How Mariah Carey proved her literary prowess via lyrical allusions

Vincent Anthony
3 Min Read


Let’s get technical for a bit, shall we? Have you ever heard of the literary device called allusion? It is not the same as its more common homophone, illusion; allusion is when a writer refers to another commonly known work of art, literature, person, or historical event.

On the ballad “For the Record,” featured on 2008 album, E=MC 2 (which celebrates its 8th anniversary today), Mariah Carey uses this literary device. In the song, sung in the first person, she narrates her feelings to an ex-lover who “let [her] go” during a moment of apparent rekindling. It is an atmospheric, ethereal track and a standout, fan-favorite on its parent album.

Why? Well, because of its use of allusion. In the song’s bridge, Carey masterfully and cleverly uses the trick to allude to older works of art: her old songs! Not only does it make for a nostalgic moment, it shows her great lyrical skill and creativity. Not to mention, it’s also a clever spin on the song’s title to mention her older records. Here is the verse:

For the record
You’ll always be a part of me
No matter what you do
And for the record
Can’t nobody say
I didn’t give my all to you

And for the record
I told you underneath the stars
That you belong to me
For the record
It’s obvious that
We just can’t let go of us, honey

The bolded portions above are actually references to older Mariah songs: “Always Be My Baby” (1995), “My All” (1997), “Underneath the Stars” (1995), “We Belong Together” (2005), “Can’t Let Go” (1991) and “Honey” (1997). While its certainly a heartwarming ode to some of her biggest and best classics, she harkens back to these songs to recall the immense amounts of emotion that they exude. It helps drive the point home of how much she is, or was, in love with whoever she’s singing to. Or, you know, it’s all for pretend – it is art, after all – either way, it’s awesome. Also; this actually wasn’t the first time Mariah made an allusion in a song; can you name some others? (Leave your answers in the comments!)

For the record… not many singer-songwriters are clever enough to employ such a trick, nor can say they have written (nearly) every song they’ve ever recorded like Mariah Carey can. Only two songs written/recorded for films, and her covers, lack Carey’s name in the writing credits.

Now you know…

Share this Article
Vincent is the founder of the magazine and has had a strong passion for popular music since, well, 1997! If it's not obvious, his favorite artists include Destiny's Child, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, P!nk, and many more. Vincent lives in New York, where he is a high school English teacher, and currently he is pursuing a Master's in Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.