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According to Carey, this was done to highlight her vocals, instead of having them obscured by heavy instrumentation. The song's lyrics chronicle a woman's desperation for her former lover to return, following their separation and her loneliness and despair following his departure.
Following her decline in popularity between 2001 and 2005, critics dubbed the song her musical comeback, as many had considered her career over. They described it as Carey's "return to form" and referred to it as the "return of The Voice." "We Belong Together" broke several records in the United States and became Carey's sixteenth chart topper on the US Billboard Hot 100.
After staying at number one for fourteen non-consecutive weeks, the song became the second longest running number one song in US chart history, behind Carey's "One Sweet Day." Billboard listed it as the "song of the decade" and the ninth most popular song of all time. Additionally, it broke several airplay records, gathering both the largest one-day and one-week audiences in history. The song topped the charts in Australia and the Netherlands, and reached the top two positions in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Due to its continued success, Carey performed the song on several live award shows and television appearances around the world. Following stateside performances at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Macy's Fourth of July Parade, and The Oprah Winfrey Show, Carey performed it on several European events and programs such as the Live 8 charity concert in the United Kingdom, the Fashion Rocks in Monaco, and the German Bambi Awards.
Most notably, Carey performed a medley of "We Belong Together" and "Fly Like a Bird," another single from the album, at the 48th annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2006. The performance received rave reviews from critics, and induced the night's only standing ovation. Carey performed the song on both her Adventures of Mimi and Angels Advocate Tour. Critics described it as one of the concert's finest and impressive moments.
"We Belong Together" earned several music industry awards and nominations throughout 2005–06: two Grammy Awards, two Radio Music Awards, two Soul Train Music Awards, one Vibe Award, a World Music Award and a Teen Choice Award.
By November 2004, Carey had already recorded several songs for her newly-titled tenth studio album, The Emancipation of Mimi. Island Records head L.A. Reid suggested to Carey, however, that she compose a few more strong singles to ensure the project's commercial success. Noting that she had written some of her best work with Jermaine Dupri, Reid recommended that Carey meet with Dupri for a brief studio session.
Carey took Reid's advice and headed to Atlanta to collaborate with Dupri. During this two-day trip, the duo wrote and produced "Shake It Off" and "Get Your Number", which were eventually released as the album's third and fourth singles.
Following this recording session, "Shake It Off" was briefly selected as the album's lead single, replacing the originally planned "Say Somethin'") Carey returned to Atlanta for a second meeting with Dupri; during this trip, Carey and Dupri penned the last two songs to be included on the album, "We Belong Together" and "It's Like That."
In an interview with Billboard, Carey described her sentiments regarding the song during the production stage:
"I had the chills. I had a great feeling about it when we finished writing the song, and I was flying back from Atlanta at some crazy hour of the morning...But we were listening to it on the plane ride on the way home, and even from the demo version, I really felt something very special."
Carey and her management then decided to release "It's Like That", which Carey called "the right fire-starter", as the album's lead single. Carey later reminisced about her experience with Dupri: "I am so grateful I went to Atlanta," she said. "And I have to say, we wrote some of my favorite songs on the album. I'm so proud of Jermaine – he's so focused, and he knew what had to be done. "
In an interview with MTV, Carey described the album: "The album is not about making the older executives happy by making a bring-down-the-house, tearjerker ballad, or [something] steeped in the media dramas of my life. What I tried to do was keep the sessions very sparse, underproduced, like in '70s soul music'..."
The song's music video was shot by film director Brett Ratner in Los Angeles alongside the video for Carey's previous single, "It's Like That." Carey had collaborated with Ratner several times in the past, having worked on the video for "Heartbreaker" which became one of the most expensive of all time, costing an estimated $2.5 million. The video was filmed in conjunction with "It's Like That" and serves as the second half to the two-part story.
The music video for "It's Like That" features Carey at her bachelorette party set to wed an older and powerful man, played by Eric Roberts. Towards the end of the video, her ex-lover and past flame, played by Wentworth Miller, arrives at the event, and the video concludes with them staring into each other's eyes as Carey's soon-to-be husband watches from a balcony. The video for "We Belong Together" finishes their tale of love, and features Carey on her wedding day. For the scenes of Carey's wedding to the older man, she wore her Vera Wang gown she originally wore during her nuptials to Tommy Mottola in 1993.
In an interview with MSNBC, when asked if there was a connection to the use of the dress in the video and reality, Carey responded:
"The wedding dress was a Vera Wang original dress from a while ago that I actually wore on a certain occasion and had it in storage and when we came up with the concept for the video that had the element of a wedding in it, I said, ‘well, I do have my old wedding dress,’. 'It’s still worth [sic] for me ’cause I can’t believe I was ever married but whatever, end of story. And I knew that we wouldn’t be able to get a fabulous dress like in two days so I just took that dress out of the storage – it has a 27-foot train and it was just all hand-beaded and stuff and so I figured we might as well get a use out of it."
The video features Carey preparing for her wedding, and follows her to the altar, as well as her escape from the reception. It begins with a scene of a large mansion, apparently owned by the older man who she is to marry.
Carey is seen walking barefoot in a room, shedding a black sheer robe and laying down on a bed draped with white linens. Dressed in lingerie, Carey's face is shown close-up, as scenes of her tossing in the bed are shown.
As the song begins, Carey is seen sitting in front of a large mirror, preparing for her wedding by putting on earrings and shoes, and staring at the ring on her finger. Additional scenes of Carey sitting on a small blue sofa, wearing a purple dress, and Carey staring at the camera during a shower moment are interspersed.
The wedding is then shown, with Miller approaching the reception through a stairwell in the back. Small children as seen throwing flowers on the white carpet, followed by Roberts and Carey walking down the aisle.
