He described the changes to Bronson in an interview:
"Mariah and Dave did this loop thing which was new to us pop producers at the time. Their version of 'Dreamlover' was missing a lot of stuff. The spirit of the song was up but it wasn't hitting hard enough. I re-worked the drums, organ and keyboard. The organ and hi-hat part I changed made it a bit more swinging and a little bit more driving. I put a whole new shade of colors to it."
Music Video and REmixes
The music video for "Dreamlover" was directed by Diane Martel and filmed in upstate New York in June 1993. The video features scenes of Carey swimming in a small pond by a waterfall, boarding a colorful hot air balloon, and dancing alongside several shirtless male dancers. As the video begins, Carey is swimming underwater while wearing clothing. She is soon gasping for air and climbing into a flower bed above. As she frolics and rolls in a field, scenes of Carey boarding a hot air balloon are inter-cut. Her dog Jack makes a cameo appearance, as he follows her through the field and pond. After a short interval of dancing alongside several male dancers, Carey leaves with her dog as the video concludes. After filming the video, Carey revealed that the water was so cold that she refused to swim until the director, Martel, dived in first. Author Chris Nickson felt the video captured the song's soft and relaxed nature: "The casual feel, almost like clips from home movies edited together, captured the song's off-the-shoulder airiness." The video received heavy rotation on several video music channels, which added to the song's chart performance.
"Dreamlover" marked the first time Carey was given creative control over remixing her songs. She enlisted David Morales to create the Def Club Mix; it was the first of Carey's remixes to use re-recorded vocals. An officially-released live version of "Dreamlover", derived from the television special Here Is Mariah Carey (1994), is available. "Dreamlover" B-side track ("Do You Think of Me") was written and produced by Carey, Afanasieff, Cory Rooney, and Mark Morales. Kelefah Sanneh from The New York Times complimented the remix, writing "[It] is a revelation: after a long percussion break, he isolates a few of Ms. Carey's ad-libs; her ultrafalsetto vocals sound spookier than all of Basement Jaxx's sound effects combined."