Make It Happen

Album: Emotions (1991)
Charted: 17 5

Songfacts®:

  • This inspiring song from Mariah Carey's second album is a rags-to-riches story about the singer's rise to fame. The Long Island native was born into a troubled home fraught with domestic violence. Her parents divorced when she was little and she was constantly on the move with her mother, who struggled to support them. The singer's circumstances didn't improve much when she moved to New York City as a teenager to pursue a music career, but through faith and determination she "made it happen" and landed a record deal with Columbia. Her self-titled debut album was a major success, spawning four #1 hit singles and launching her into stardom.
  • This was released as the third single from Carey's second album, Emotions. It was her lowest-charting single at the time, peaking at #5 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the R&B chart.
  • Carey wrote the gospel-tinged dance tune with David Cole and Robert Clivillés, the hitmakers behind C+C Music Factory of "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" fame. They also co-wrote the album's lead single and title track, "Emotions."
  • In the first verse, Mariah recalls not having proper shoes or enough to eat. During her struggle to make a name for herself in New York City, the aspiring star had so little money, she'd have to choose between buying breakfast or a subway token most mornings. Walking was difficult because she only owned one pair of shoes: hand-me-down boots from her mother that were too small for the singer's feet. She wore them until they fell apart. After she became a star, she and her fiancé, Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola, built a mansion in upstate New York and Mariah designed a Coco Chanel-inspired closet for the master bedroom; it housed a spiral staircase that led to a massive shoe collection. In her memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey, she said she nearly had her ragged old boots bronzed so she'd never forget where she came from.
  • According to Mariah, optimism is an essential component to her music, which she hopes will inspire her fans to follow their own dreams. "I like to try and give positive messages, if I can in my music, whenever I can... like with the songs 'Make It Happen' and 'Hero'," she told Jet magazine in 1994. "I do this because there is a lot of negativity out there and lot of people are singing about how screwed up the world is, and I don't think that everybody wants to hear about that all the time."
  • In a 1995 interview with the UK magazine Blues & Soul, Carey recalled the unforgettable recording session. "I'll always remember recording it," she said. "It was four in the morning at the studio and I was messing around at it and David was actually asleep at the board. We used to work non-stop. Then when I came up with the part that goes [singing] 'If you believe in your soul,' David woke up and put his hand in the air and just said 'Yes!'"
  • In the music video, directed by Marcus Nispel, a church is in danger of closing until Mariah shows up to sing her song as part of a "Save Our Church" benefit. Other churchgoers join her in her performance, including children playing cellos and a female choir singing backup. Alisa Reyes of Nickelodeon's All That can also be seen on stage with Mariah. Prior to directing the clip, Nispel helmed a trio of videos for C+C Music Factory: "Gonna Make You Sweat," "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...," and "Here We Go (Let's Rock & Roll)."
  • Carey performed this on her 1992 MTV Unplugged special. Despite releasing two hit albums, the singer hadn't embarked on a major tour as she feared the strenuous nature of her songs would damage her voice through repeated performances. Many critics, still feeling the burn from Milli Vanilli's lip-syncing fiasco, were wary of her excuse and wondered if her otherworldly voice was the result of studio trickery (even though she had proven herself many times through previous live performances). To promote Emotions and silence her critics, Mariah appeared on the live program to sing a handful of her hits. The bid worked, and the accompanying EP sold two million copies a month after its release and hit the four-million mark in 1994.

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