"I Still Believe" is a pop-ballad song written and composed by Antonina Armato and Giuseppe Cantarelli, and originally recorded by pop singer Brenda K. Starr. It is a ballad in which the singer is confident she and her former boyfriend will never be together again, but still believes that some day it may happen. It was covered by American singer Mariah Carey, who was a backup singer on Starr's original version, and cantopop singer Sandy Lam.
The song was based on a real life relationship of one of its songwriters, Antonia Armato: Armato's former boyfriend had proposed to her, but she felt that the timing was not right. He was not pleased, and pushed her into an ultimatum: to get married or break up. Even though Armato loved her boyfriend at the time, she stuck to her convictions and the couple broke up. To deal with her emotional pain, Armato wrote the song.
It was released as the second single from Starr's debut album in 1988, and peaked at number 13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming Starr's first and only top twenty single on the Hot 100. Its music video comprises scenes of Starr singing the song in a warehouse intercut with scenes of her walking past many romantic couples. The song was also recorded in Spanish as "Yo Creo En Ti" which was released as a single. In 1998, she recorded a salsa version of the song on her album No Lo Voy a Olvidar, as "I Still Believe/Creo en Ti." This version peaked at #20 on the Billboard Latin Tropical Airplay chart.
Mariah Carey co-produced her cover of the song with Stevie J and Mike Mason for her eighth album, #1's, and it was released as the album's third single in 1998. She re-recorded the song as a tribute to Starr, as she had been Starr's backing singer in the late 1980s and Starr had helped jump-start Carey's career by handing a demo tape to Sony Music Entertainment executive Tommy Mottola, who had then signed Carey to her first recording contract.
Unlike the preceding single from #1's, "When You Believe," "I Still Believe" enjoyed more success within the United States than elsewhere, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though it was Carey's first single to chart on radio airplay points alone, its airplay was relatively low while sales were much stronger. It was certified platinum by the RIAA, and was ranked 36 on the Hot 100 year-end charts for 1999. Outside the U.S. it settled in the middle of the charts, such as the United Kingdom where it reached the top twenty. It entered the Canadian top ten, but did not reach the top forty in Australia or Germany. According to Billboard, this song is a tribute to the artist who gave Carey her first big break.
Music videos and remixes
Carey on the set of the music video for "I Still Believe," in 1998.
The single's music video, which Brett Ratner directed, drew heavy inspiration from Marilyn Monroe's 1953 visit to U.S. troops in Korea for a United Service Organizations show. It shows Carey (who emulates Monroe's make-up and hairstyles) visiting Edwards Air Force Base in California and singing for airmen and soldiers, as Monroe had done during the Korean War.
A remix of the song was produced by Carey and Damizza titled "I Still Believe/Pure Imagination" (formally "I Still Believe" (Damizza Reemix) [sic]). It differs significantly from the original, as it retains none of the music and only minor lyrical elements. The melody is based heavily on interpolations of the song "Pure Imagination" from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and the song features rapped and sung parts by Krayzie Bone (of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony) and Da Brat.
An abbreviated version of "I Still Believe/Pure Imagination," without Da Brat and more from Krayzie Bone, can be found on Bone's album Thug Mentality 1999. A video for the remix was commissioned and directed by Carey herself, showing her as a peasant girl in a Mexican village as she tends to her goats and gathers water for her family. Bone is portrayed as a pariah of sorts in the town, in whom Carey may have a romantic interest. Da Brat takes on the role of the community gringo, as she arrives in a car with a lot of money.
Several other remixes of the song were created, and each was carefully overseen by Carey, who re-recorded her vocals for all of them. Stevie J, who co-produced the original song, enlisted the help of rappers Mocha and Amil to join Carey on a remix he was developing. Although it contains completely new musical elements (with no music derived from the original and only small lyrical elements), Carey, Stevie J and the rappers do not receive songwriting credit.
David Morales created several remixes of the song, including the "Classic Club" mix. It retains the song's original music and chord progressions with Carey's original vocals and considerable ad libs. Other remixes by Morales include The King's Mix and the Eve of Souls mix, which do not contain complete vocals of the song, and feature little more than ad libs over club beats.