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Mariah Carey had included "I'll Be There" as a last-minute addition to her MTV Unplugged setlist, after she had been informed that most acts on the show commonly perform at least one cover. "I'll Be There" was the sixth track on Carey's MTV Unplugged special, taped on March 16, 1992.
It was performed as a romantic duet, with Carey singing Michael Jackson's lines and R&B singer Trey Lorenz singing Jermaine Jackson's lines. The program and resulting MTV Unplugged album were produced by Carey and Walter Afanasieff, who played the piano for the performance.
The "MTV Unplugged" special aired on May 20, 1992, and was a notable success. Mariah's label, Columbia Records, received many requests to release "I'll Be There" as a single, which had not been planned. A radio edit of the song was created which removed dialogue portions of the performance, and "I'll Be There" was released as a single.
In the U.S., the song was issued with "So Blessed" as a B-side; in the United Kingdom, the "I'll Be There" single included the live version of "Vision of Love", and the album versions of "If It's Over" and "All in Your Mind".
"I'll Be There" was nominated for the 1993 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, losing to Boyz II Men's "End of the Road". The "I'll Be There" music video, directed by Larry Jordan, was compiled from footage of Carey's MTV Unplugged appearance. During Michael Jackson's memorial service on July 7, 2009, Mariah and Trey Lorenz sang their rendition of the song in tribute to Jackson.
"I'll Be There" not only topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard's Hot Adult Contemporary Singles chart, the song also peaked at #1 in Canada, New Zealand, and in the Netherlands. The song was certified Gold in New Zealand.
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs||11|
|Canadian Singles Chart||1|
|Australian Singles Chart||9|
|U.K. Singles Chart||2|
|Swedish Singles Chart||26|
|Dutch Singles Chart||1|
|Swiss Singles Chart||20|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||10|
|French Singles Chart||16|
|German Singles Chart||33|
|Irish Singles Chart||3|