One Sweet Day
"One Sweet Day" is a song by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey and R&B group Boyz II Men. The song was released on November 14, 1995 as the second single from Carey's fifth studio album, Daydream by Columbia Records. The artists co-wrote the song with Walter Afanasieff, who co-produced it with Carey. Lyrically, the song speaks about the death of a loved one, how the protagonist took their presence for granted and misses them, and finally about seeing the person in heaven. Both Carey and Boyz II Men wrote the song about specific people in their lives, being inspired by sufferers of the AIDS epidemic, which was globally prevalent at the time.
"One Sweet Day" received universal acclaim from music critics, many of whom praised its lyrical content and vocals while calling it a standout track on Daydream. It was ranked first in Rolling Stone's reader's poll for the Best Collaboration of All Time. The song spent 16 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, becoming the longest-running number-one song in the chart's history at the time, a record held for 23 years. Subsequently, Billboard ranked it as the ninth best charting single of the 1990s. Internationally, the song topped the charts in Canada and New Zealand and reached the top ten in Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Carey performed "One Sweet Day" live alongside Boyz II Men at the 38th Grammy Awards ceremony, held on February 26, 1996. Additionally, the song was performed at Princess Diana's memorial service in September 1997. "One Sweet Day" was part of the set list on several of Carey's succeeding tours, making its debut during the album's accompanying set of concerts, the Daydream World Tour. It is featured on her compilation albums, #1's (1998), Greatest Hits (2001), The Ballads (2008), and #1 to Infinity (2015).
The music video for "One Sweet Day" was filmed in February 1995, and features snippets of Carey and Boyz II Men in and around the studio, and recording the song. The busy schedule of both acts did not allow time to shoot a proper video. Carey later said that she was content a real music video was never filmed, fearing that no video could truly capture the song's strong lyrical message. Critics felt the video choice was wise, and agreed that the simple concept paid homage to the song's selfless message.
"One Sweet Day" was a song that Carey wrote with the R&B group Boyz II Men. After Carey's friend and past collaborator David Cole (of C&C Music Factory) died, she began writing and developing a song that would pay homage to him and all the friends and family her fans had lost along life's journey. Carey had the idea and chorus composed, and after meeting with Boyz II Men, they realized they too had a similar idea in development. Together, using Carey's chorus and idea, as well as the melody they had produced, they wrote and composed the song. The song was produced by Carey and Afanasieff, who built on the song's melody and added various grooves and beats. Carey expressed how the song was "meant to be" and how all the pieces fit into place:
After they began working on the song, Carey began to incorporate other lyrics into the chorus, trying to make the song relatable to the AIDS epidemic that was in full force in the mid-1990s. Additionally, Mariah's sister Alison Carey had been diagnosed with HIV in 1988 when she was 27, an event that ruined their relationship and tore them apart. Carey has stated that she wrote the song hoping that all her fans that have lost someone could relate to "One Sweet Day" and maybe help ease the pain of the loss. Carey described the song as "[the] whole idea of when you lose people that are close to you, it changes your life and changes our perspective."
"One Sweet Day" is a "big" R&B ballad. It incorporates organ instrumentation and different contemporary grooves and beats into its primary arrangement, adding percussion and synthesizers as well, while incorporating "flourishes and harmonies" from both Carey and Boyz II Men. The song is set in the time signature common time and moves at a slow tempo of 64 beats per minute. It is written in the key of A♭ major and features a basic chord progression of A♭–D♭maj9–A♭–D♭maj9–G♭add9, while the basic melodic line spans roughly an octave and a half from E♭4 to A♭5; the piano in the piece ranges from D♭2 to A♭5. The song contains choral lyrics written by Carey, who also arranged and co-produced the song alongside Walter Afanasieff. Author Chris Nickson complimented the song's instrumentation and arrangement, calling its use of synthesizers "wise" and "efficient." Additionally, he claimed Afanasieff's production and Carey's vocal and production arrangement helped the song's vocals and lyrical content flow together. The song finishes with the last chorus and coda in the key of B major.
