It’s been 15 years since our girl Mimi dropped her R&B chart-topping ballad, “We Belong Together.” The track reaffirmed “the return of The Voice.” If you ever counted Mariah Carey out before the song’s release, she quickly reminded the world with this record why she was and still is an indisputable vocal talent and undeniable force in music.
Heartbreak is inevitable, and although the feelings may be overwhelming at times, it fuels personal growth and can serve as a teaching moment. Ultimately, it’s an experience that everyone must endure; however, if you’ve never had your heart broken before, then kudos to you! For those of us on the opposing end who’ve been through heartache, the song was the real deal—outlining the wave of emotions experienced when dealing with lessons in love. It’s a part of the evolution process, which is one of the elements that made the song resonate then and even still, more than a decade later.
This can be attributed to one of the creative masterminds behind the song whose pen game is known to make history. It seems whenever Jermaine Dupri and Mariah join forces, the dynamic duo has a way of creating classics that speak to the soundtrack of your life. Not just in that moment but for years to come. For instance, one of their earlier collaborative efforts, “Always Be My Baby,” is a timeless cut that dominated the mid-90s. According to ASCAP, in the United States, it was the most-played single on radio stations in 1996.
You might try to meet someone else or bury the thought that’s in you. But once you love someone, I don’t think it ever goes away.
To be honest, it is still in heavy rotation on my personal playlist. Whenever I hear those piano chords and when the beat drops accompanied by the drums blaring in the background followed by “Do do doop dum,” just know 10-year-old me is peaking through ready to belt out the lyrics word for word. So what are the essential elements to writing or producing a chart-topping hit? Dupri says it’s all about an “unforgettable hook.”
“I said to her [Mariah Carey] this song you have to sing full, so let’s put it in a key that’s going to allow you to hit the note. I knew that’s what people liked about “Always Be My Baby,” and the many different hooks the song had. When we went into the studio, we were attempting to create what I believe was “Always Be My Baby,” part 2, and instead, we created “We Belong Together.”
The song skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard charts spending 14 weeks at number one and won two Grammys, a first for Dupri. It’s worth mentioning that during the creative process of bringing this song to life, beyond professional achievement; it served as a personal lesson for JD as well. “I always feel the last week of recording a project, or if I’m running out of time, the last batch of records I create seems to be the biggest ones. I learned if I really dig in, I can really give people what they want. If you let me swing at something more than twice, nine times out of ten, I’m going to hit it out of the park.”
When it comes to matters of the heart, it’s obvious JD can perfectly articulate this through his artistry. But he also offers a cautionary tale for those who may be currently experiencing the effects of a broken heart or unable to be with the person they genuinely love, as reflected throughout the song’s entirety.
“You have to think about it like this; these feelings you have for certain people they never go away. A lot of people don’t understand that if you love somebody and once you actually fall in love with them, it doesn’t disappear. You might try your best to meet somebody else or bury the feeling or the thought that’s in you. But once, you love someone, and it’s real love, I don’t think it ever goes away.”
What I’ve learned throughout the seasons of life and what this song has taught me is that true love requires vulnerability, and it’s one of the greatest experiences we can have along this journey. Although, of course, with the right person!
As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the song’s release, it’s timeless quality will continue to ascend and stand the test of time. One of the hallmarks of JD and MC’s creative partnership is producing beautifully crafted central themes reflected in our daily lives. Not only is it their signature trademark of bringing heartfelt emotions to the forefront, but it’s safe to say Jermaine Dupri and Mariah Carey, definitely “Belong Together.” In the studio, on records and making music because their substantial effect when joining forces is both infectious and unprecedented.