How to Write Lyrics by Mariah Carey

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Lyricists create great songs by employing strong rhyme schemes and narrative song structures. Mariah Carey's songwriting tips will help you learn how to write lyrics.


A Brief Introduction to Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey, also known as the "Queen of Christmas" and "Songbird Supreme," is a celebrated singer-songwriter known for her stunning five-octave vocal range, riff skills, and chart-topping popular songs. Mariah has five Grammy Awards to her name and has performed everything from love songs ("Visions of Love") to holiday hits ("All I Want for Christmas Is You"). She frequently writes her own songs and infuses them with great lyrics, chugging chord progressions, and infectious melodies.

Mariah became the first artist in music history to have their first five singles chart at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "One Sweet Day," which he recorded with Boyz II Men, was the longest-running Billboard No. 1 song of the 1990s. Her success continued into the millennium, as she released hit song after hit song, broke into film (starring in the Academy Award-winning film Precious), appeared as a judge on American Idol, and published a best-selling memoir. Mariah was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022.


How to Write a Song

Songwriting requires a wide range of skills. In terms of music, a songwriter or songwriting team must address song structure, melody, harmony, rhythm, and instrumentation. Aside from these musical elements, songwriters must also deal with lyric writing. Many good songs follow the same formula: intro, first verse, chorus, second verse, chorus, bridge, and then final chorus. Lyric lines connect each section of your song and tell a story and paint a picture for the listener. "I enjoy songwriting," Mariah says. "That is my talent. That's what I'm good at."


How to Write Song Lyrics: 5 Tips From Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey provides step-by-step instructions for developing song ideas and writing better lyrics. With these ideas that have inspired some of Mariah's favorite songs, even beginners can get their creative process started:

1. Bring to light things that are difficult to express. You can express yourself through music. "I wrote Outside about specific feelings of otherness I experienced as a child," says Mariah. "It was about being biracial and how it has truly become such a... I'm not sure there's a single word to describe what that's done to me. It's the scourge of my existence. Being Black and biracial is a unique experience... And, especially when you grow up in white neighborhoods and experience the things that I did, it's been an interesting journey."

2. Push yourself to try new things. Lean into your emotions and try to find the words to express their complexities and power. "I think you can have fun with the words in your songs; perhaps challenge yourself to use words that paint a more vivid picture of what you're trying to say," Mariah says. These new words may even spark new ideas for stories in your writing."

3. Make time for yourself. Self-reflection can be beneficial, and when words come to mind, write them down. Mariah wrote a song for Dustin Hoffman's 1992 film Hero. After hearing the movie's synopsis, Mariah had an idea during the initial music meeting. "I took a five-minute break to go to the ladies' room because I was thinking, 'Then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on,'" she says. "It's just so strange. But, because I'm never alone, ideas come to me when I have a moment to myself."

4. Transform small memories into epic songs. Mariah's song "Sunflowers for Alfred Roy" honors her late father. "It's a special song to me... he represented this tall, proud sunflower for me," she says. "I wrote about specific events in our lives dating back to when I was a child. I wrote about what I wanted to tell him."

5. Write about the truth. Specificity is important in songwriting because the more specific something is, the more relatable it can become. "In certain songs, I've chosen to be very specific and real about certain things," Mariah says. "Regardless of how relatable you aim to be, your personal experiences should come through in your writing."

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