Bow down to the accomplishments of one of the greatest pop stars of our time. The No. 1 singles. The phoenix who rose from the ashes of a public meltdown with one of the greatest comebacks in music history. The star who perfected the art of diva branding and performative fabulousness. The girl who had the range—and still has most of it, HATERZ!
But never before has there been more reason to worship at the altar of Queen Mariah Carey than now that she is doing the bare minimum.
I’ve worshipped Mariah Carey, essentially, for all three decades of my life. But never before have I related to her.
As reports of Carey’s outlandish behavior—the latest doozy being a big ole stink she made on the set of the flop movie The House—continue to make headlines, she has once again reinvented herself on the wings of millennial wish fulfillment: make a living on minimal effort.
It appears that 12 years after her Grammy-winning album was released that the true Mimi has finally been emancipated.
Fed up with scrutiny over whether her voice is still there, how much she is or isn’t lip-synching, and what her worth still is as a pop star and live performer—especially following the New Year’s Eve disaster—Carey is no longer going to fuss to impress you. She is going to go through the motions and still get those coins.
My New Favorite Mariah made her debut last month when a video went viral of her “performing” choreography—let’s say “marking” the moves, to be polite, during the dance break for “Honey” in a performance from her residency in Las Vegas. It’s live footage from a slacker’s training video that has also been replicated at stops on her current tour with Lionel Richie.
(If we want to talk about phoning it in, Mariah Carey sharing a bill with Lionel Richie is the kind of music-you-hear-at-the-dentist lazy cash grab that is honestly so geniusly uninspired and guaranteed to sell that they should teach entire economic courses about it at business schools.)
In a pale attempt to recreate the vibrancy of her iconic 1997 music video for “Honey” two decades later, Carey does this thing with her face where she appears to scowl then flashes the kind of panicked smile someone fakes in jolted reflex when their mom screams at them from behind the camera at the J.C. Penny portrait studio to smile, dammit, because she’s spending a lot of money on these photos.
She then doesn’t so much as bop with the music—which, let’s face it, is all this choreography really requires—as she slightly leans, like when you’re listening to music on your headphones at the office and kind of just subtly sway, hoping no one sees you. Only, in this instance, thousands of people have paid good money to see her.
The bopping quickly subsides and then Mariah’s facial expression gloriously transforms to reflect an inner monologue I like to imagine is: “Ugh, fuck. This part.”
The backup dancers in sailor outfits—which, god bless them—then all form some sort of human chaise lounge for Carey to be hoisted onto and, one would imagine, pose regally on. Instead, she sort of flops onto it like me onto my plush sectional after a long day of work and then glares out at the audience with a what’s your problem? ’tude. Then she appears to hear mom’s voice from behind the camera again and gives one last plastic smile.
It’s easy to draw a line from Carey’s disastrous New Year’s Eve performance—in a he-said-she-said with the telecast’s production company, she blamed technical issues for her inability to sing along to the backing track for her hit “Emotions” and her exit from the stage instead of lip-synching along to “We Belong Together”—to the crowning achievement of phoning it in she’s mastered recently.
Another video that’s surfaced in which Carey just stands on stage in a ball gown repeatedly looking like she’s about to start singing along to a song and instead just pointing her microphone out to the audience doubles down on the allegations of minimal effort. The video’s caption: “Mariah Carey really two performances away from just taking a nap on stage.”
Carey fired her longtime choreographer and creative director Anthony Burrell after the New Year’s calamity, and now Burrell is weighing in on Carey’s heroic lack of work ethic, via an interview with Complex.
“It’s just typical Mariah,” Burrell said. “Mariah is clear: when she doesn’t wanna do something, she doesn’t do it. She’s performing with lackluster and no fucks given, and it’s taking away her star.”
EXCUSE YOU, MR. BURRELL!
These performances are not taking away her star so much as they are making it shine brighter than ever. “No fucks given,” you say? Are you even aware, Mr. Burrell, of the times that we are in? It is the age of DGAF (Don’t Give a Fuck). The ability to exist in society without giving a fuck is the gold standard of human existence.
Here we all are, cogs in a machine hell-bent on destroying our souls with underpaying jobs, endless work weeks, skyrocketing rents, and relegating the phrase “work-life balance” only to the elderly to use while telling fanciful tales about the idyll times of yesteryear. We are all imprisoned by the necessity to actually give fucks in order to survive.
Mariah Carey’s iconic Summer 2017 Sleepwalk Tour is an inspiration to us all. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. (It’s no coincidence that rainbows have been so significant in Carey’s career.) As the once hardest-working singer in show business farts through a performance of “Hero,” we see ours: someone who worked her ass off for the right to not give a steaming shit about her job.
By the way, we’ve seen Mariah Carey perform within the last year. She’s still a JOY to watch perform on stage. She has a riotous sense of humor and keen self-awareness, something that allows her to personify the diva so grandiosely while maintaining a viable career.
Some numbers might be phoned in. Others aren’t. But the hits are still a blast, Carey is always a hoot, and everyone leaves happy.
By the way, has anyone ever committed the blasphemy of calling Mariah Carey a dancer? Do we leave an Adele concert annoyed that she really miffed the “Rumor Has It” dance break? Carey is a vocalist with a flair for showmanship. A little shimmy and a shake. A bop and a lift. That’s all we should expect, and the energy Carey invests in that is beside the point.
We’re at this weird stage of pop music where fandom has somehow married itself to shaming. It’s this odd, ugly combination where we flock to concerts of the world’s biggest artists, turn on iPhone cameras on max zoom, and then performatively mock them for imperfections.
How fitting, then, that after years of polished whistle notes, painstaking glamour, and carefully managed career moves that imperfections are making me love Mariah Carey more than I have in years. You do that absolute bare minimum, girl. Do it for all of us.