Reception and accolades
"One Sweet Day" has been met with universal acclaim from contemporary music critics. AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised the song for its craft and writing, commenting that "[in] "One Sweet Day," a duet with Boyz II Men, Carey appeals to both audiences equally because of the sheer amount of craft and hard work she puts into her albums. Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly felt the song truly highlighted the album, "[One Sweet Day] radiates a breezy sexiness that Carey, for all the brazen hussiness of her public persona, rarely permits herself to reveal in song. In 2018, the magazine noted, "Goosebumps, every time. Carey's heavenly vocals, combined with the song's universal message and the sweet harmonies of Boyz II Men". Stephen Holden from The New York Times shared similar sentiments and wrote "On 'One Sweet Day,' the singer joins forces with Boyz II Men, those masters of pleading post-doo-wop vocal harmonies, for a tender eulogy that suggests that the singers have been personally touched by the AIDS crisis." People magazine felt the song was a "stand-out track" and called Carey's vocal performance "bravura belting".
"One Sweet Day" won many prestigious awards throughout 1996. At the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, the song won the award for "Favorite Adult Contemporary Single Female 'One Sweet Day'". "One Sweet Day" also won the award for "Song of the Year" at the BMI Awards and a "Special Award for 16 weeks at #1" at the Billboard Music Awards. Together, Daydream and "One Sweet Day" were nominated for six Grammy Awards at the 38th annual ceremony, however, to Carey's surprise, also to the surprise of many critics, they lost all of the nominations. In a readers' poll conducted by Rolling Stone, the song was ranked first for the category of the Best Collaboration of All Time.
"One Sweet Day" became Carey's tenth chart topping single on the Billboard Hot 100 and Boyz II Men's fourth. The song remained at the peak for a record-breaking 16 consecutive weeks, from December 2, 1995 to March 16, 1996. It remained the only song to stay at number one on the chart for 16 weeks until 2017, when the record was tied by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito", featuring Justin Bieber. The record would remain until Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road", featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, broke the record in 2019, spending nineteen weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Boyz II Men had previously held this record twice, with "End of the Road" (1992) spending 13 weeks at the top and "I'll Make Love to You" (1994) spending 14. The former song shares this record with Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine", and the latter song shared its record with Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You". Carey's 2005 song "We Belong Together", The Black Eyed Peas's 2009 "I Gotta Feeling" and Mark Ronson's 2014 track, "Uptown Funk", managed to stay at number one for 14 weeks as well. Being the fourth single in history to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, "One Sweet Day" also made Boyz II Men the first group to have a single debut at number one.
"One Sweet Day" unseated "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" by Whitney Houston at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and was knocked off by Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me". The single also debuted at number one, making Carey the first artist to have more than one number-one debut, and one of the four artists ever to have two consecutive singles debut at the top of the chart, along with Britney Spears, with "3" (2009) and "Hold It Against Me" (2011), and Drake, with "God's Plan" (2018) and "Nice for What" (2018) and Ariana Grande, with "thank u, next" (2018) and "7 Rings" (2019). "One Sweet Day" was the third best-selling single of 1995 in the US, with sales of over 1,300,000, with the second best-selling single being Carey's "Fantasy". The song spent 26 weeks in the top 40, was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and was ranked number nine on Billboard's Hot 100-decade retrospective.
Outside the U.S., "One Sweet Day" was not as successful but did manage to reach the top-ten in over 13 countries and topped the chart in Canada and New Zealand, where it was certified platinum. In Canada, the song debuted on the RPM Singles Chart at number 89 on the RPM issue dated December 4, 1995, and reached the top of the chart on January 22, 1996. It was present on the chart for a total of 24 weeks, and ranked 12th on the RPM Year-end chart for 1996. It reached the top-two in Australia (platinum) and the Netherlands; the top-five in France (gold) and Ireland and the top-ten in Belgium, Norway (platinum), Sweden and the United Kingdom (gold). In the UK, it is one of Carey's best-selling singles, with estimated sales of over 400,000.
