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Obsessed is the lead single from Mariah Carey's 12th studio album, "Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel." The song was written and produced by Mariah, Terius "The-Dream" Nash, and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart. The single was released on June 16, 2009.
The song draws from musical influences of R&B & hip-hop music built around a thumping bass line. Additionally, the song is accentuated by handclaps while Mariah's voice is processed with auto-tune.
Lyrically, the song describes the protagonist's dilemma regarding a stalker and finds her asking him, "Why are you so obsessed with me?" several times throughout the song. The line, "Why are you so obsessed with me" comes from the movie, "Mean Girls" which is one of Mariah's favorite films. The remixed version of the song features rapper Gucci Mane.
At the time of the song's release, it raised some controversy as the critics and the media suggested that Mariah was aiming the song at rapper Eminem, who had negatively referenced her several times in his music. Having alluded to Eminem in one of her songs, "Clown," critics suggested that "Obsessed" was also an outcry at Eminem.
"Obsessed" received generally positive reviews from music critics. While most reviewers complimented the song's lyrics and production, some criticized Carey for her usage of auto-tune.
Daniel Kreps from Rolling Stone stated that "the biting mid-tempo track is already more musically and lyrically engrossing than E=MC²’s singles." The A.V. Club's Michaelangelo Matos complimented the song's clever lyrics, and called it a "wicked dis of an unnamed Eminem for spreading rumors about their involvement."
Though criticizing Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel for being full of mid-tempo numbers, James Reed from The Boston Globe felt "Obsessed" "stood out of the goo", due to its witty lyrics and strong beat production.
Monica Herrera of Billboard gave the song a positive review, describing it as a "gem of a dis record that coasts, even over its sputtering moans and synth jabs." Additionally, Herrera complimented Carey's lyrics, calling them "bity and funny."
Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt described the track as a "brash synth kiss-off" while Alex Macpherson from The Guardian called it "jaunty" and "wisecracking." On "Obsessed", Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine felt the "attitude is sexy" while Jon Caramanica from The New York Times felt the song was a stand-out track from the album, which he felt was "dated." He described that although the entire album was produced by Carey, The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, which he described as "masters of compensation, helping elevate mediocre singers — like The-Dream himself or Rihanna, on 'Umbrella' — to something sublime", "Obsessed" sounded "Dr. Dre-esque, and felt it was a notable exception from the rest of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel."
Los Angeles Times's Ann Powers described it as an "aggressive track" while Lauren Carter of the Boston Herald wrote "Carey’s musical stiff-arm ends with some vocal acrobatics to let us know she’s still got it. Expect to get 'Obsessed' this summer."
MTV News rated the song as one of the contenders for the "best of the summer", writing: "Mimi returns, this time with an Auto-Tuned kiss-off to wannabe lotharios (and Eminem?) that will probably be the soundtrack to a million summer hookups and just as many public-intoxication collars. Glossy, flossy and decidedly "urban," Mariah strikes back. Your radio has been warned." Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine chose the song as a "top pick" from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel while Amos Barshad of The New York Times listed it as the fifth top song of the summer.
In contrast, "Obsessed" received a mixed review from the Los Angeles Times writer, Todd Martens, who wrote that although "its feistier Mimi than [they]'re used to", she ultimately "has been molded to fit current trends" and that the single "again sells out the songbird to her producers."
Bill Lamb from About.com was also critical of "Obsessed", stating that Carey should have put out a stronger lead single from the album, and ultimately wrote: "Her vocals, historically among the most memorable in pop music history, are drowned by auto-tune leaving a faceless drone on the chorus. I hope she has indeed settled her score here and on the album Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel she will return to songs worthy of her talent."
The song's music video was directed by Brett Ratner, who had previously worked with Carey on six other music videos, and was shot from June 28 to June 29, 2009.Throughout the video, Carey plays herself and a male stalker, dressed as both a bellhop and a man wearing a gray hoodie and sweatpants.
Two videos were shot for "Obsessed", one for the original version, and one for the remixed version, which features Gucci Mane. The video was shot predominantly at the Plaza Hotel, and on the streets of New York City. After several photographs of Carey dressed as the stalker were leaked, critics and bloggers immediately compared Carey's costume to Eminem's usual attire, and many wrote that aside from the goatee, the pair looked alike.
