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Heartbreaker (Mariah Carey song)

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CD cassette 7" 12"

R&B hip hop dance-pop


May–July 1999


Heartbreaker (Mariah Carey song)

September 21, 1999 (1999-09-21)

"Heartbreaker" is a song by American singer and songwriter Mariah Carey. It was released on September 21, 1999 by Columbia Records as the lead single from Carey's seventh studio album, Rainbow (1999). The song was written by Carey and Jay-Z and produced by the former and DJ Clue. Additional writers are credited, since the song's hook is built around a sample from "Attack of the Name Game" by Stacy Lattisaw. "Heartbreaker" pushed Carey even further into the R&B and hip-hop market, becoming her second commercial single to feature a hip-hop artist. Lyrically, the song talks about a relationship from the female perspective, and how the protagonist incessantly returns to her lover, even though he continuously cheats on her and breaks her heart.


The song received mixed reviews from music critics, many of which felt it was not original or innovative in terms of a creative step forward. Additionally, it was compared heavily to Carey's previous song "Fantasy" (1995), which also built its hook from a sampled beat. "Heartbreaker" topped the charts in Canada and US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Carey's 14th chart topper there. Across Europe and Australia, the song topped the charts in New Zealand, and was a top five single in France and the United Kingdom.

Carey performed "Heartbreaker" live on several television and award show appearances around the world, as well as on her concert tours. The song's music video, directed by Brett Ratner, is one of the most expensive ever made, costing over $2.5 million. The video features Carey and her friends visiting a film theater and catching her boyfriend (played by Jerry O'Connell) on a date with another woman. Carey played herself and a brunette villainess named Bianca, during a physical altercation scene in between the two women. Due to contractual agreements at the time of its filming, Jay-Z was unable to make an appearance in the video, instead being portrayed as an animated cartoon. The video was inspired by several films including Grease and Enter the Dragon.


With her sixth studio album, Butterfly (1997), Mariah Carey started infusing hip-hop music elements in her songs, working with different and younger record producers and songwriters. After the album's success, and the release of her first compilation album #1's (1998), Carey began to work on her seventh studio album, Rainbow (1999). Her main focus on the album was to continue on the same path she began with on Butterfly, producing a subtle combination between inspirational ballads and hip-hop beats. "Heartbreaker" marked the first time in Carey's career that a hip-hop star was included on a lead single, following O.D.B. who was featured on the official remix of "Fantasy" in 1995. While recording the album in Capri, Italy, Carey claimed to have spent most of the time developing what she felt to be a strong lead single.

Originally, "Heartbreaker" was intended to be part of Carey's debut film soundtrack Glitter, however, after the film's delay, it was included on Rainbow. Prior to the song's radio release, Carey spoke of it in an interview: "It's pretty much [in] the classic style of my up-tempo classics like 'Fantasy' or 'Dreamlover,' [...] But it's kind of fun and has a new edge to it, I think, and definitely having Jay-Z takes it to a whole 'nother level. And [DJ] Clue makes it really fun and stuff."

Recording and lyrics

While developing Rainbow, Carey had different ideas for the lead single. After writing the song's core lyrics and producing the main idea and melody, DJ Clue, one of the earlier producers in the project, suggested to Carey the use and incorporation of the hook from "Attack of the Name Game" by Stacy Lattisaw. After agreeing to it, they incorporated Carey's lyrics and melody to the hook, and began recording the song. However, after completing "Heartbreaker", Carey felt it needed a strong male verse, hoping for a rising hip-hop artist. She chose to work with Jay-Z and began re-arranging the song as he wrote out his verse. Jay-Z wrote his entire verse, and helped produce some of the song's core instrumentals. In an interview with Fred Bronson, Carey spoke of her experience working with Jay-Z:

"It's fun when you can find someone that you can relate to and that you respect. Jay-Z is someone I admire as a writer and as an artist. We could be sitting in the studio, and he can freestyle a rhyme that would be incredible just off the top of his head. He doesn't need a pen and paper. I equate that to a singer who can pick up the mike and riff and ad-lib over a song and take you to a totally new place."

