Single Review: Ariana Grande with Mariah Carey - Yes, And? (Remix)

A vinyl of Ariana Grande’s “Yes, And?” remix, laying on a dark brown stone / cement surface.  The cover art for the “Yes, And?” remix features two polaroid photos. One which features a close-up of Mariah Carey’s eye and another which features a close-up of Ariana Grande’s eye. Both polaroids are sat on a slightly distressed dark brown paper surface.

Ariana Grande featuring on Mariah Carey’s “Oh, Santa!” in 2020 was a pretty big moment. Because it seemed for a good while that the two of them would never work together.

Ariana Grande had long been compared to Mariah Carey, and understandably so. Mariah Carey has been the blueprint for MANY of the girls in pop with proximity to R&B, but this has never been as clear as it was (and continues to be) with Ariana Grande. There seemed to be this sense that neither of them liked the comparisons, or one another. So for Mariah Carey to invite her to feature on a song was huge and categorically shut down any sense of animosity between the two.

I didn’t like how the 2020 version of “Oh, Santa!” turned out, but I liked what it represented. Mariah Carey cutting through the noise of jealously, copying and whatever else had nothing to do with her nor Ariana Grande, and choosing to reclaim a narrative. And for Ariana Grande to show such reverence towards Mariah, and then turn around and honour that even further — it means something. So many younger artists these days seem to have chips on their shoulders when it comes to acknowledging those who came before them. They all want to make out they are the first. The originator. That they are one of one. The whole time they are standing on the shoulders of somebody else, and walking through a door that others had opened for them. Ariana is not such a person. And she sets a great example here. It’s nice to see that Mariah and Ariana have some form of relationship and mutual respect for one another. I hope this becomes a thing which continues. Because music aside, Mariah Carey has been through some shit, just as Ariana Grande has. So the parallels that run between Mariah and Ariana is more than just about their music and approaches to it; but all of the other shit in regards to media attention, people downplaying their musical contributions, men and striving for creative control. So I’m sure Mariah is more than just a musical inspiration to Ariana. There’s probably a host of wisdom Mariah could impart to Ariana, which I’m sure she’d be grateful for. Because there is probably nobody in Ariana’s life that gets it the way Mariah probably does.

But me being selfish and just thinking about the music; I hope this Mariah and Ariana union continues, purely so we can actually get a song with the two of them on it which is actually good. Because we are now zero for two with this “Yes, And?” remix.

The “Yes, And?” remix actually is not about Ariana at all, and she kinda knows it. It’s all about Mariah. Because “Yes, And?” was already a billboard Hot 100 number 1 hit by the time the remix was announced. And Ariana can do good on sales all by herself. Ariana putting Mariah on the remix was Ariana indulging as a lamb. She asked. Mariah said yes (and?). Now, here we are. Ariana can say Mariah is on one of her songs, and not everybody can say that. And from Mariah’s perspective, she probably wasn’t even thinking about virality or hits. She just figured, ‘Why not?’. It’s a bit of fun. It’s been a minute since I was on a song. But I do wish Ariana and Mariah were a little more business minded and analytical with this remix. Because it could have done so much more than been a ‘Oh, this is cute’ moment. Especially in regards to Mariah Carey and what her brand has become.

Mariah Carey is at a strange point in her career when it comes to public perception and what she’s known for. And she’s kinda done it to herself.

Mariah Carey was primarily known for her voice. That was her whole entire thing. The bitch could sing in ways that others could not. And those that could, wanted to sing like her. But because Mariah has been continually active for decades and you can segment her career into things separate from just her music — i.e ‘her Sony era’, ‘her Glitter era’, ‘her comeback era’, ‘her pregnancy era’ — there are generations of music listeners who don’t really know Mariah for her voice. So you end up in this weird situation where you have fans old enough to remember Mariah when her voice was pristine and she was giving live televised performances and sounding amazing. Then there are those who tapped in at The Emancipation of Mimi when Mariah was making her comeback, so they just know her for “We Belong Together” and “It’s Like That”. Then there are some who perhaps tapped in during E=MC² and Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, because of “Touch My Body” and “Obsessed”, which were highly quotable and memeable songs released right at points as social media was becoming a thing and YouTube was enough of a thing for Mariah to mention it in one of the songs. Fans can agree that as fun as these songs were, neither were particularly great songs nor great showcases of Mariah. And to truly cap it off, this was also the start of a period where Mariah’s live performances weren’t particularly great. And then there are some who just literally know Mariah for that damn Christmas song. And even though Mariah sounds great on that Christmas song, I don’t think listeners are really locking into her performance and how great her voice sounds. They’re just singing along in jubilance.

So, what Mariah is known for is no longer universal. And some really don’t know how amazing her voice was. Some have no idea that Mariah was racking up Billboard number ones, breaking sales records and holding these records during a time when there was no Internet, people had to call to request songs on the radio and go out to buy cassette tapes, CDs and records. Some have no idea that Mariah is a credited writer and producer on all of her own songs. She’s just seen as that bitch with the Christmas song.

So “Yes, And?” was a great opportunity to re-introduce Mariah in a way. Ariana Grande fans know who Mariah is, whether they acknowledge the truth that Mariah was the blueprint for her career or not. But they know her. But Ariana is one of the biggest pop stars in the game right now whose music reaches far beyond her own fanbase and also Mariah’s. So this was such a great way to show people why Mariah was THAT girl. But the end result is a song which fails to show the one thing Mariah was known for. Her voice. There is also the diversion tactic on Ariana’s part of trying to pull people away from the message of “Yes, And?” right before her album releases, because there’s a story on it she wants people to focus on which “Yes, And?” is not reflective of. But that’s a whole other post.