Carey tweeted: "I am NOT at any point in the video playing a specific person. I'm dressed as a 'stalker' in 3 different ensembles." Carey also revealed that the music video would reference several of her favorite films, such as "Mean Girls" with the line "Why are you so obsessed with me " as well as "The Devil Wears Prada" by featuring French celebrity photographer Patrick Demarchelier, who was also heavily referenced in the film.
In an interview with MTV News, Carey described going under-cover as the stalker role: "Well, we had a lot of people outside. I'm walking up to the Plaza [Hotel], and when I was dressed as Mariah Carey, there were a lot of people just standing there taking pictures, and the street was closed down, and it was a whole rigmarole. It is what it is. So, basically, I went into costume as the stalker, and I told my bodyguard, 'I don't want you to walk with me.' So, a friend of mine was there, and I was like, 'Let's walk together.'"
After reports continued to speculate regarding the video's subject, Ratner explained that the main inspiration behind the video was the 1983 film, "The King of Comedy." In an interview with MTV News, Ratner responded to reports that the video was regarding Eminem: "It's not about Eminem — we weren't like, 'Let's find an Eminem look-alike'. We weren't talking to any Eminem [look-alikes]. I guess it's a good rumor, but I don't think it's true. I don't really know. I never asked her, but then when I recommended Ellen, that's where she got the idea. Mariah never talked to me about that. You know, Mariah ... she's like the most feminine girl you can imagine, so the more I covered up the less work I had to do on the transitions of changing back and forth. I kind of told the wardrobe guy, 'Let's bulk her up with layers and stuff' — first of all, to hide her breasts, because they're prominent, and to kind of make her more boyish. A b-boy made sense."
On July 10, 2009, Carey announced via her Twitter account that the video would premiere on the talent competition program, America's Got Talent, which is hosted by husband Nick Cannon. She posted: "Just wanna let you know that the world premiere of the 'Obsessed' video is on 'America's Got Talent' (hosted by NCx0x) Wed.night..July 15th!" Although the full video was set to premiere, only a two minute preview was shown, while the full version was later released online.
On July 23, 2009, Carey visited 106 & Park to premiere the video for "Obsessed", as well as the remix video. She discussed the making of the video, as well as the postponement of "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" which was delayed over one month.
The video begins with Carey at a photoshoot in a private room at the Plaza Hotel, speaking the line, "And I was like, why are you so obsessed with me?" Next, a Rolls-Royce Phantom is shown pulling up to the hotel, with Carey stepping out of the vehicle. As she gets out of the car, Carey dressed as a bellhop, assists her to the ramp where she greets fans. The next scene finds Carey walking into the hotel, and waving to everyone, with the camera zooming to the bellhops face to reveal him intently staring at her.
As the first verse begins, Carey is shown at the photo-shoot in the hotel, with a cameo by Patrick Demarchelier as the photographer. The bellhop, now dressed in a gray hoodie and sweatpants, is shown holding a hair-blower at Carey, apparently assisting with the shoot. As the shoot continues, scenes of the bellhop are shown in his room, where she has dolls of Carey on the wall, as well as quilts with the cover of her 2005 album, "The Emancipation of Mimi."
The video progresses as Carey, now on the streets of New York, is walking towards the hotel. As she begins to notice the bellhop, dressed in the sweats, pursuing her, she turns around in haste and begins jolting back to the hotel while holding several shopping bags. Additionally, scenes of the stalker's home are shown again, this time more elaborately, with his walls covered with portraits of the singer, as well as album covers and lights around a large photo of her. The video continues with several scenes of the stalker staring at Carey during the shoot, as well as his obsession with her in his bedroom.
As the video comes to an end, she waits for her limousine to arrive at the hotel. However, before she gets inside, she notices the stalker attempting to take a picture of her. She then looks directly into his camera and gives a smile. The video then shows him again, still attempting to take a picture, right before a bus hits him. Carey gasps in shock after witnessing the incident. The video closes with more shots of the photoshoot. The scene where the stalker gets hit by a bus, and the opening line Carey speaks, are both references to "Mean Girls."
The remix video for the song features the same storyline and footage, only showing inter-cut scenes of Carey dressed in a white ensemble, while laying on a vintage wooden table. As Gucci Mane stands next to her in a white suit, he pours her champagne and hands her the glass.
