In this Latin-influenced R&B ballad, Mariah Carey longs to recreate a night of passion with a distant lover. At the time, she was married to Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola, but the song isn't about him. With their marriage on the rocks, Mariah slipped away to Puerto Rico to meet up with her new love interest, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Although the singer insists they didn't consummate their relationship until after her divorce, the heat between them was so strong it sparked this steamy track. The baseball player also inspired the Butterfly
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Carey knew it was risky to write a song about her affair, but she couldn't the Puerto Rican rendezvous with Jeter out of her mind. "'My All' was the realest, boldest, most passionate love song I'd ever written," she recalled in her 2020 memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey. "I brought to it the Spanish undertones, the warm breeze, the ecstasy of desire, and the agony of separation that I remembered so clearly."
She added: "This song was about life and death, and I didn't want it to get lost in any over-the-top schmaltz. I needed it to be strong and simple. I wanted the vocals to be the centerpiece, the focal point in the mix, with a stripped-down track behind them. It was all about the emotion, the soul, and I sang it as if my life depended on it."
When Carey came home from Puerto Rico, she had the song's melody in her head. She brought it to her songwriting partner Walter Afanasieff, and the pair began fleshing out the rest of the track at Carey's in-home studio in upstate New York. He told Fred Bronson, author of The Billboard Book Of #1 Hits, about the songwriting session: "I remember being in the back part of the studio where my keyboards were set up and we were sitting there late at night, writing," he said. "There was a new keyboard that had come out, the Trinity, and I was strolling through some sounds and came upon a particular sound from a steel acoustic guitar. I played these really beautiful chord changes that eventually led to 'My All.' She started singing and I started playing and we came up with the basis of the song. I put a little drum groove down and it was one of the easier songs to write with her."
This also marked the end of the road for Carey and Afanasieff's partnership, which began on her self-titled debut in 1990. Afanasieff attributed the split to Carey's split with Mottola, who was his superior at the label, and the singer's shift away from mainstream pop ballads, which were his specialty. He told Bronson: "I needed to maintain a very strong relationship with Tommy. During that period, the beginning of their end, I had to stay away more than normal from her because she was going through a rough time. She felt that shutting her relationship with Tommy was also a cleansing of who she was. She felt that part of what she was dropping was the shmaltzy pop singer ballad kind of stuff he was adamant about. I had to make my exit and say 'Mariah, you need to redefine yourself, that's fine. I'm here doing what I do and if and when you want to come back and do it again, I'm here.'"
Carey returned to the beaches of Puerto Rico to record the black-and-white music video with the fashion photographer/director Herb Ritts, where she reunites with her lover at the top of a lighthouse. Things weren't so glamorous behind the scenes: A doctor was summoned to the shoot to tend to Carey, who suffered a mysterious allergic reaction that caused a nosebleed.
Carey recorded a Spanish-language version titled "Mi Todo." She also recorded two remixes. Jermaine Dupri produced an R&B version, titled "My All/Stay Awhile" (So So Def Remix), that features a sample from the 1986 Loose Ends song "Stay A Little While, Child" and raps from Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz. That version also spawned a music video, directed by Diane Martel, which finds the rappers hanging out with Carey at a small house party.
The second remix was a dance version mixed by DJ David Morales.
This was the final single from Carey's sixth studio album, Butterfly, and the singer's 13th #1 hit on the Hot 100.
Carey sang this on the November 15, 1997 episode of Saturday Night Live.