Mariah Carey hasn’t truly topped her penchant for theatrics of a lunatic-geared nature since that time in July of 2001 when she made a surprise (“unannounced to me” as Carson Daly made clear) appearance on TRL wearing nothing more than an oversized “Loverboy” t-shirt and pushing an ice cream cart.
Stripping off the shirt to reveal shorts and a halter that reads “SUPERGIRL,” Mariah continues to both delight and horrify Carson as she explains, “You’re my therapy session right now. Every now and then, someone needs therapy, and today is my therapy.”
As Mariah talks essentially about nothing and looks out the window, Carson assures, “Mariah Carey’s lost her mind, I don’t know exactly what’s going on here…” He then hurries up the commercial break, something that perhaps should have been done during Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance as well. But alas, as time wears on, people only seem to relish a good trainwreck viewed in full even more than in the early and mid-00s.
Much like her TRL snafu, things started out semi-passable as Mariah commenced her Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with the NYE staple, “Auld Lang Syne.” But things quickly digressed with “Emotions,” which began with Mariah’s instantaneous fallback on the lip sync. Acting put upon–almost looking to the heavens for help–Mariah gazes up while expecting her pre-recorded vocals to come through. They do not. Instead, she goes on what essentially amounts to a lackadaisical rant about having to work, remarking, “I want a holiday, too. Can’t I have one?” It is thus that Mariah, in many ways, like Britney–or even Amy Winehouse performing her last show in Belgrade–reveals a sense that she’s being pushed to do something she doesn’t want to. That her heart simply isn’t in singing this shit. Moreover, the problem with instantly starting out a “project,” as it were, in failure doesn’t exactly compel a person to persist in trying when they know they’ve already blundered spectacularly.
Shrugging off “Emotions” from the outset by saying, “It went to number one,” it’s evident that Mariah is currently heavily relying on the laurels of her past successes to secure her place in the present. But in continuing to act so cavalier about what she puts out into the universe with her music and performances, the chanteuse is only building on the detrimental effects she worked so hard to erase post-Glitter. Perfect vocals of “We Belong Together” following “Emotions” didn’t do much to remedy the situation, only accenting her husky, off-keyness from before and in between.
Like Michael Jackson, people remember an icon for more than just the music, ready to pounce at their personal lives, behavior and foibles whenever given the opportunity. Still, Ryan Seacrest, acting now in Carson Daly’s 2001 stead, does his best to gloss over the situation at hand by insisting, “No matter what Mariah does, the crowd absolutely loves it.” Unfortunately, while this might be true of delirious tourists who have lost all ability to process anything as a result of standing in Times Square for tennish hours, it is not of anyone who was watching her on TV (both in this case and in reference to Mariah’s World). At least, however, she did perform one visionary act in 2016.
Internet access or not, anyone in their tween and teen years now might not necessarily care about Mariah, or be familiar enough with her work to comprehend that she was once a great talent. But they will remember her for the mistake she made on December 31, 2016–contributing to the collective opinion and consciousness about not just Mariah herself, but 2016 as the year of the pop culturally damaging, bizarre and surreal. Then again, maybe it’s all just a little bit of history repeating in terms of people’s shellshock from the political results of 2000 and the strong prevalence of Creed, just hoping to God or whoever that 2001 would be better. And yet, we all saw how that turned out.