Photo from the cnn.com website
It has been all over the Internet but in case you haven’t seen it, Mariah Carey performed her holiday track, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on the 3rd. Due to scheduling and timing issues and other factors, Mariah opted to perform this track live. She was accompanied by backup singers, a bunch of children dancing around and other assorted staged merriment.
Admittedly, it wasn’t Mariah’s best live performance. Her voice sounds tired, but on the other hand, she performed it in the same key as the original recording 20 years ago. Unlike some of her contemporaries that would just drop the song down a few steps to a lower key to accommodate what age invariably does to one’s voice, Mariah sang it as her public knows it, albeit with a few different embellishments to avoid some shrieky high parts.
Now, of course it’s 20 years later. Mariah’s voice is not going to sound the same as a 40-something as it did as a 20-something. Very, very few people sound the same that they did 20 years ago, whether they’re speaking, screaming at their kids or singing in the shower, so why there is an expectation that she’d sound the same live in 2014 that she did in a recording studio in 1994 speaks volumes about the dumbing down of the American entertainment consumption public. People have been rather vicious with their critiques and quite frankly, I find this all to be quite unfair. To rub salt further into the matter, an unscrupulous audio engineer at the event recorded her raw, isolated mic feed and leaked that onto the internet. I’m not going to link to it, but if I’ve heard it and it sounds as I would expect it to sound; like a professional singer singing live into a microphone with absolutely no audio processing at all, whilst moving around a stage and expecting embellishments from the backup singers and the backing track where the singer knows his or her voice is not at its strongest. Anyone with any sort of performance acumen would know this, but people delight in the negative today, even when someone is trying to sing her best for an uplifting, holiday celebration.
Now, I’m the first to be critical of raw audio from the likes of Taylor Swift and the other smattering of manufactured crap pop princesses today because they’ve NEVER been able to sing without a lot of computerized, manufactured audio magic to make them sing good, but, even though I’m not particularly a fan of Mariah’s singing style, the woman can sing, has an incredible range (which has undoubtedly been shortened with age), can carry a tune and she still has an amazing quality to her voice. Does she sound like 22 year old Mariah Carey? No she does not and quite frankly if she did it wouldn’t be genuine.
As I said, I’m not particularly a fan of her vocal runs; she has led the charge in what I call the “urban yodeling movement”, what with the splattering of singing loudly and splattering notes on and all around a melody line in some sort of tonal gymnastics that some find impressive, but when nuts comes to bolts and all the pieces are calmed down and following the reasonable laws of physics and music, Mariah has always had an excellent voice and she continues to do so, albeit with adjustments for age.
So, as to the audio engineer that leaked the raw mic feed from the 12/3 performance, quite frankly I think you’re a dick and you’re probably hiding behind a union of audio engineers that will protect you for it. As far as the armchair critics go, the mean spirited comments are just that, mean, and you’re not entirely to blame because the recording industry has used way too much magic for way too long and ultimately set artists, both real and manufactured up alike, up for failure because no human can meet the robotic and artificial sounds of auto-tune with any sort of natural singing voice.
Thank you Mariah for lending your talents to what was a joyous celebration. I enjoyed the performance as it was presented and I hope you continue to share your ability just as you wish for as long as you want.