Aside from her work with Clue and Jay-Z, Carey's longtime friend and background singer Trey Lorenz also took part in the song's production. He provided the back-up vocals in the song, and took part in several small areas of the development of Rainbow. When interviewed by Bronson, Carey spoke highly of Lorenz, "He's an amazing writer and singer, he's so influenced by the old school stuff, yet he's so current. He's known me since before my first album, and he's a great, loyal friend." Aside from the use of the sample and Jay-Z's verses, "Heartbreaker" contains strong female-empowering lyrics, which Carey wrote as a sort of anthem, especially because she felt that she personally has been in a similar predicament in the past.


"Heartbreaker" is a moderately slow, mid-tempo dance-pop track, with hip-hop and R&B influences. According to the music sheet published at, the song is written in the key of D♭ major, while the beat is set in common time which moves at a moderate pace of 100 beats per minute. It has a sequence of D–Bm–D as its chord progression. Carey's vocals in the song span from the note of D3 to the high note of C7. The song has a "percolating beat" over which Carey sings with nasal, silken and declarative vocals. The verses are melismatic, meaning, there are multiple notes sung per word or syllable with rapid yet seamless transitions. For example, Carey starts the second verse already in mid-belt "It's a shame to be" while then going off into a whispering coo for "so euphoric and weak."

Aside from background vocal stylings from Lorenz and other females, Carey added her own lowered vocals into the song, giving the impression of a "doubled voice." "Heartbreaker" samples R&B and dance singer Stacy Lattisaw's "Attack of the Name Game". The song's hook and loop were taken and incorporated into the melody of "Heartbreaker", as well as being used as its main instrumental components. The lyrics are constructed in the verse-pre-chorus-chorus form. Carey starts with the hook "Gimme your love, gimme your love," repeated eight times. Carey repeats the chorus four times, ending the song with a final "Gimme your love, gimme your love." Chuck Taylor from Billboard described its instrumentation as a "persistent guitar lick" and wrote "There's an identifiable chorus here, and some semblance of verses, but more than anything, this song comes across as a blur of jumbled in the background, including Carey's own repetitive harmonies, which in this case sound more like a competition than a compliment."


The song's main remix, titled Desert Storm Remix, features female rappers Da Brat and Missy Elliott. It is the first of Carey's remixes that was produced by Desert Storm Records producer and rapper DJ Clue, who makes an introduction on the remix. The remix contains lyrical interpolations and an instrumental sample from "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)" by Snoop Dogg. In an interview with MTV News, Carey spoke of the song's remix before its official release in August 1999: "And then the remix. I'm so excited about the remix. It's also gonna go on the album, and it features Missy Elliott and Da Brat, and it's kinda like a girl-power answer record, and it's to the loop of Snoop [Dogg]'s 'Ain't No Fun.' They're not ready for that one!". A separate music video was filmed for the remix, shot in black and white and featuring a cameo appearance by Dogg. The Desert Storm Remix received mixed reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine chose the song as one of the top three cuts on Rainbow, alongside the original. Danyel Smith from Entertainment Weekly called it "[an] overblown [...] miscalculation" and wrote "Missy Elliott's and Da Brat's bad sexual politics sink the tired 'Heartbreaker [Remix].' Larry Flick from Billboard, called the remix "muscular" and "street-savvy" and wrote "Missy Elliott and Da Brat lace rhymes into the track, which is enhanced by the sample from Snoop Dogg's 'Ain't No Fun (If The Homies Can't Have None)'."

