“#Beautiful,” Mariah Carey’s Summer Hit That Got Away

John Antonucci
9 Min Read

With a musical catalog as expansive as Mariah Carey’s, casual listeners will surely come across a multitude of hits they’ll know by heart. But in the mix of the singer’s bag of chart-toppers, holiday classics, deep cuts, and remixes, there are also a handful of underrated singles that missed the chart’s summit. Case in point, her 2013 duet with R&B singer-songwriter Miguel, “#Beautiful.”

Released on May 6, 2013, as the lead single from Carey’s fourteenth studio album, “Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse,” “#Beautiful” marked a new era for the celebrated songstress. The track was her first release to garner significant traction since the 2009 hit single, “Obsessed.” The inspirational but polar opposite singles “Triumphant (Get ‘Em),” released in the summer of 2012, and “Almost Home” (the theme song to Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful) released just 3 months prior, both failed to chart. Coming out at the tail end of Carey’s rather infamous stint as an American Idol judge, “#Beautiful” had the perfect markings (and marketing) of a summer smash.

Mariah Meets Miguel

Starting off with a sleek guitar lick, the song already paints the five-octave diva in a much different light than her previous singles. There’s a little edge, a little grit, a little rock ‘n’ roll – three ways a casual observer of Carey’s would not even think to use to describe the songbird’s twinkling index of high notes. The song’s featured guest, Miguel, holds the reins for a majority of the song’s opening, while the only offering Carey even makes in the song’s introduction is a repeated “uh, uh, you’re beautiful” and some faint, girl-group-inspired “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.

In true diva fashion, Carey’s voice comes swinging in, full throttle, and fashionably late to her own song. She seemingly responds to Miguel’s invitation to ride atop his bike, crooning, “I like when you run red lights” at the start of the second verse. The double entendre here is an example of the pair’s playful banter throughout the song. Its surprisingly bawdy yet catchy chorus about admiring each other’s beauty echoes the juvenile feelings of a brewing romance. The chorus also reveals the song’s only defect: the hashtag in its title acts as a placeholder for the f-word. It was an attempt at embracing trends that fell flat.

Though the song served as the lead single from Carey’s then-upcoming album, it was originally conceived by Miguel. He comprised the opening guitar riff before pitching it to Carey. The two then collaborated to complete the song, and as Mariah revealed in an interview with Ryan Seacrest, “We just wanted to do something different that has a texture, that feels fresh.” The result wasn’t just fresh, it was superb. As Carrie Battan wrote in her review for Pitchfork, “#Beautiful” had “the finger-snapping R&B throwback charm that sounds primed for repeat play through the summer.”

The #Beautiful Video

A Joseph Kahn-directed music video premiered on the May 9, 2013, episode of American Idol. In it, the two singers are depicted riding into a summer’s sunset on a motorcycle, with a very James Dean-styled Miguel at the controls, as Mariah sits pretty in the back. It soon becomes nighttime, and they’ve traded in their motorcycle for a vintage, candy apple red Porsche Speedster (which actually belonged to Carey’s father) to set up shop in an old barn that just so happens to be adorned with crystal chandeliers emitting the perfect lighting for Ms. Carey’s approval. The music video really doesn’t serve anything other than some picturesque shots of Mariah twirling around and fluttering her fingers like she’s about to sprinkle some fairy dust from her hands. She’s beautiful, and there’s no denying that.

The Queen of the Remix

“#Beautiful” was further promoted through a series of television performances and remixes, including a re-sung hip-hop remix with Jeezy, a Spanglish version with Miguel, and a version with a rap from A$AP Rocky.  Though the song’s remixes really didn’t match the quality of the original, they are a welcomed addition to Carey’s canon of remixes nonetheless. Two of them even had music videos.

A second music video was filmed a month later for the song’s Spanglish version, “#Hermosa.” Now the two have left the countryside for a more scenic ambiance – Capri, Italy. This time, we catch a glimpse of the pair recording the blended version of the song in the studio, mixed with clips of Miguel cruising about the town and Carey being the bonafide diva that she is – cheers-ing with champagne, frolicking in the water (diamonds on, of course), and teetering to her yacht while being assisted by handlers so she doesn’t fumble over her heeled sandals. If anything, the two videos just give Carey an opportunity to show off her body two years after giving birth to twins.

A third music video for the Jeezy remix was also planned. However, while filming, Carey suffered a shoulder injury after a pretty serious fall. Carey later revealed that the video had been edited, and would presumably be released, but it never was. This unfortunate turn of events also derailed the recording of a planned dance remix and ultimately delayed the release of its parent album until May 2014. Instead, we got served with an array of very stylish arm slings – ranging from leather to feathers to fur – the singer donned while recovering. One word: chic.

The Summer Hit That Got Away

Debacles aside, the song became Carey’s 33rd Top 20 hit, peaking at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. It found even more success on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart, where it peaked at number three. It also became the superstar’s third-highest debut on the Pop Songs Chart, behind her 1993 smash-hit “Dreamlover” and her 1994 duet with Luther Vandross “Endless Love.” After being certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, it later received a platinum certification from the Australian Recording Industry Association and a gold certification from Recorded Music NZ. For an artist who was 23 years into her career at that point, its chart performance was quite impressive.

Although the song garnered critical praise and modest commercial success, “#Beautiful” deserved far more. Having been released right before the official start of the summer season, there’s no doubt that this song could have served as the soundtrack to plenty of summer memories in the making – road trips, beach dates, riding in the car during the warm golden hour, singing along to the song’s effortlessly cool spirit. But summer is right around the corner, and even 10 years later, “#Beautiful” is still just as fresh and current as it was when it first came out – except for the hashtag. TikTok, do your thing.

Listen to “#Beautiful” by Mariah Carey and Miguel

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John is a writer for the magazine, with a great love and affection for music of the 80's/90's. His favorite artists include Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Prince. Born and raised in New York, he has a bachelor's degree in Arts Management from SUNY Purchase, as well as further certifications from NYU-Tisch School of the Arts.