It was about being multi-racial and feeling like I came from another planet
- Mariah Carey
Written by Mariah Carey & Walter Afanasieff
Produced by Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff & Cory Rooney
4:46 Album Version
ABOUT THE SONG
The song "Outside" is ... I mean, I always hate to get too specific because people could relate to it for a lot of different reasons. For me, it was about being multi-racial and feeling like I came from another planet because I never knew anyone in the exact same position as me. The experiences I've had just make me feel like an outsider in a lot of ways.
VH1: Tell me a little about your childhood, and the things you learned too soon.
MARIAH: Well, it's hard for me to get specific about that. I saw a lot of stuff as a child that some people don't even see who live to be in their 70s. My life is something most people don't understand. A lot of dysfunction went on.
VH1: The song "Outside" is about never fitting in. Did you draw on childhood memories for that?
MARIAH: I wrote "Outside" as a multi-racial person and having the feeling there's no one the same as you. That's how I felt growing up. It wasn't the easiest thing to go that road alone. I have a lot of memories like being in kindergarten and drawing a picture of my family and the teachers are going, "You're using the wrong color! Why are you making your father brown?" That's the first time that I felt like there was something wrong with me. I always hated my name because it made me feel different. Now when people come up to me and they're like, "This is my baby, her name is Mariah," and it's an interracial baby, I feel like, "Okay, I'm not alone like I used to be."
The final song on Emancipation, 'Fly Like a Bird,' boasts dashes of gospel, soul, and plenty of calls/thanks to a higher power. Her pastor even makes an appearance on the track. 'To me the most important thing is the message he says in the beginning of the song,' she notes. ''Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.' I felt like a lot of people may not hear that message and a lot of people need to. It wasn't to be preachy. A lot of times people will hear songs that I write that are not the typical songs people look at as 'Mariah Carey songs.' Like 'Close my Eyes,' which only real fans would know but a lot of [ them ] relate to. It's about having a difficult childhood and going through a lot of deep stuff. There's a song called 'Outside' that's about being biracial. A lot of people relate to it because they felt like outsiders all their lives. There are a lot of songs I've put on albums as a [ personal ] release but I know it helps other people. To show that someone else has gone through what they've gone through.’
Windy City Times “Mariah: Free at Last” by Lawrence Ferber, April 6, 2005
What did you mean when you said you haven’t experienced much unconditional love outside of the gay community? And why do you think the gay community in particular has stuck by you through thick and thin?
What I was trying to express – and it was all so fast and it wasn’t the world’s greatest speech ’cause I just wanted to try and speak from my heart and, you know, sometimes there’s so much going on and it’s not the best representation of what I really wanted to say, which would’ve been simpler. Which is basically: Some of the songs that I have written, like I have a song called “Outside” that a lot of people from the gay community have always said they grew up listening to and were like, “That helped me come out to my family.” Different things.
And so, as a songwriter, I wrote that song about me feeling like an outsider, about being biracial and a lot of other things in my life. I like to leave it open so people can relate it to their own lives, and a lot of my fans tell me, “This song helped me get through having to talk about being gay with my family and with my friends,” and stuff like that. There are other songs, too, because I kind of come from that place of feeling different or not accepted, and so that’s what I meant.
For me, as a teenager, “Outside” really resonated. Those lyrics – “ambiguous, without a sense of belonging to touch” – are ingrained in my head, and they had a big influence on my own life. “Looking In” as well. When were you first aware that you were kindred spirits with the gay community?
The whole thing in terms of me feeling really comfortable around all different types of people, including different races, religions, gay, straight, whatever, started as a kid. Most kids that I grew up around had never even met anyone gay, but my mom was always very theatrical and she had a lot of gay friends, so I grew up with her two best friends who were guncles before people knew what that was. And yeah, they were great to me. They really treated me well as a little girl. Obviously gay marriage wasn’t, you know, like it is now – it wasn’t legal – so they weren’t married. But they lived together and they were my example of a really great couple. They stayed together for as long as I knew them, and so to me, that was just normal. I wasn’t like, “Oh, wow, this is weird; my mom’s friend is gay.”
I guess I was just always comfortable because they were kind to me, and cool. And so then when I grew up I would always naturally gravitate toward the fun gay guy in school, you know what I mean? You know! It’s just like different moments. Even a friend of mine when I was growing up, her mom was in a relationship with another woman and they lived together and the whole thing, but she didn’t know – she didn’t understand it. But because I had such an open-minded mother who explained that kind of stuff to me, I wasn’t gonna out her mother to her. I was just like, “OK, fine.”
Pride Source “Mariah Carey Q&A: Visions of (Unconditional) Love, Bravery and Bad Hair Through the Lens of a Longtime ‘Lamb’” by Chris Azzopardi, June 13, 2016
1997 Released on the Butterfly album.
2010 Included on the Playlist: The Very Best of Mariah Carey compilation.