Despite Naysayers, Mariah Carey Was Shooting For The Stars On New Year's Eve

Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic.
Let’s get one thing straight. Mariah Carey has the range. In fact, her five-octave vocal range is the stuff of legend. Few artists can come close to Carey’s signature high-octave whispers or her deep, rich delivery. It’s a shame then, that on New Year’s Eve, a performance that was supposed to be the gleaming, flawless diamond atop a year of highs ended up being mired in a he said, she said battle of public opinion. On one side, we have Dick Clark Productions, which puts on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, your parents’ favorite way to while away New Year’s Eve. On the other, we have Team Mariah, which states that technical difficulties kept the elusive chanteuse from performing a medley of her biggest hits.

"We told [the stage managers] that the in-ears were not working 10 minutes before the performance," Stella Bulochnikov, Carey’s manager, told Billboard. "They then changed the battery pack, and they were still not working on the frequency four minutes before the show. We let them know again, and they just kept counting her down and reassuring her that they will work as soon as they go live, which never happened — at which point she pulled them out but could not hear the music over the crowd."

Anyone watching the telecast could see that Carey wasn’t satisfied with her performance. Her expression, body language, and onstage banter said it all: Something wasn’t right. While the music played and her backup dancers did their best to keep the show going, Carey paced the stage and did everything she could to continue. She attempted a few lyrics and, after pulling out her earpieces, she pointed her golden microphone at the audience in an effort to boost morale. In the end, the show went on without her powerhouse vocals and critics immediately called out Carey’s diva behavior and inability to perform. Bulochnikov also told Billboard, “I asked [producer Mark Shimmel] to cut the West Coast feed. He said he could not do that. I asked him why would they want to run a performance with mechanical glitches unless they just want eyeballs at any expense.”

Carey's setlist for the night included "Emotions" and "We Belong Together." The first, a song from the album of the same name, is one of the most difficult songs in her oeuvre. It has some of the highest notes that she can hit and as fans know, she rarely performs it. Maybe after experiencing such a landmark year, Carey felt confident enough to pull the fan favorite out of the archives. During her 2009-10 Angels Advocate Tour, she often swapped the song out for another track. "We Belong Together" features one of the singer's longest sustained notes — and it brings tears to fans' eyes every time she hits it. The song choices indicate that Carey felt on top of her game that night, even though she wouldn't get to show it.

The next day, as we all recovered from Champagne hangovers, Dick Clark Productions released a statement refuting Bulochnikov’s claims. “As the premier producer of live television events for nearly 50 years, we pride ourselves on our reputation and long-standing relationships with artists. To suggest that DCP, as producer of music shows including the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and Academy of Country Music Awards, would ever intentionally compromise the success of any artist is defamatory, outrageous and frankly absurd,” it read.

This year, Carey has been in the public eye more than most can remember. The premiere of her reality show, a second collection with MAC Cosmetics, a European tour, a public divorce, a new relationship, a messy breakup, and an active social media presence kept her in the spotlight.

Though it’s still one of New Year’s Eve’s biggest events, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has been slipping in ratings, which may explain why the show’s format has changed this year and why it needed the star power of Carey to draw in viewers. Her performance became a viral sensation, as did her tweet following the botched telecast. And while we’ll never know what really went down that night in New York, all may be revealed if Mariah’s World gets renewed for a second season — and with Carey still in the forefront of public opinion, it seems that the diva is right where she wants to be.
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