Mariah Carey Celebrates 25 Years of ‘Butterfly’ with Deluxe Album

Mack Mendenhall

There are few other artists in history that have influenced the music industry like Mariah Carey. The “Songbird Supreme” became famous in the early 1990s for her five-octave range, whistle tones, and soaring pop ballads like “Vision of Love” and “Hero” that have inspired generations of imitators. But Mariah’s artistic versatility was fully realized when she crossed over into the R&B and hip-hop markets in 1997 with Butterfly. One of the most successful and beloved albums of her four-decade career, Butterfly was representative of the future of R&B at that point in the late ‘90s –  which is why it has remained an enduring classic over the years.

To celebrate 25 years of her personal favorite album, Mariah Carey released Butterfly: 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition on September 16. The deluxe version features eight bonus tracks – two collaborations, two live performances, two a cappella recordings, and two remixes.

Getty / Dia Dipasupil

Butterfly marked a stylistic evolution for Mariah’s music, as she began breaking away from only pursuing pop, traditional R&B, and adult contemporary genres. Shifting toward the popular hip-hop trends of the late ‘90s, Mariah began sampling beats and collaborating with major rappers on her songs. A perfect example is “Breakdown,” the mature R&B track that features two of the five members of Bone-Thugz-n-Harmony. Mariah’s signature breathy vocals are at their best on this song, as well as on other soulful jams like “Babydoll” and “Fourth of July.” R&B group Dru Hill joins the singer on her stunning cover of Prince’s 1984 hit “The Beautiful Ones.”

Getty / Deborah Feingold

Aptly titled, Butterfly signifies metamorphosis in Mariah’s personal life. Her tumultuous marriage to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola was ending in a divorce at the time of Butterfly’s creation and release. Much of the album’s lyrical content deals with themes of longing for love, relationships ending, letting go, and moving toward independence. The quietly reflective “Close My Eyes” is full of Mariah’s musings about her childhood and wondering if she “grew up a little too soon.” For fans of Mariah’s adult contemporary ballads, songs like “My All,” “Outside,” “Whenever You Call,” and the title track are most reflective of the singer’s hits earlier in her career.

But on playfully sexy songs like the album’s lead single “Honey” or sultry hip-hop tracks like “The Roof,” Mariah is more liberated and confidently herself than ever before. Finally free from the suffocating marriage that was hindering her music career, she’s able to explore hip-hop freely. Butterfly is a milestone moment for Mariah because all of her subsequent albums would follow its blueprint.

Butterfly: 25th Anniversary Expanded Edition offers listeners more songs and content from the iconic era in Mariah Carey’s career. Most notable are her two new duets – “Whenever You Call” with Brian McKnight and “The Roof” with Brandy, both full of lush, chills-inducing vocals from Mariah and her talented collaborators.

Listen below to Mariah Carey’s 25th Anniversary Edition of Butterfly.