Mariah Carey;s “Always Be My Baby” is the single that tied her with Madonna and Whitney Houston for the most successful woman in US chart history in terms of #1s. To most people, though, it’s one of the more straightforward pop tracks in her mid ’90s stylistic shift towards more hip hop-influenced music. It was a massive hit but not as much as at least one other song from the same album. (Mariah was really big in the ’90s.)
Singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas has recently embarked on a covers project she calls “Lullabies for Parents.” We covered the first entry, an all-star cover of Bjork’s “All is Full of Love,” back in January. Now, she’s enlisting some of these same famous people for a gentle, nearly lullaby-esque cover of “Always Be My Baby.” This version features Sufjan Stevens, the Shins and Josh Ottum.
Aside from the gentle mood and rearrangement, the most glaring change is the seeming removal of the “Do do doop, dum” hook so central to the original. It’s there, though, you just have to wait for it. You might think the song won’t work with such a crucial part of the song saved until the coda but, instead, this frees Thomas and friends to imagine the song in a different genre. Dream-pop without the haze, it’s a gentle pop ballad that retains enough of the original melody that the song is still instantly familiar even if you have to wait over two minutes for the most recognizable part.