Mariah Carey – Hero

First Hit #1: December 25, 1993

We cap off 1993 with Mariah Carey again channeling Disney, and getting another hit out of it. Hero is one of those mildly inspirational songs that seems perfect for a children’s film, maybe the video would have clips from the film, featuring the hero doing some derring do and being generally appealing. It’s not an especially adventurous song, but it’s something that fits within the themes of a Disney film. It’s all about believing in yourself and achieving your goals, and the fact that the hero is an entirely internal force is one of those things that makes complete sense for the kind of film that teaches kids to work hard and believe in themselves. It’s not especially daring, but it’s something people like to hear, and people like to be inspired.

Carey can do inspirational. She’s actually surprisingly subdued here – no trips into the whistle register, relatively simple performance – but then again that works for the song, since it feels actually kind of attainable. It’s a rare Carey song where she’s not trying to push her range and show off, and as a result it’s a rare Carey song that can be sung by other people. Which isn’t to say her voice isn’t powerful or an important component of the whole thing, but that it’s a song that feels attainable. That fits the themes, it’s all about self actualization, and going too far out to the edges would undermine the themes. She’s not the first artist to make a song about how the listener is a special person who can achieve their desires – it’s a pop subcategory at this point – but she’s understood how to do it, by keeping it within reach for the audience.

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One Response to Mariah Carey – Hero

  1. RBerman says:

    In 1993, the top spot was held by Mariah Carey (x2), Janet Jackson (x2), Meat Loaf, UB40, SWV, Silk, Snow, Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle, and Whitney Houston.

    Contrast with 1987, when the top spot went to George Michael (x2, including once with Aretha Franklin), Belinda Carlisle, Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes, Billy Idol, Tiffany, Michael Jackson, Lisa Lisa (x2), Whitesnake, Whitney Houston (x2), Michael Jackson/Siedah Garrett, Los Lobos, Madonna (x2), U2 (x2), Bob Seger, Heart, Atlantic Starr, Kim Wilde, Cutting Crew, Starship, Club Nouveau, Huey Lewis, Bon Jovi, Billy Vera, and Gregory Abbott.

    Soft R&B like Mariah’s song here pretty much dominated everything else in the early 90s. Electronica/New Wave was old news. Country music was growing a new crop of superstars like Garth Brooks, but the pop charts didn’t notice. Rock was dead; grunge had displaced hair metal without achieving its broad acceptance. Nirvana had only one Top 20 hit (#6 “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1991) in their whole career. Pearl Jam wouldn’t make it to #2 (their only Top Ten appearance) until “Last Kiss” in 1999. Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were popular enough to sell out arenas but never hit the Top Ten. And so on. It’s as if pop/rock had yielded the floor, was regrouping, waiting for the next big thing to happen. But it didn’t happen in 1993, or in 1994 for that matter.

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