“Can’t Let Go” was the second single from Mariah Carey‘s sophomore album Emotions, released in 1991. The song is typical of how many ballads were done during the time, with the lyrics sung over a moderately up-tempo track.
The song peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart, which ended her streak of #1 singles at the start of her professional career. Each of her first five singles in the U.S. (“Vision of Love”, “Love Takes Time”, “Someday”, “I Don’t Wanna Cry” and “Emotions”) hit #1 — and “Can’t Let Go” seemed like a shoo-in to continue the streak. The song did reach #1 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, however.
If you speak to fans of Mariah or, in many cases, people who hear the song, they can’t believe this song never hit #1 overall. I was one of them too. Until I learned of the reason.
Mariah’s record company at the time, Columbia, felt that having the single in the retail market was hurting the overall album. Thus, they had the single removed from stores before the song had run its course in an attempt to boost the album’s sales.
My favorite part of the song is the second chorus. It’s the point when, after a build up, the song is hitting on all cylinders, and as a listener you’re wrapped up in the story. But don’t take that to mean “Can’t Let Go” starts off slowly. It doesn’t. It’s a strong song from start to finish. And speaking of that finish…it’s awe-inspiring. She’s with Minnie Riperton and Chante Moore as three of the best ever at singing in the whistle register.
Below is the album version. The video version edits out some of the best parts.