In 2008, leading her first album in 3 years, E=MC², Mariah Carey released the slinky “Touch My Body.” The song Entertainment Weekly called “deliciously sexy” would be another record breaker for Carey. It became her 18th #1 on the Hot 100, the most for any solo artist. “Touch My Body” sold 286,000 downloads, the most digital singles ever sold in a week by a female up to that point. At the time Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak commented that the song was “so ubiquitous that it’s kind of hard to imagine what radio was like before it.” Carey wrote and produced the song with the famous team of The-Dream and Tricky, as well as Cristyle Johnson. She has said they were influenced by old-school hip-hop.
Billboard noted Carey’s use of “harmonic layers.” Slant described Carey’s vocal as “coquettish.” Then, of course, there was that great melody. Billboard noted the song has “a chorus as catchy as a winter sniffle.” Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly highlighted a piano cover of the song and noted Carey’s gift for melody. “Touch My Body” was also another example that showed how Carey had been a leader in merging pop and urban music. As Newsday writer Glenn Gamboa noted, the single has “street-wise touches” but also elements of “balladry.” Perhaps most succinctly, Blender summarized the single as, “A pop genius making genius pop.”
The lyrics of “Touch My Body” found Carey at her most cheeky and overtly sexy. The song features notable pop culture references (to YouTube and Wendy Williams). Perhaps most notably, Carey warns her potential lover that if he publicizes their romance “I will hunt you down.” Jamieson Cox of Time referred to it all as “relaxed silliness.”
The video for “Touch My Body” was directed by Brett Ratner. It famously features 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer as an IT worker who comes to Carey’s aid. Though it’s not in the way he fantasizes. The humorous video features several instances of Carey winking her eye at her diva image. The opening scene has Carey answering her door in nothing but an open robe and lingerie. That would seem to be a nod to the criticisms that Carey doesn’t wear much clothing. A later scene shows Carey walking a unicorn. ‘Unicorn’ is a word press had joked would be a likely Carey album title due to its girly, one-word nature.
“I will hunt you down”
The “Touch My Body” video hit #1 on TRL. It was one of the most streamed videos of 2008. It even landed on the top 10 for the year at MTV.com and the 2nd most watched video on Yahoo Music. The video won a BET Award and landed Carey an MTV Video Music Award nomination for Female Video. It was also named one of the best music videos of the 2000s by Complex Magazine.
“Touch My Body” managed to leave a strong mark on pop culture impact, too. In addition to the memorable video and its impact, R. Kelly and Aretha Franklin each paid tribute to the track. Kelly released an unofficial remix of the song. Meanwhile, Franklin performed the song in a few concerts. Madonna, who’s never been a fan of Mariah or her music, mentioned in interviews that she liked the song and worked out to the track. TV personality Gayle King called it a favorite of hers and sang “Touch My Body” during a dare on Rachel Ray’s talk show in May 2008. Jay Leno featured someone performing the song in one of his Jaywalk segments. Ross the Intern from the show sang it in one of his video blogs.
“Touch My Body” may not go down as one of Carey’s most enduring #1s like “Fantasy” or “Hero.” However, it showcased her unwavering ability to tap into the masses and was a strong addition to her legacy.