'The Prince of Egypt' Turns 15: Let's Revisit That Epic Mariah & Whitney "When You Believe" Battle
Wednesday marks the 15th anniversary of the great animated film The Prince of Egypt . That means it's been over 15 years since Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey recorded "When You Believe," aka The Greatest Duet Ever/The Only Song I'll Ever Need. Whoa. I guess time flies when you're listening to the same song on repeat.
When I saw the film in theaters, it scared me. I was familiar with the Book of Exodus before seeing the movie, but I hadn't yet conceptualized just how terrifying parts of it really are. Ah, the power of the cinema! Pre-The Prince of Egypt, my understanding of the story was pretty abstract. The movie definitely made the story less abstract. The movie plagues?! Oof. As the eldest sibling, the final plague haunted me. And the Red Sea scene reminded me of the Shark Encounter exhibit at SeaWorld. But scarier. You know, because there isn't glass between Moses and the sea creatures. The Book of Exodus puts the Shark Encounter to shame.
What else stuck with me? I've already hinted at it. Any guesses? Okay, I'll tell you: The Houston/Carey duet on The Prince Of Egypt soundtrack. In 1999, the song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Like the Academy had a choice. Houston and Carey performed the song at the Academy Awards. If you've never watched the video, please get together with the ones you love most and watch it. You will need the emotional support.
Here's a breakdown of the textbook example of "flawless live performance":
0:30 "Tonight, two spectacular singers will perform the nominated song from the film…" I'M NOT READY, CHRISTINA RICCI.
0:38 "And would you believe Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey?" No. I'll never be able to believe this song is real and not actually just a figment of my imagination.
0:41 Wardrobe malfunction.
0:55 Chills on chills.
1:00 I see you, Mariah!
1:10 That's the look of a woman who knows she's already crushed it even before she hits the crazy notes.
1:11 I feel so small.
1:22 I've been fighting back tears the entire performance, but this is where they finally fall out of my eyelids.
1:33 Take the baton, Mariah.
1:39 Her diva hand gestures are A+.
1:50 When Whitney puts her arms out, I put my arms out.
1:54 I try to hit that note every time I sing along with this song. My voice always cracks. Serves me right for attempting to sing a Mariah/Whitney song. I am not worthy.
2:04 I'm a mess.
2:09 Here comes Whitney's mic… I'm taking a deep breath. Because I know I'll forget to breathe for a little while.
2:11 Whitney and Mariah. WHITNEY AND MARIAH. SINGING AT THE SAME TIME.
2:14 THEY TAKE HANDS.
2:16 Mariah and Whitney holding hands and looking at one another while they duet. Glad I took that deep breath, because I am neither inhaling nor exhaling right now.
2:22 Don't let go.
2:24 Our ears are not evolved enough to process the majesty that is Mariah and Whitney harmonizing.
2:31 Don't. Let. Go.
2:39 This part gets me. Every time.
2:45 YES, WHITNEY!!!!
2:46 YES, MARIAH!!!!
2:47 Never let go.
2:46-2:55 I can't formulate complete thoughts about what's going on here. But here are the words that come to mind: "PERFECTION," "BEAUTY," "LEGENDS," "I," "CAN'T," "FEEL," "MY," and "FACE."
2:55 They let go. I understand. The rest of the song requires that the diva hand be free to move about the cabin. Because they're about to take off.
2:57 Ef. For. Tless.
3:05 Holy shit.
3:20 Oh, I'm gearing up. I'm getting ready. I'm trying to, at least. In my heart of hearts, I know I'll never be ready for what's about to happen.
3:23 Bracing myself…
3:31 I've passed out.
3:34 I'm back. WHITNEY!!!
3:44 Whitney dancing and smiling. She was so spectacular. Crap. I'm crying again.
3:46 Divas just diva-ing.
3:53 Damn, I love Mimi.
3:57 DAMN, I love Whitney.
4:00 Oh, I'm not ready for this to wind down.
4:02 Neither are they.
4:07 Don't fret, Mimi has more whistle notes to get out of her system.
4:11 Not only does the ending of the song require free diva hands, but it also requires closed eyes.
4:14 I mean, look at those diva hand gestures.
4:18 Don't worry. This.
4:21 Yet. Because it is a perfect performance.
4:23 Keep going!!!
4:25 I believe they could've done this part for 25 minutes without stopping for water breaks.
4:34 I want to cry, but I'm all cried out.
4:38 The lights are going down, but Whitney and Mariah do not care.
4:42 The crowd applauds, but it's not enough for me. A decent audience would be wailing and screaming at this point.
4:47 Whitney and Mariah smile, laugh, and thank the audience. They know what they did.
4:57 The chorus remains in place, but Whitney and Mariah have exited stage right. Because you do not move a muscle until the divas have left the building.
5:08 Well then. Let's start that video over, shall we?