A promotional shot of Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande for the “Yes, And?” remix. Mariah is leaning in towards Ariana, who has her hand rested on Mariah’s shoulder.
Ariana Grande with Mariah Carey - Yes, And? (Remix) | Republic Records

Mariah’s voice has been in decline for a minute, which is something made worse by her having periods where she refuses to accept that her voice isn’t what it was. And rather than discovering and figuring out her voice as it is now and playing around with that, she keeps trying to sing songs as though she still has the range and dexterity she had during the late 90s / early 2000s. When Caution first released I was so stoked that Mariah had found her new vocal sweet spot and approach to singing songs. But then she went on tour. Re-recorded “The Roof”. And also re-recorded new vocals for that Latto song which sampled Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” by way of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”. And now there’s this “Yes, And?” remix where Mariah sounds like she is struggling to sing that shit with her chest. You would never listen to these songs having never heard Mariah Carey before and think that she is an amazing singer, because none of this comes through on these songs.

Now, there has been all sorts of discourse online trying to run with the argument of ‘Duh. Women sing loud on house songs.’ With stans pulling up clips of dance songs and remixes Mariah has released in the past — completely missing the point that loudness does not equate to good singing. The problem with Mariah’s vocals on “Yes, And?” isn’t that they are loud. It’s that she is just shouting over the song and not properly singing it. She sounds strained. She sounds rough. There is no smoothness to her voice at all. Everything sounds like a struggle. And if you’re somebody who listens to Mariah Carey’s music from the 90s and early 2000s regularly and is not in denial, then you know she doesn’t sound particularly great on “Yes, And?” and that it is a poor reflection of her talents. And it’s more than just ‘She doesn’t sound good’. Something about Mariah’s voice just seems off. It doesn’t even sound like her at times.

As per the case with “Oh, Santa!”, the “Yes, And?” remix is a badly executed great idea. The best part of “Oh, Santa!” was Mariah and Ariana’s harmonised whistles, which we get again here. And another nice part of “Oh, Santa!” was when Ariana would harmonise with Mariah’s ad-libs and there’d be a back and forth, and we get SOME of that here on the “Yes, And?” remix. But not enough of it.

But the biggest issue with this remix is that it feels like Ariana and Mariah are singing two different songs in two uncomplimentary ways. I don’t like how Ariana sings “Yes, And?”. She’s too quiet, too muted and too flat. And then here comes Mariah like a wrecking ball, singing too loud, too loud and too crusty. And it sounds like she’s been oddly pitch corrected in the wrong keys. And vocal editing and manipulation has been ‘a thing’ with Mariah’s songs since Me. I Am Mariah. The first of Mariah’s albums where you could hear the comping and that something is being done to Mariah’s vocals to make them sound smoother and her run downs cleaner.

So either Ariana (in the true spirit of a Mariah Carey remix) should have re-worked the song with new vocals which are bigger to match her approach. Or, Mariah should have honoured Ariana’s performance and sang the song how she did. Because had Mariah actually sung in her whisper style that fans were once sick to death of, she would have sounded better vocally, put less strain on her voice and better complement Ariana’s performance. But the end result is just a discombobulated mess, where nobody was on the same page and nobody had a vision of how this remix would best sound. It was just ‘Put Mariah Carey on it’ and that was it, which Ariana seemed fine with. Because…it’s Mariah Carey. But there should have been a clearer plan, clearer direction and better vocal production for both Ariana and Mariah. Because I also feel that Ariana should have contributed new vocals to this remix so that hers and Mariah’s vocals worked better together.

A promotional shot of Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande for the “Yes, And?” remix.  Mariah is resting her head against Ariana’s, as they both look into the camera which is in close-up.
Ariana Grande with Mariah Carey - Yes, And? (Remix) | Republic Records

It’s really unfortunate that this remix turned out to be a bit of a mess, because Mariah on “Yes, And?” done right could have been amazing. And back to the re-introduction of Mariah, it also would have made new audiences appreciate how good Mariah sounds on dance music, which would hopefully lead them to discover that Mariah’s discography has more than just “Hero” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. She was releasing dance songs in the 90s as singles. Featuring them on albums. And commissioning dance remixes where she provided all new vocals. So Mariah and dance are a great fit. But we get no sense of that on this remix. Ariana and dance is also a great fit, but we also get no sense of that either. This remix was a real chance for Mariah to create a new narrative for her fans and for Ariana to present a different take of the song. But neither stepped to the plate to do either of these things. So we just have this awful remix of what was already a pretty dry song. The only good thing about this “Yes, And?” remix is that the chorus sounds punchier now with Mariah on it, which is part Mariah having better diction, part Mariah being loud and Ariana requesting to the mixer to make her even louder.

The potential of Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande on a song together still hasn’t been reached. And I would like for it to be. They could still make it right by actually sitting down, having a plan, and trying again with the Eternal Sunshine cut “Bye”. Or Mariah’s Me. I Am Mariah. cut “You Don’t Know What to Do” if we wanna keep it to disco. Shit. Give us both! If Ariana gives Mariah some gourmet honey and lemon and eight hours sleep in a humidified room and they actually work together, then just MAYBE we could get something which speaks to the truth of both of their talents together.