The year was 1999.
On the personal front, Mariah Carey had just finalized her divorce from her husband Tommy Mottola. Unfortunately, that presented some problems for her career as well. Tommy might’ve been her ex-husband, but he was still the current head of her record label, Sony. His powerful position complicated Mariah’s creative process: many of her most frequent collaborators had sworn loyalty to their boss, Tommy; not Mariah. One of those who “turned on a dime” was Mariah’s principal writing partner, the co-composer and co-producer for most of her ballads from 1991-1997: Walter Afanasieff.
At the time, Mariah was working on the soundtrack to her film debut, Glitter, and recorded the song “Heartbreaker” to be its lead single. However, fearful of sitting on a hit for too long, she opted to record what would become Rainbow, her final studio album with Sony. In search for a new writing partner, Mariah found not one but two in Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Mariah collaborated with the legendary Minneapolis based duo on three albums in total: Rainbow, Glitter and Charmbracelet. They also introduced her to James “Big Jim” Wright, who went onto become not only her main writing partner beginning in 2002, but also her musical director when on tour.
For Glitter, which was set in the 1980s, working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis was an ingenious decision. The duo originally came to fame in the 70s as members of the band The Time, and officially paired up as “Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis” when they began writing for the S.O.S. Band in the 1980s. Officially, that’s where Ms. Carey’s connection with Jam & Lewis begins.
In 1993, Mariah Carey set out on her first concert tour in support of her Diamond-selling Music Box album. With only three albums (but an impressive eight #1 singles) under her belt so far, Mariah opted to include a cover in her set list. Guess what song she chose? “Just Be Good to Me,” by the S.O.S. Band, penned and produced by none other than Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Take a listen. Mariah went on to include the cover in her setlist yet again when she toured for her Daydream album, in 1996. Luckily, this tour was professionally recorded at the Tokyo Dome and, after (24) years of Lambs pleading for it, Mariah released the audio on her Rarities collection in 2020.
However, Mariah’s stellar cover of “Just Be Good to Me” is not the only Jam & Lewis connection to be made during the Daydream era. For the So So Def remix for her 1996 #1 hit, “Always Be My Baby,” she and collaborator Jermaine Dupri opted for a sample of another S.O.S. Band classic: “Tell Me If You Still Care.” The unmistakable loop they selected from that 80s R&B classic completely transformed Mariah’s own now-classic R&B ballad into a 90s Hip-Hop/Soul groove.
Just three years later, Mariah would come full circle, connecting directly with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on her 1999 album, Rainbow. Together, she, Jam and Lewis wrote and produced Mariah’s 15th #1 single “Thank God I Found You.” Singles aside, the trio also crafted the album’s title-bearing interlude, “Rainbow,” and added Big Jim Wright to the mix to write the ballad “Bliss” and the deeply personal “Petals.” They also co-produced “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme),” which was penned by Mariah and Diane Warren, and a cover of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.”
In 2020, Mariah unearthed her cover of the Fame classic “Out Here On My Own” from the vault. While Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are not officially credited as producers, the other songs listed on the work tape from 2000 are songs they co-produced for Glitter, and it even says “JJ/TL” in the “Producer” field.
Those two songs, “Want You” and a cover of Cherrelle’s “Didn’t Mean to Turn You” (which was originally written and produced by Jam and Lewis), are among the pair’s contributions to Mariah’s 2001 soundtrack album, Glitter. Mariah also tapped the duo for the film’s most cinematic ballad “Never Too Far,” as well as the gut-wrenching ballads “Reflections (Care Enough)” and “Twister.” Finally, they contributed production to the film’s happier love song, “Lead the Way,” which was originally written by Mariah and Walter Afanasieff in the mid-90s (Big Jim Wright also contributed production to “Lead the Way,” and also co-wrote and co-produced “Want You” and “Twister”). However, as most people know, Glitter didn’t fare too well despite being a damn good album.
Mariah called on Jimmy and Terry once more for her 2002 album, Charmbracelet, enlisting them to co-produce its lead single “Through the Rain” alongside Big Jim Wright, and of course, Mariah. The quartet also wrote and produced the warm and romantic mid-tempo “Yours” (sister to Rainbow‘s “Bliss,” and cousin of Butterfly‘s “Fourth of July” and Daydream‘s “Underneath the Stars”). While “Yours” might’ve been a standout on the album, Charmbracelet would mark the last time fans would see “Carey, Harris and Lewis” credited together on a song.
That is, until today. Nineteen years since their last collaboration, the trio has teamed up again for the first-ever “Jam & Lewis” album. “Somewhat Loved (There You Go Breakin’ My Heart)” is out today. Written by Mariah, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and curiously, The Dream, it’s possible that this song began as a collaboration between Mariah and The Dream, but she finished with Jam and Lewis. Regardless of it’s origin, it’s exciting to hear these three legends reunited once again.
Take a listen to the new song above, and then listen to our playlist below explore their other collaborations and intersections over the years.
Playlist: Mariah x Jam & Lewis