Critical reception

"Heartbreaker" received mixed reviews from contemporary music critics, some of whom compared it heavily to Carey's previous lead singles. Dara Cook from MTV called the song "airy ditty" and wrote "[On the song] Mariah exudes as much sentiment as hollowed-out driftwood." Cook continued onto the song's production, writing "By texturing it into the song, producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have finally found productive use (other than song closing spectacle) for Mariah's high octave shriek." Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine named "Heartbreaker" as one of his top three choices from the album. Danyel Smith from Entertainment Weekly called the song a "delectable confection" and wrote "she smartly uses Jay-Z's droll rap about a bratty girlfriend as tart counterpoint to her creamy tones," however calling it a recycled version of Carey's previous songs "Dreamlover" (1993) and "Fantasy" (1995). Elysa Gardner from the Los Angeles Times called the song "breezy" and noted how Carey "brings a similarly light, sensuous touch" to "Heartbreaker". Additionally, Gardner complimented Jay-Z's rap verses, calling them "sly." Editor from Rolling Stone Arion Berger, called it "nasal, silken and declarative" while "riding the percolating beat." Additionally, Berger also compared it to Carey's "Fantasy", for its similar usage of a sampled hook. Tom Sinclair from Entertainment Weekly reviewed the song individually, giving it an F. He called it a "rehash" of "Fantasy" and wrote "What self-respecting artist would have the gall to recycle the Tom Tom Club's 'Genius of Love' (the source of 'Fantasy') for a second time in four years? It's a given that pop will eat itself, but this sort of self-cannibalization should be illegal." Chuck Taylor from Billboard gave the song a mixed review, writing "Yes it's a hit, and her voice is in fine form, but 'Heartbreaker' is a disappointment in terms of what we know she's capable of writing."

Chart performance

In the United States, "Heartbreaker" was released on September 21, 1999. The song became Carey's fourteenth chart topper in the US, spending two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. It extended Carey's lead as the female artist with the most number one singles in the country. The only acts still ahead of Carey were Elvis Presley with seventeen (a record she surpassed in 2008 with Touch My Body becoming her eighteenth number one single) and The Beatles with twenty. The song was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Additionally, "Heartbreaker" finished at number thirty-five on the Billboard Year-End of 1999. In Canada, the song peaked at number one on the Canadian Singles Chart, becoming Carey's tenth chart topper in the country. In Australia, it entered the Australian Singles Chart at number eleven, on the issue dated October 10, 1999. The next week, the song ascended to its peak of number ten, where it stayed for one week, before fluctuating inside the chart for a total of seventeen weeks. "Heartbreaker" was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), denoting shipments of over 70,000 units within the country. In New Zealand, "Heartbreaker" was met with strong success, debuting at number four on October 10, 1999, and topping the singles chart the following week. It spent a total of eleven weeks fluctuating in the singles chart, and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), denoting shipments of over 15,000 units.

In Europe, the song charted throughout several markets. In Austria, it debuted at number thirty-seven on the singles chart, eventually peaking at number seventeen. In total, "Heartbreaker" spent twelve weeks on the Austrian chart. In the two Belgium territories, Wallonia and Flanders, the song peaked at numbers nine and twenty-seven, and spent nineteen and sixteen weeks on the chart, respectively. In France, the song entered the singles chart at number seventy-seven on October 9, 1999. Eventually, it peaked at number four, becoming Carey's highest charting single there since "Without You" (1993), which peaked at number two. The song charted for twenty-five weeks, and was certified gold by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP), denoting shipments of over 400,000 units. In Germany, "Heartbreaker" peaked at number nine, spending twenty weeks inside the singles chart. On October 2, 1999, it entered the Dutch Single Top 100 at number sixteen, eventually peaking at number seven, and spending a total of eighteen weeks in the chart. In Norway, the song's success was limited, only peaking at number fourteen and spending only four weeks charting in the countries chart. "Heartbreaker" entered the Swedish Singles Chart at number thirty, on the issue dated October 7, 1999. It charted for a total of fourteen weeks, and attained a peak of number eighteen. In Switzerland, it spent twenty-three consecutive weeks in the singles chart, attaining a peak position of number seven, where it stayed for two weeks. On the UK Singles Chart, "Heartbreaker" debuted at its peak position of number five, during the week of November 6, 1999. It spent a total of thirteen weeks charting inside the chart, exiting on January 9, 2000.

Music video

The music video, directed by Brett Ratner, began airing on MTV on August 16, 1999 following its premiere on the network's Making the Video series. According to Carey, the goal for the video was to mirror the lyrical content of the song, as well as showing it from a female perspective. Additionally, the video was filmed in a comedic fashion, intended to remain something "fun and exciting." The video became one of the most expensive ever made, costing over $2.5 million. Due to its strong female empowering message and nature, the video remains "a fan favorite," according to MTV News. Carey claimed that two films were used as inspirations, Grease and Enter the Dragon. Prior to filming the video, it became clear that Jay-Z would be unable to appear in the video, due to a contractual agreement not allowing him from appearing in a video for two weeks after he shot for "Girl's Best Friend," his track off the soundtrack to the movie "Blue Streak." Carey then thought of creating the animated section in the video, which was quickly drawn and animated by Ratner's team.

