Mariah Carey returned to TV last night via Jimmy Kimmel Live for the first time since her implosive New Year’s Rockin’ Eve performance. Like two Basketball Wives meeting for the first time, when Mariah Carey hits the stage of a TV show, it could go real right or real wrong. (Also, the element of uncertainty makes watching Carey on TV so exciting, she’s basically my life’s version of watching sports. Otherwise the closest I get is, in fact, Basketball Wives.)
Last night, it went right. Carey sounded just fine performing her single “I Don’t” alongside YG. She replicated the spectrum of sounds she mades on the recording, fluttering from the whispery verses to the bridge that requires her chest voice. The hook, though, seemed to be at least partially lip-synced given its tonal similarity to the studio version of the track. Carey’s stiffness underscored how delicate her instrument (and, by extension, career) is at this point, as if one unplanned movement could disrupt her entire act.
Carey’s competent showing on Kimmel will likely get 1/20th of the press her New Year’s Eve performance got. This is because disaster yields more spectacle than success does. And though Carey is a far cry from the performer she once was who could walk out onstage, open her lungs, and blow the house down seemingly without effort, she’s still regarded as one of the greats. Her career is still defined by her voice’s virtuosity. She is a victim of her own success, held to the astronomical standards her once-astonishing (still impressive) talent has set for her. It seems so stressful, you can hardly blame her for looking petrified when doing her job, even when she’s nailing it.