The song's music video was directed by Larry Jordan. When Carey and Boyz II Men got together to record "One Sweet Day", they did not have enough time to re-unite and film a video. Instead, a filming crew was present during the song's recording, and filmed bits of Carey and Boyz recording the song. Walter Afanasieff later told Fred Bronson that shooting the video was "crazy", stating, "They had film crews and video guys, while I'm at the board trying to produce. And these guys were running around having a ball, because Mariah and them are laughing and screaming and they're being interviewed. And I'm tapping people on the shoulder. 'We've got to get to the microphone!' They're gone in a couple of hours, so I recorded everything they did, praying that it was enough." After the song's release, Carey expressed her contentment with the video, that she was happy a real music video was never filmed, fearing that no video could truly capture the song's "precious message". Critics agreed, feeling that the song was a perfect match for the video and its message. Aside from the recording sessions, the video also shared bits of Carey and Boyz bonding and sharing their ideas in the studio, where Carey felt they "bonded". On August 13, 2020 the music video of "One Sweet Day" reached 200 million views on YouTube.
"One Sweet Day" was performed at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards, held on February 28, 1996. During the performance, Carey wore a long black dress and matching sleeveless blouse, while the group wore white jackets and black pants. After the song's bridge, a choir of male and female vocalists took place on the rafters placed over the stage, all wearing white gowns. The song was also performed at the memorial service for Princess Diana in September 1997, where other performers included Elton John. During the service and song recital, Carey wore a conservative long black sheer gown, with long golden curls. Boyz II Men all wore similar matching dark suit and garments. The song became part of Carey's BET Christmas special in 2001, where she sang the song alongside Boyz II Men. During the special, Carey wore a red gown in honor of the show's holiday theme, and featured a long golden hairstyle. One of the male vocalists had already been switched, as one of the group members had already resigned.
Aside from live television appearances, the song was performed on many of Carey's tours. "One Sweet Day" was performed at every show on her Daydream World Tour (1996), where Boyz II Men were featured on a large projection screen. The footage was taken from Carey's filmed concert at Madison Square Garden in late 1995, and was played in sync with Carey's verses. A similar concept was used for her Butterfly World Tour (1998), with the addition of several live back up vocalists joining on stage. Additionally, the song was performed on select dates on her The Adventures of Mimi tour (2006). During the tour's filmed show in Anaheim California, the group joined Carey live on stage and performed the song together. For the segment of the show, Carey wore a long turquoise gown, with several slits and cuts fashioned into the sides. During the Angels Advocate Tour in 2010, Carey performed a snippet of the song in Singapore, with Trey Lorenz filling in for the group's verses.
Carey also performed the song as a part of her 2015 Las Vegas residency, Mariah Carey Number 1's, with Lorenz reprising his role as well as Daniel Moore. She also performed the song as a part of her 2018–20 Las Vegas residency, The Butterfly Returns alongside Lorenz and Moore.
It was also performed on selected dates of her 2019 Caution World Tour.
"One Sweet Day" was performed by the seven finalists on the seventh season of American Idol. The performance was taped due to the "Mariah Carey" themed week, where all the competitors sang songs from Carey's repertoire. The song was additionally sung on the fifth season of the UK TV show The X Factor, by the British boy-band JLS. Their performance received praise from all four judges, who commented how it was an "impossibly hard song to sing" because it was a "Mariah song". The song was also performed by John Adeleye during the seventh season The X Factor. The theme of the night was "#1 songs". Shannon Magrane performed the song on the eleventh season of American Idol the week the contestants performed songs from their birth years. Andy Williams released a version in 2007 on his album, I Don't Remember Ever Growing Up.
Track listing and formats
Worldwide Cassette CD single
Japanese CD maxi-single
UK CD maxi-single #1
UK CD maxi-single #2
U.S. CD maxi-single
One Sweet Day EP
Credits and personnel
Credits adapted from the Daydream liner notes.
- Mariah Carey – co-production, songwriting (music and lyrics), vocals
- Walter Afanasieff – co-production, songwriting (music)
- Nathan Morris – songwriting (lyrics), vocals
- Wanya Morris – songwriting (lyrics), vocals
- Shawn Stockman – songwriting (lyrics), vocals
- Michael McCary – songwriting (lyrics), vocals
Certifications and sales
- List of Billboard Hot 100 chart achievements and milestones
- List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of 1995
- List of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of 1996
- List of Hot Adult Contemporary number ones of 1995 and 1996 (U.S.)