The video begins with Carey driving up to a large movie theater, the Los Angeles Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, with several of her female friends. As they pull up to the front doors, they tell Carey that her boyfriend is inside with another woman, leading her to try to convince them to abort the plan of confrontation. After convincing her, they enter the theater and begin a series of small dance routines alongside some of the theater employees. As the music begins, scenes of them dancing and Carey entering the movie projection room inter-cut. Carey sits behind her boyfriend (played by Jerry O'Connell) and the woman he is cheating with, and spy on them in a comedic way with her female lackeys. Soon after, the still unidentified woman walks towards the bathroom, prompting Carey to follow her during a short interlude in the video. After running into each other by the washroom, the woman appears to be Carey sporting a short brown wig and red seductive clothing. Carey pokes her, starting a large brawl in between the two women. Afterwards, Carey appears to have defeated the woman named Bianca, and heads back towards the movie room. During this scene, Jay-Z's rap verse is played, while an animated clip of Jay-Z and Carey is projected onto the screen. Later a version of the video leaked where Jay-Z was rapping his verse in a jacuzzi. During the verse, Carey's friends begin throwing popcorns and other candies at O'Connell, prompting a small food fight in between them. As they halt their attack on him, Carey walks towards O'Connell's seat and acts as though she is Bianca. After she sits next to him and he notices who it is, Carey spills a large soda on his lap and bids him farewell, leaving the theater with her friends smiling.

Live performances

In order to promote "Heartbreaker", Carey performed the song live on several television and award show appearances, as well as recorded her own Fox Broadcasting Company special. Titled The Mariah Carey Homecoming Special, it was a mini-concert filmed at Carey's old high school in Huntington, New York. The special aired on Fox on December 21, 1999 and featured Jay-Z live on stage for his verses. Carey performed "Heartbreaker" and its accompanying remix at the MTV European Music Awards, held on November 11, 1999 in Dublin, Ireland. For the performance, Da Brat and Missy Elliott both joined Carey on-stage. Additionally, the song was performed on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which again featured the female duo live on stage, British music chart program Top of the Pops, French program Vivement Dimanche, and The Today Show.

For Rainbow, Carey embarked on her fourth and third worldwide tour, titled the Rainbow World Tour (2000). Throughout it, Carey performed the song live during every show. The synopsis behind each performance was a wrestling match in between Carey and Bianca, where Carey would sing the remix and original versions of the song throughout each small interlude of the fight. Carey was brought out with boxing gloves to the stage, performing the remix version of the song. After she began wrestling and boxing with Bianca, she defeated her, prompting her to begin the original version of the song. "Heartbreaker" featured a very different set up for Carey's Charmbracelet World Tour: An Intimate Evening with Mariah Carey (2002–03). During the tour, Carey wore a sparkling, Swarovski bikini number, and performed both the remix and original versions back-to-back. Several male and female dancers were on stage during the performances, as well as different musicians and back-up vocalists. During Carey's following tour, The Adventures of Mimi Tour, "Heartbreaker" was once again performed at each of the shows. For the song's recital, Carey's donned a black bikini and matching silk cape, as well as Christian Louboutin platform pumps. Several male dancers were present on stage, wearing black overalls and jackets while performing heavy dance routines. For the show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Carey was joined by both Da Brat and Jay-Z for the remix and original versions, respectively. During the Angels Advocate Tour, the song was paired with Love Hangover by Diana Ross, and performed in a mash-up, the same as she did in VH1 Divas in 2000.

Credits and personnel

Credits adapted from the Rainbow liner notes.

  • Mariah Carey – co-production, songwriting, vocals
  • Jay-Z – songwriting, vocals
  • DJ Clue – co-production
  • Narada Michael Walden – songwriting
  • Jeff Cohen – songwriting
  • Shirley Elliston – songwriting
  • Lincoln Chase – songwriting
  • References

    Heartbreaker (Mariah Carey song) Wikipedia