Petals

Album: Rainbow (1999)
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Mariah describes her relationship with Tommy Mottola, who was head of Sony Records, where she recorded. Carey was married to Mottola from 1993-1998. It's extremely emotional song, with very subdued vocals by Carey, who sings not only about her relationship with Mottola, but with his son and daughter as well. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ross - Sydney, Australia
  • Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced this track. The duo is known for their work on many of Janet Jackson's hits.
  • The song's bridge highlighted how alone and betrayed the singer felt by the people around her:

    So many I considered closest to me
    Turned on a dime and sold me out dutifully
    Although that knife was chipping away at me
    They turned their eyes away and went home to sleep


    The knife refers to an incident when Mottola dragged a butter knife across Mariah's face in front of their colleagues, who did nothing to defend her. It was the moment that pushed her to finally leave her husband for good, and it also inspired her anthem of freedom, "Butterfly."
  • Aside from Mottola and her fair-weather friends, this was also inspired by Mariah's older sister, Alison, who was a volatile force during the singer's childhood. In her 2020 memoir, The Meaning Of Mariah Carey, she recalled harrowing incidents of Alison drugging her and attempting to recruit her into sex work as a preteen. Alison was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 and, although Mariah has helped her out financially throughout the years, the sisters remain estranged.
  • Writing the song was a cathartic experience for Mariah. She explained in her memoir: "It's about my life, my family, my growth. It was both a thank-you and a farewell to the toxic influences in my life... In a way, 'Petals' told part of my life story through snapshots of the formative relationships that touched and changed me. With that song, I wanted to offer forgiveness and to imagine another possible life in the future - one with less hurt and more healing. So I wrote the song to release some of the pain. But there are still times when the hurt chokes me and I cannot sing the song."
  • This appears on Carey's seventh studio album, Rainbow, her last Columbia Records release. After her divorce, she also wanted to escape her ex-husband's influence on her professional life and took steps to leave the Sony-run label. She didn't return to the Sony Music fold until 2018 when she released Caution via Epic Records, another of the company's subsidiaries.

Comments: 3

  • Theresa from Murfreesboro, TnSuch a personal and tragic song. This is the best track on Rainbow and I hated that album.
  • Yes from Bellflower, CaI went to see Mariah in concert at Staples Center when Rainbow came out and her voice cracked when she sang this song. It's a beautiful song and it reminds me of my siblings back home. I LOVE MIMI!!
  • Noregrets from Couve, WaShe said it's a very personal song and she sometimes gets emotional when she performs it. Most likely it's about her sister Alison.
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