20 minutes before Mariah Carey came onstage, the guy sitting beside me asked if I would switch places with his friend who was alone. His partner in crime was two to three meters away from where we were and plead that switching places would mean a lot for the two of them. Who wouldn’t want to watch the show together with someone you care for?
I felt guilty for a second but I stood my ground. He went on and tried to persuade me with his sad, puppy face but I honestly didn’t care. His last ditch effort was a 200 SGD top up. The offer was financially sound considering we paid around the same amount for our tickets.
But it wasn’t about the money… obviously. The key decision in the moment was how close did I want to be and how much of my position factored to my experience. This was Mariah Carey performing live. I wasn’t ready to give up on my happiness for someone else’s. I can do that in other aspects of life but not in music. I politely refused. And as soon as Mariah performed “Honey”, I knew the decision I made was the right one.
As Miguel and Mariah put it – it was beautiful. Good Lord, it was fucking beautiful.
What I was seeing right in front of my very eyes was one of the most commercially successful artists of all time. She possesses the best vocal range any musician could ever have. She was glammed up, looking heavenly as always, and commanding a presence most artists could only dream of. Being in the audience and reminiscing those two hours still feel surreal.
As with most shows, some of my bets didn’t make the setlist. My personal favorite Mariah Carey track will always be “Breakdown”. But let’s me put this into perspective.
If you were Mariah Carey and you had 18 Billboard Hot 100 number one singles under your belt (the second most after the Beatles), I don’t think any choice would’ve been wrong. There were singles from the 90s, as early as her self-titled debut album, to her yet unreleased studio album “Caution”. This is a woman who had an entire catalog filled with hits. The best part was, she wasn’t going to shy away from performing them one by one. Imagine being in the crowd and hearing classics like “Make It Happen”, “Hero” and “We Belong Together”. On top of it, she’d go and do “Fantasy”, “Heartbreaker” and “Shake It Off”. I could continue but I’m sure I’ve made my point.
Now, she’s had her fair share of meltdowns. Just go on Youtube and you can find her 2001 TRL appearance. If an emotional breakdown is not enough, you can see her vocal lows – 2017’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve performance. Once stripped down, you can tear her down for not hitting the notes she once was known for. Especially now, we have a new dolphin in the house – Ariana Grande.
But if any artist can pull off what she managed to do in this tour, I’d be willing to pay 10x what I paid for to see her. This was a legend still doing whistles on “Emotions” and “Love Takes Time” – the same ones she hit two decades back. She was hitting the high notes of her sultry ballad “My All”. And to put this all in context, she is 48 years old and the peak of her vocal pipes have passed. She could’ve lip synced and relied on a backing vocal for most of the show. But she didn’t.
I don’t pretend to understand all the keys she was hitting (or not hitting). But I could definitely hit someone if they say she wasn’t doing a fantastic job.
Outside the concert, she is known as the diva who responded to a question on her feelings about JLo with the infamous words “I don’t know her”. But seeing her live, what I saw was an artist who is neither distant nor arrogant.
She was well connected with her audience – interacting every second she gets, acknowledging fans who met her at the airport, and just showing appreciation for every sign or custom made shirt she can see from where she was standing. She even brought a LAMB fanatic onstage during “Touch My Body”. I’m sure he’s still on a high as I’m writing this piece.
She is a celebrity but there is a mother in her who was clearly proud of her twins. She brought them onstage to share the spotlight with her on “Always Be My Baby”. And I just can’t help but see her in a different light.
The roll call of the entourage is standard for any artist. But she also gave them space to shine, allowing them to take the stage while she’s getting ready for the next set. She is not afraid to share the spotlight with them, bringing out Trey Lorenz in arguably her biggest hit “One Sweet Day”.
Since I’ve started following music, I’ve had my views on her persona, and not a lot of it is nice. But what I saw on stage was an artist – one whose talent is superior and whose heart is in the right place.
I would gladly fight for my seat in another show to watch Mariah Carey live in concert. She may not be at her peak. But even at her lowest, she still does it better than most of today’s pop stars.