Carey wrote this song four years before she recorded the Butterfly album. She explained to VH1: "I had just done my first concert for a TV special in Schenectady, New York. I hadn't done anything other than Unplugged and little one-off shows with a piano player, so if was like my first real concert. I got off stage and went home to this really pretty farm in upstate New York. I was taking a bath and looking out the window - one of my favorite things. The moon was out and I was reflecting on my life. It was the first time I really sat and took it all in. It's almost like I watched my whole career go by. I took a breath and said, 'I've really accomplished something. What did it take to get here?' That started the concept for the song. I wrote the whole first verse and kept it in the back of my mind - I didn't even write it down for like four years. Fast forward to '97, and while writing Butterfly, I picked up where I left off after the first chorus."
She added: "There are a lot of different things in the song that are personal and symbolic for me. A lot of my fans get very specific about that song because they apply it to their lives. I've read the letters and they really relate to that song. I don't want to say what my symbols are because it's about whatever they want to read into it. I like to keep some of those things for myself."
The song also reflects the changes Mariah was going through during the making of the album, from separating from her husband to fighting her label over her new urban-influenced sound. She told VH1 how her emotions surfaced on the album. "I guess I was putting my foot down and trying to be free. It's like when you've been confined for a long time. You're like a kid in school and then it's recess. Butterfly was almost like recess," she laughed. "I was still going through a confusing personal change. The line in 'Close My Eyes,' 'I feel like a child as I look at the moon, Maybe I grew up a little too soon,' encompasses the whole thing really."
Butterfly is Carey's sixth studio album and her fourth release to hit #1 in the US.