In Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover"
from 1959, he wants a dream lover so he doesn't have to dream alone. Mariah Carey's "Dreamlover" (one word, not two) has a similar theme: She's looking for a dream lover to rescue her with a love that lasts always.
Darin's song went to #2 in America; Carey's topped it, going to #1.
In the US, this was the biggest hit of 1993, according to Billboard.
Carey's vocal performance, like many others of her earlier recordings, was inspired by Minnie Riperton, an American singer and songwriter noted for her five octave vocal range. Riperton is best known for her 1974 international hit "Lovin' You
"Dreamlover" was built around a sample of The Emotions' 1970 track "Blind Alley." The Emotions' soul tune was previously sampled by the rapper Big Daddy Kane on his 1988 track "Ain't No Half-Steppin'."
This marked the start of a trend for Carey using samples as backbones for some of her songs. She told Billboard magazine in 2008: "I hate it when people are like (uses a dramatic voice): 'She's taking a new direction with Hip-Hop.' I'm like, 'Will you please freakin' research?' I've been doing this for a long time - working with (writer-producer) Dave Hall on 'Dreamlover,' using the 'Ain't No Half-Steppin' loop. I think that it was Q-Tip - he said this to me in '97 - that I was really the catalyst for so many of these artists who are now trying to infuse (songs with Hip-Hop). It was just digging in the crates with Dave Hall and coming up with, 'Hey, let's use this loop!' And from then on, I did it anytime I could."
In the same Billboard interview Carey discussed her songwriting technique: "For each album, I try to have a book that I write the whole thing in. It started - this was a long time ago. I don't have birthdays, I only have anniversaries. (laughs) But actually, this was the last birthday party I had... I think it was my 21st birthday, even though I'm only 12. We had it in advance. (laughs) Cyndi Lauper came to the party, and I've always been a big fan of hers since I was growing up. She gave me this book, and I wound up writing the whole Music Box album in this book, which I still have."
With her first two albums, Mariah dominated the charts with her powerhouse pop ballads, such as her debut single, "Vision Of Love
," but she wanted to embrace her love of urban radio with the hip-hop-influenced "Dreamlover." She told Blues & Soul
in 1997: "I think the beginning for me of going in a more urban direction was doing 'Dreamlover' with Dave Hall. Although it's still poppy, it has a loop under there and the feel was just different from what I'd done. I still love that song. I knew I always wanted to go in that direction anyway but it was sort of always a struggle because when record companies see that they can have success with you as one thing, it gets very frightening and unsure for them to see you do something else."
Dave "Jam" Hall was one of a handful of producers on Mary J. Blige's debut album, What's The 411? (1992) and Mariah was excited to have him add some hip-hop flavor to her sound. But it took a little convincing to get him onboard with the upbeat track. "Dave Hall hates writing major chord type stuff that's really up," Mariah told Blues & Soul in 1995. "Whenever we write together he says, 'Oh, so I guess you wanna do one of those happy joints, right?!' I'll say, 'C'mon Dave, people like that stuff.' Then we saw the success of 'Dreamlover' I guess that made him more open."
Columbia Records didn't think the song sounded commercial enough and brought in Walter Afanasieff, Mariah's co-writer on "Hero," to add some pizzazz. "In their opinion, it was a little too dark and a little unexciting I guess to put on the radio in its form," he explained in The Billboard Book Of #1 Hits by Fred Bronson. "So they gave it to me and I added a few little bits and pieces to it. I added a Hammond B3 organ to it to make it bounce a little bit better and I added some drums to replace some of the drum parts. I remixed it and added some sprinkles and sparks on it. It was very nice to be involved on that song and I got to be listed as a co-producer on it."
The Diane Martel-directed music video was shot in upstate New York and follows the singer through a series of wholesome adventures, including swimming in a pond, grooving in a field with male backup dancers, and riding in a hot air balloon. Her dog Jack also makes a special guest appearance. Looking back on the video in 2015 for her #1 To Infinity compilation, Mariah said she was in the balloon by herself and it ended up landing in a swamp.
This was used on Parks And Recreation in the 2013 episode "The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic."