Lyricism: Write About the Realness

Mariah Carey

Lesson time 16:13 min

Like any good storyteller, songwriters can use their personal experiences as inspiration. In this lesson, Mariah delves into song studies and reveals the origins behind two of her most personal songs: “Outside” and “Sunflowers for Alfred Roy.”

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Topics include: Turn Personal Moments Into Relatable Songs Song Study: “Outside” • Mine Your Life for Moments Song Study: “Sunflowers for Alfred Roy”


- There's a song I wrote called "Looking In" that is from the album "Daydream," and that was written, like, amidst one of the biggest albums I ever had, after having realized so many dreams but still in such a sad place as a person. So I'll look at it and listen to like, "She smiles through 1,000 tears and harbors adolescent fears. She dreams of all that she can never be. She wades in insecurity and hides herself inside of me." I used to always really focus on that. I used to really focus on keeping things general but still trying to reveal a specific emotion that I was feeling in hopes that other people could take it and it wouldn't be too specific to me that they couldn't relate to it, you know what I mean? Like I always wanted to make sure people could take it like I did when I was growing up. Every song that'll have, like, one sentence that reminded me of whatever little moment I was going through, I was like, oh, this is my song, because that stuff really matters to somebody that listens to lyrics and really applies those moments to their lives. I don't know. I've chosen to be very, very specific and real about certain things in certain songs. "The Roof"-- if we talk about the lyrics to that song, you know, "Every time I feel the need, I envision you caressing me and go back in time to relive the splendor of you and I on the rooftop that rainy night." I'm not saying that's the best thing I ever wrote, but it's real, and it was real for a very long time to me how I felt with regards to that song. It wasn't raining yet, but it was definitely a little misty on that warm November night, and my heart was pounding, my inner voice resounding, begging me to turn away, but I just had to see your face to feel alive. And then you casually walked in the room, and I was twisted in the web of my desire for you. My apprehension blew away. I only wanted you to taste my sadness as you kissed me in the dark. Like, that's real. I wrote "Outside" about specific feelings of otherness that I felt as a child. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider can find themselves in this song. MARIAH CAREY: (SINGING) It's hard to explain. Inherently it's just always been strange. Neither here nor there, and always somewhat out of place everywhere. - You know, I think a lot of different people can relate to it, but for me, it was about being biracial and how that has really become such a-- I don't know. I don't know the word to actually-- I don't know that there's one word that I can use to describe what that's done to me, but it's sort of like the bane of my existence. It's kind of like to be Black and biracial is a very specific thing. You could be a bunch of different mixtures of things, but that is very specific, and especially when you grew up in white neighborhoods and you go through the different things that I went through. It's been an interesting journey. Like, it is what it is. This is not woe is me, this is just the...

About the Instructor

With a five-octave range and soaring whistle tones, Mariah Carey reigns as the “Songbird Supreme.” Now, for the first time, she’s opening up her studio to show you her creative process. Learn how she uses her iconic voice to write songs, collaborate, and produce—and discover how some of her biggest hits were made. Draw inspiration from Mariah’s journey and connect with the power of your own voice and vision.

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Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey invites you into her studio to share her process. Learn how she uses her iconic voice to create, collaborate, and express a vision.

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