Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)
I’ve gone through so many different incarnations… [it] was called ‘They Can Try’
- Mariah Carey
Written by Mariah Carey & Diane Warren
Produced by Mariah Carey, James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III & Terry Lewis
4:32 Album Version
7:40 Morales Club Mix
3:57 Morales Club Mix Edit
7:40 Morales Club Mix Instrumental
10:29 Morales Revival Triumphant Mix
ABOUT THE SONG
MC: I wrote this next song during the time after the whole Columbine* incident happened and there was a lot of stuff going on that was really negative and I was thinking about my experience when I was in high school, in junior high. Just thinking that you can really feel like, when you are not part of a certain group or your friends get mad at you or something is going on. You can really feel like, it is the end of the world, right? When I wrote this song, I had my days in junior high and high school in mind and also had my own struggle, where I am still going through right now. Okay, but if you have peace with in yourself, nobody can touch you, no matter what happens."
Mariah Carey’s Homecoming Special, October 10, 1999
"Rainbow" includes the moving Jam-and-Lewis-produced pop ballad "Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)." On that track, says [Jimmy] Jam, Carey gives "her best vocal since 'Vision of Love.’"
Washington Post “On the Bright Track: Mariah Carey, putting the past behind her and a sparkle in her step” by Craig Seymour - November 14, 1999
Q: What can you tell us about Rainbow?
MC: Well, I think there’s a lot of things for all different types of people. There’s a lot of uptempo records, like hip-hop-influenced tracks. I did a lot of work with different rappers and just different producers., and then I have a lot of ballads, too. I did a remake of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” which when I was growing up, you know, was one of my favorite songs, and just a lot of songs that I feel are really emotional. There’s a song called Can’t Take That Away,” which is also called, “Mariah’s Theme.” I wrote it mainly for young people who are growing up, who are going through - maybe you don’t fit in school, or you have problems - it’s to inspire them. And I think there’s pretty much something for everybody.
CS: I think there’s going to be criticism that you worked with Diane Warren & David Foster.
MC: On one song? Well, I wrote… the one song - “They Can’t Take That Away” - that song, I basically went to Diane with that song. My issue is, I’ve always written most of my ballads with Walter. We are not working together anymore. And I had this idea in my head on and on tape recorder. And I had basically ninety percent of the song written, and I needed someone to play it, and so I went to Diane and I said, “I have this thing, will you do it with me?” She doesn’t collaborate, she doesn’t co-write, she only writes for people, she’s been asking to work with me for a long time. And she makes fun of me, she’s like, ’You’ve written more number ones than me.”
CS: Oh, so she doesn’t collaborate?
MC: No, she never collaborates. She only gives people songs. She never… I mean, it might have been the last time she did it was four years ago or something, but it’s not something she likes to do. She likes to write her own songs in her little room, and that’s it. And that’s why that song that we wrote together, “Mariah’s Theme,” is very me.
CS: Why’d you say it like that?
MC: Cause that’s what I’ve called it. I’ve gone through so many different incarnations of that song. That song was called “They Can Try,” it was called “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” it was called “Can’t Take That Away” and I liked “They Can Try,” ‘cause “Can’t Take That Away” seemed like it was too common, and then I threw “Mariah’s Theme” on it at the last minute.
CS: It’s a beautiful song.
MC: Thank you. But the point is we worked out the last bit of it together, the bridge, and then I was like, “ok, and then I’ll go up,” it’s very my style of song. It’s less, I mean, her style, like her typical style would be like a “Because You loved Me” or that new NSync song that’s out now. It’s more that. My style is much more this. This is very “Vision of Love,” slash album cuts that have never been released off previous albums like “Vanishing” or “Outside,” which I don’t know if you ever heard…
CS: I love “Vanishing,” I’m not sure about “Outside.”
MC: “Outside” was on Butterfly. I tend to write in that style sometimes, but this is a more commercial version. So I’m glad that I worked with Jimmy & Terry on it, because I think that overall the ballads on this album, except the one with that I did with David & Diane [After Tonight], being…
CS: So you collaborated with them on that one or…?
MC: I collaborated with who? Which ones?
CS: David & Diane?
MC: I’m jumping around. I collaborated with David, no, I did collaborate with Diane on that other song [After Tonight], but it was a different, it’s different than when Diane Warren gives someone a song and says “Hey, I’ve got a great song for you.” I don’t do that. She’s done that to me. I don’t take songs. I prefer to write mine - especially something like that - it’s a very personal song.
CS: But why wouldn’t you take a song from somebody if they had a great song?
MC: If I felt it was great, undeniably, I couldn’t write something better for myself, I might. But I think that a) my fans, my true fans, know the difference when I’m singing something I wrote. I mean, I have never song something anyone else wrote except when I did that Whitney duet, or the remakes.
CS: Vocally on this album I think you seem very… I’ve seen you in interviews and stuff and it seemed like for a while you deliberately stayed away from the high notes, but not even just the high knows, but just from the criticism that, people always used to say that you did vocal gymnastics, whatever that meant. But on this album, you know, I’ve only heard it - I just got it yesterday - but it just seems like you’re just belting stuff out, and you’re not afraid of the high stuff, you’re not afraid of just going for it. Am I just making…
MC: No, that’s a valid point and comment. I mean, there are some songs where I’m barely singing, I’m not doing that - like on “Petals” and “X-Girlfriend” I barely sing…
CS: But on like “Mariah’s Theme,” I mean, at the end of that record you’re just, you know…
MC: Well, I felt very passionate about that particular song. That’s another one I did all the backgrounds myself. And I was very, kind of, isolated in the studio and I lived with it for a while. I started it in LA, I went to Capri, I lived with it back and forth, and at the end of it, I just felt really, like it needed that kind of release, you know what I mean? I was told to restrain myself a lot, like back in the day, not on every song, but I think people preferred me to “sing this straight, and do this like this” and, “don’t do the high notes because critics are ragging on you for doing too many of the high notes,” and I know that. But I also know that was a different time - that was six years ago, or seven years, and it’s like, that’s a part of my voice that I’m very proud of.
