Mariah Carey on Inspiration Behind Naming 1997 Album ‘Butterfly’

Butterfly is 25. Mariah Carey’s career-changing album featured the debut of a new sound, a new look, and more confidence. The album spawned five successful singles and was certified fix-times platinum. It’s one of Carey’s most successful albums, debuting at No. 1 and staying on the charts for 55 weeks. In celebration of the 25th anniversary, Carey introduced a special re-release, and she’s also sharing behind-the-scenes secrets about the creative process, including how she came up with the album title. 

Mariah Carey on stage for Las Vegas Residency; her Butterfly album title is inspired by a transitional period in her life
Mariah Carey | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mariah Carey says ‘Butterfly’ is a metaphor for transition in her life

Carey’s Butterfly is her sixth full-length studio album. While the title of the album may be thought of as s childhood favorite insect of the singer’s, she says it’s not so cliche. 

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“When I made that album, I was leaving a point in my life that was extremely stifling, and I had to go through an actual metamorphosis to become a grown woman who was strong enough to get out of that situation,” the “All I Want For Christmas Is You” singer said in an interview with Variety. “It was me breaking through, to become free enough to fly.”

She says that gaining her independence happened through that album. “It was then and there I was able to gain my freedom,” she said. “There’s no price you can put on that. There is nothing more valuable than freedom.”

The album was recorded midway through her divorce

Carey’s butterfly effect is referring to breaking free from her marriage to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola, whom she married in 1993 and divorced five years later. He was 20 years her senior. Mottola guided Carey through massive success, but she alleges he was extremely obsessive and controlling. 

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In her memoir The Making of Mariah, Carey wrote about being locked inside the mansion they shared, him calling the shots on artists and producers she worked with, and even him listening in on her phone calls. She separated from him while working on the album and traded in gowns for a sexier image and hip-hop features on tracks. 

“You know, there were random circumstances with butterflies at that time, too, like leaving the house we lived in for the last time — a place I call ‘Sing-Sing’ — while writing the song ‘Butterfly’ and seeing butterflies as I left,” she added. “It was like when someone passes away, and you see something symbolic,” she adds. “I was leaving a very difficult period, a reality that was very tough to get through while having to put on a public persona….A happy face.”

She released a special 25th-anniversary edition

In celebration of the career-defining project, Carey released a special edition album. In an Instagram post, Carey announced the updated version has eight new bonus tracks from the album’s recordings, 4K versions of music videos for “The Roof” and “Honey,” as well as a documentary about the making of the “Honey” music video.

The anniversary edition will also include videos of ’90s-era performances, as well as vinyl and cassette-tape versions of the album. Fans can also purchase merchandise. 

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