As Carey, now dry and clothed, is shown in another scenario following the dressing scene, a still of Carey and Miller in the video for "It's like That" is shown, during the lyrics, "I can't sleep at night / When you are on my mind". After several other scenes of Carey dressed in the purple gown and white shirt are interspersed, the altar is displayed, where before being ordained by the minister, Carey looks into her ex-lover's eyes once more. She turns to Roberts, and begins running towards Miller, leaving the reception.
As the song's climax is reached, Carey and Miller are shown running from the reception, as the guests stand up in awe, and watch the pair leave. Carey, dressed in the white shirt, is shown with growing anticipation, crying to the camera and moving her hands and hair. Back at the wedding scene, Carey and her lover get into his vehicle, and drive away as her 27-foot train hangs behind the car. The video was nominated for "Best R&B Video" and "Best Female Video" at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards.
"We Belong Together" became a "career re-defining" song for Carey at a point when many critics had considered her career over.
 Critical responseUnlike most of Carey's recent singles at that time, "We Belong Together" received generally positive reviews from critics, most of whom hailed the song as her "return to form" following reviews for "Charmbracelet" that suggested Carey had lost her signature vocal range and power.
Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine wrote "the...diva [keeps] cool with breathy, rapid-fire verses until the final full strong-voiced climax that... proves that 'The Voice' has indeed returned."
Additionally, he claimed that "The song is as 'innovative' as Mariah has been in years." Other critics commended Carey on her novel singing style which, according to Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times, gave the song its propulsion, writing "This style is part of the reason why she has been able to turn a ballad into a summer smash. 'We Belong Together' doesn't have a guest rapper, or a hard-hitting beat, but Ms. Carey's tricky vocal lines give the song more propulsion than you'd expect, with tightly coiled counter-rhythms that tug against the beat."
Johnny Loftus from Metro Times called it a "summer hit" and wrote "We all know it’s the intangibles that make a summer single anyway, those untraceable currents that grab the heart and feet, and despite not being an anthem, 'We Belong Together' is that rousing.'"
Writing for Vibe, Michael Ehrlich claimed the song would "cut across generations", while Cinquemani felt it would revive "faith in Mariah the balladeer." Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic chose "We Belong Together" as a "top Pick" from the album, while Todd Burns from Stylus Magazine described it as "beautifully cadenced."
Echoing Cinquemani's comments about the song and Carey's past as a balladeer, Jozen Cummings from PopMatters wrote: "Carey makes the song her own, reminding fans of her 'Hero' days with full, throaty vocals and a crashing climax at the end. The dichotomy between 'The Emancipation of Mimi's' first two tracks is the album’s bread and butter."
Since first hearing the song on the radio, Sherri Winston from South Florida Sun-Sentinel claimed she "knew it would be a smash", complimenting its understated beat and Carey's vocals. Billboard's Michael Paoletta described: "We Belong Together" as one of the album's strongest cuts, claiming that it highlighted the strongest focal point on the song: Carey's voice. Slant Magazine ranked it 2nd on their "Best Songs of 2005" list.
Awards & NominationsEdit
"We Belong Together" was awarded several prestigious music industry awards throughout 2005 and 2006. At the 2005 Billboard Music Awards ceremony, Carey won five awards, with the song receiving awards in the "Rhythmic Top 40 Title of the Year", "Hot 100 song of the Year" and "Hot 100 Airplay of the Year" categories.
On November 6, 2005, Carey earned two awards for "We Belong Together" at the Radio Music Awards ceremony, in the "Song of the Year/Mainstream Hit Radio" and "Song of the Year/Urban and Rhythmic Radio" categories.
Similarly, "We Belong Together" won the "Best R&B/Soul Single" and "Best R&B/Soul Single, Female" awards at the 20th annual Soul Train Music Awards, "Choice Love Song" at the Teen Choice Awards, "Best R&B Song" at the Vibe Awards and "World's Most-Played Single" at the 2005 World Music Awards.
At the 48th annual Grammy Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium on February 8, 2006, Carey was nominated for eight awards, the most she had received in one night throughout her career. "We Belong Together" was nominated for all three top categories; however, it won two awards: "Best R&B Song" and "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance."
The song was named "Song of the Year" at the ASCAP Awards and "Song of the Year", "Most Performed Song" and "Number-one Billboard Song" at the BMI Awards. Towards the summer of 2006, Carey took home "Song of the Year", "Best Pop Female Song Performance" and "Best R&B/Soul Female Song Performance" at the GrooveVolt Music & Fashion Awards.
Carey recorded an official remix version for "We Belong Together", which she produced with DJ Clue. The remix features vocals from rappers Jadakiss and Styles P, two-thirds of the hip-hop trio, The LOX. The remix is fundamentally different from the original, described as having a "a faster, springier backbeat" by Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times.
Lyrically, the song is similar to the album version of the song, in which both rappers' verses contemplate on past memories. Styles P raps "Past is the past, just let it be bygones / Matter of fact I know a fly song that we could vibe on" which Sanneh writes "Cheerfully out of place, he sounds like a man who has wandered into the wrong summertime party, but so what? He figures he might as well stick around and enjoy it. In two separate reviews of "The Emancipation of Mimi," Sanneh referred to the song as both "great" and "excellent" in regards to the remix.
Aside from the album version's main remix, several others were commissioned and released, although none contained new vocals from Carey. Peter Rauhofer created the "Reconstruction Mix/Atlantic Soul Vocal Mix" and "Atlantic Soul Vocal Mix", which both feature a synthetic bass line, a piano and guitar line, and distinctive hi-hats that produce a more up-tempo, hard-hitting beat.
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