At the time of the video's release, several critics complimented and took notice of the similarities in Eminem's attire and Carey's stalker. Nick Levine from Digital Spy wrote: "It isn't quite as ridiculous as we were hoping, and Mariah's insisting the male stalker she plays isn't meant to be a 'specific person', but there's still plenty to enjoy in the 'Obsessed' video. There is a lot of MC cleavage, a not entirely convincing fake beard and a neat Mean Girls reference towards the end."
Newsday's Corris Little described it as "genius!" and continued, "Move over Eminem, I'm officially obsessed with Mariah Carey. Who isn't? She can sing, she's pretty and she has really fun music videos. Anyone remember the Heartbreaker video where she had an evil twin trying to steal her man?"
A writer from the Evening Standard called the video "shocking" and felt that Carey's disguise was so convincing, she should assume the role more often if she wants to travel incognito.
The New York Post's Jarett Wieselman described it as "human butterfly embraced her macho side", and concluded his review with "I'm guessing the video involves Mariah's butch bellhop becoming a little infatuated with the singer, or something. Basically it's another way to give her double the screentime -- much like that Mariah-on-Mariah fight in 'Heartbreaker'!"
Daily News writer Chris Baud joked about Eminem going one step further, writing: "It's great that Mariah seems to be having fun with this whole 'Mininem' thing, but we're afraid of the conflict going any further, because no one wants to see the next step: Eminem in drag."
Jennifer Armstrong from Entertainment Weekly complimented Carey for "going after" Eminem, and concluded "I like Mariah with a sense of humor, and I love the idea of her turning the tables on the king of celebrity-mocking videos."
Carey performed "Obsessed" on several televised appearances since its release. On August 5, 2009, Carey performed the song live for the first time on the fourth season of the talent competition, "America's Got Talent." Carey, appearing in jeans and a black top, was accompanied by several male dancers and three back-up singers. As she performed the song, the dancers hoisted her into the air several times, and carried her to several areas on the stage. During the performance, several white lights flashed, while monitors behind the dancers showed images of Carey and the video.
Breanne Heldman from E! Entertainment Television criticized several aspects of the performance. She described the lighting as "anxiety inducing" and wrote, "That said, no one is doubting the singer's impressive set of pipes, but—frighteningly jarring lighting and quick edits aside—did she actually utilize them on 'America's Got Talent' last night?" Aside from questioning the singer's live vocals, she also felt Carey seemed "robotic", and didn't show effort or interest in the performance. A reviewer from Idolator also was critical on the performance, asking if there was "anything good about [it]." He claimed Carey was lip-syncing, and described it as "lackadaisical", and wrote, "the backup dancers’ moves would have probably received a big red 'X' from at least one of the judges."
In the United States, on October 2, 2009, Carey began promotion of the album on Today, in the form of a four piece outdoor concert. Wearing a "black leather trench coat and accessorized with a glittery microphone", Carey performed "Obsessed", "I Want to Know What Love Is", "H.A.T.E.U." and her 1991 single, "Make It Happen." The performance of "Obsessed" featured similar choreography as on America's Got Talent, in which Carey was carried around by her dancers several times.
Carey performed "Obsessed" live on Lopez Tonight on December 16, 2009, alongside another song from the album, "It's A Wrap." At the Fashion Rocks ceremony in 2009, Carey performed "Touch My Body" and "Obsessed", as well as the remix to her 1995 song "Fantasy."
During the short set list, Carey was accompanied by six men in black tie and suits, who hoisted her into the air in front of over 6,000 people during "Obsessed", and rigorous dance routines throughout "Touch My Body." Following the release of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, she held four concerts at The Pearl Concert Theatre, where she included the song on the set-list.
Similar to the performance at the Fashion Rocks ceremony, Carey was hoisted into the air several times by four to six male dancers, each of whom circled her with intricate dancing throughout the song. Carey featured similar choreography for the song during her Angels Advocate Tour where it was included throughout the entire span of the tour.
The song peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, #12 on Billboard's Hot R&B\Hip-Hop Songs chart, #8 on Billboard's Pop Songs chart, and topped Billboard's Hot Dance Music\Club Play chart. It was certified Platinum by the RIAA.
In Australia, the song peaked at #13 on the ARIA Singles chart and was certified Gold. The song also charted in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Europe, France, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.