It’s the spring of 1990: Columbia Records is preparing the release of Mariah Carey’s debut album. “Vision of Love” is rising on the charts, Mariah has been promoting herself and her music to the world on TV, after handing one of the best debut records in the history of Pop music to her record label.
She’s on a promotional tour when she plays a demo she had recorded during a session with Ben Margulies to the label executives on a plane. It’s a simple piano-based demo on a work tape that she had almost forgotten, a rough cut of what would later become “Love Takes Time.”
The song is so strong that everyone on that plane calls it a “career maker” and the heads of the company tell Mariah that it has to be on her album. Reluctant, Mariah says she wants to keep it for her next album, but the label literally stops pressing of the debut to include it. The piano demo is sent to San Francisco to Walter Afanasieff, a young producer who’s known for collaborating with Narada Michael Walden and whose work on Aretha Franklin’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who album lands him a contract as a producer for Columbia Records.
Walter Afanasieff was only given a couple of days to cut the song, arrange it and then have Mariah record her vocals. A very strict deadline, but the song came together. “Love Takes Time” was done after 3 days of hard work and it was ready to make history. It’s hard to think the song was almost left out of the album, because it’s such a strong asset to the tracklist. It lies there as the album closer, but it’s definitely a stand out.
“Love Takes Time” is an Adult Contemporary ballad with arguably some of the strongest melodies and bridge in Mariah’s catalog. Her vocals are so pure and passionate that every emotion filters through the music and just reaches and warms the heart. It’s the realisation of a universal truth by a young woman who’s still learning to deal with feelings. There’s almost a sense of naivety in the lyrics but, at the same time, the song sounds mature and it’s relatable. That’s a constant in Mariah’s catalog, something that has marked her strength and endurance as a writer.
The song also marks the beginning of a long collaboration between Mariah and Walter that would last 7 years. The two would go on to produce more classics, starting immediately with her second album.
Released as the second single from the album, it entered the Hot 100 in September 1990 at #73 (the same debut position as “Vision of Love”) and by the end of the year it had already become Mariah’s 2nd consecutive #1 hit. “Love Takes Time” topped the Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and the CD Single was certified Gold by the RIAA. It also won Mariah the 1991 Soul Train Award for Best R&B/Urban Contemporary New Artist.
Much like with “Someday,” however, Mariah has often stated the song was not one of her favorites and she stopped performing it after 1993. Twenty years later, it made a brief appearence as an acapella snippet during one of her Australian concerts, sounding as sweet as ever and getting an overwhelmingly positive response form the fans. Now, it is part of the setlist for the #1 to Infinity Vegas residency as it should be.