MC: I think that on this album, it’s the closest to how my voice was on the first album in terms of range. I mean, I don’t know if you agree, except that I have more deep tones at this point. If you hear like the “Mariah’s Theme” and “Bliss,” and, umm, “Against All Odds,” I mean, there was a clarity…
CS: You’re going to get in trouble for that one, too.
MC: Yeah, they’re going to rag on me for that? Why? Because it’s pop? Or because…
CS: You’ve read all your reviews…
MC: You think it’s too showy, like?
CS: I’m not saying that I feel that way, I’m just saying, I just know the critic mentality, I know what… You know, it’s like I can, I’ve just done this so much, I know what people are going to look for…
MC: Yeah, they’re going to rag on that, perhaps…
CS: But do you care?
MC: You know what? I’m very sensitive so, maybe I’ll care for the, if I read it, I’ll care for that day, but you know what? I did that song specifically — I love that song and they can say whatever they want to say — but, I did it in his key because I feel it was a magical key and I could have taken it up, and it was more in a key that would have been more, when I got to that point at the end, it would have been more emotional, ‘cause I would have been reaching for it, but I wasn’t reaching at all. And so I took it up an octave at the end and tried not to be all over the place with it, but emotionally that’s where it was. And it was, like, pretty much a one or two take thing, and it was actually at a friend of mine, her father had just passed away and she was on the phone with me and she was crying and she was saying a lot of the things that were being said in that song — she hadn’t had much of a relationship with him. I had to go downstairs and sing that. And so, it was like, kind of a deep moment, so. I mean, I think if you listen to the verses…If a critic wants to blindly thrash me, there’s ample opportunity with the fact that yes, I’m singing, you know, a lot of high notes. Yes, I’m belting and people might say I’m over singing on certain songs. Eat, drink, dance, whatever.
In addition to Jam and Lewis, Carey, who's currently having a luxury townhouse built in New York's Tribeca district, also co-wrote the defiant "Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)" and dramatic "After Tonight" with ballad hitmeister Diane Warren.
"We have our own different styles," she says of her relationship with Warren. "Sometimes what she does is the opposite of what I do and I'll say, 'No, Diane, I hate that," or 'No, Diane, we just said that word two lines ago. We can't say it again.' She gets really obsessive over stuff at times, but we get on with each other, so I can be very open with her like that. She very cool, funny, and unique."
Launch Interview with Jeff Lorez of Yahoo! Music 1999
“I wrote this song for anybody going through any type of adversity, and sort of struggle, any kind of pain. This is for you.”
VH1 Divas Live 2000: A Tribute to Diana Ross, April 9, 2000
Thank you so much everybody who, again, who called TRL that day that we debuted at number five, but we really, I just want to you to really know that I wrote that song, you know this, but I wrote it for myself going through my own issues, but I really wrote it for you and to help everybody else who’s going through their own issues. So I think it’s important that that song gets a chance, and it’s not going to get that chance if we don’t get the TRL requests and stuff. It’s been tough for me to even get people to put this ballad out, and you know how many versions I did for ya. I did a lot of different versions, it’s going to be like a little collector’s item, so I hope we can make this work.
Voice Message on MariahCarey.com, May 22, 2000
I just want to say that in almost every fan book and everybody that I meet, all the fans mention that “Can’t Take That Away” is their favorite song and a lot of people say that it inspired them. I even got a petition from Kevin Kane (sp?) from Indiana that so many of you signed and it really helped me fight to get it released as a single because it wasn’t going to happen, so I thank you all for that. But basically a lot of you know the political situation in my profession career is not stellar It's been really, really hard. I don't even know if this (message) is going to get up to you on the web, because I don't know if they want you to hear this. But it's a lot of drama, and I'm getting a lot of negative feedback from certain corporate people. But i'm not willing to give up on “Can’t Take That Away,” and I just don’t wanna let you guys down, ‘cause a lot of you write, ‘oh, it’s your next number one song’ and that would be amazing, but right now it couldn’t even, I’m not even expecting it to be a top five or top ten record. The only reason I’m saying this is because you all write that and I don’t want you to be disappointed in me. And at this point basically, if there aren’t thousands of requests to radio stations and TRL constantly it’s just going to quietly fade away. But what’s most important to me are those of you who say that the song has given you hope and strength…Anyway, I got cut off. I don’t know if they’re gonna even let you guys hear this, but I need to get the message out someway, one way or another. What I was saying is the most important thing to me is that, you know, if the song is giving anybody hope and strength, you know, I just want to say that I appreciate the fact that you give me hope and strength and you keep me going, ‘cause this is not an easy situation. But I love you all and I thank you so much for caring so much about my music, and I always will. Anyway, when the single does come out, we’ve got “Heartbreaker Remix. Actually it’s “Heartbreaker” and “Love Hangover” exclusive, baby! And “Crybaby,” which is one of my particular favorites, and “Mariah’s Theme” and a million different David Morales mixes and stuff like that. You know, bonus tracks and all that mess. But the most important thing is I thank you for everything you do for me. Bye!
Voice Message on MariahCarey.com, May 26, 2000
1999 Released on the Rainbow album.
2001 Included on the Greatest Hits compilation.
2009 Included on the Japanese edition of The Ballads/Love Songs compilation.
2011 Included on The Essential Mariah Carey compilation.