8 Days of Mariah Carey Holiday Madness: Halfway to 'Oh Santa!'–Induced Psychosis
Mariah Carey onstage at the Beacon Theatre
Sachyn Mital for the Village Voice
Now that we're four shows into this eight-night journey through the various constellations of Mariah Carey's yuletide galaxy, both fandom — and fatigue — are starting to hit the boiling point for this here Lamb-in-Training. While eight nights of anything is enough to exhaust someone's senses, eight nights of the same damn songs sung by the same damn diva in the same damn place at the same damn time is a lot. It's a lot of a lot. It's full-on Mariah saturation, Lambiosis, enough to justify getting a lambotomy. At the onset of this project, it looked like this run — which I'm affectionately referring to as Mariah Madness — could go one of two ways: It could lead to a revelation about the pressures and expectations even the most experienced pop titans face, or it could turn out to be an eight-part blasé reflection on the cheesiness of Christmas cheer and whether or not we need stuff like an expensive, Broadway-level production to remind us that we're behind on our holiday shopping and addicted to commercial masochism.
Thankfully, this musical experiment is shaping up to be closer to the former. Mariah's off-notes are few and far between, and the unsure footing of her first night at the Beacon has long since been forgotten as she's delivered an increasingly strong performance with every passing show. We'll see how the rest of this pans out, but in the meantime, here are four truths that made themselves apparent in the first four nights of Mariah Madness.
1) Mariah may be the last true diva. A diva is a female version of a hustler in Beyoncé's world, sure, but comparing Beyoncé and Mariah is like comparing Athena and Aphrodite or Hestia or whatever: THEY'RE ALL GODDESSES. LET THEM LOUNGE ABOUT THEIR OLYMPIAN THRONES. While Bey, Gaga, and Christina, and Mary, Celine, Kelly, RiRi, or any other pop force majeure worth contending with can try the diva title on for size and wear it with aplomb, few ooze attitude with the learned, earned, spotlight-seasoned grace Mariah does. Beyoncé can run laps in her heels if she has to; Christina's belt could probably level a building if she hit a crack in the foundation just so. But unlike her contemporaries and protégées, Mariah doesn't have to do much beyond show up, be fabulous, and sing. She can barely walk across the stage without the assistance of her gentlemen dancers, and yet she can do that and make it look glamorous and intentional instead of as awkward as it actually is. Her divadom comes effortlessly, which is a feat in itself considering how many boughs of holly and Stars of Bethlehem and yards of flowing, snow-white silk are involved in this whole busy shebang. All of that places Mariah Carey in a class of diva all her own. (And that class just happens to be able to pull off a two-week-long holiday spectacular full of sexy reindeer and present tosses like it's just another night at the theater.)
2) Don't even think about alleging that Mariah phones it in or — gasp! — lip-syncs. Get out of wherever you are right this very instant and go sit in a corner of shame if you question the legitimacy of her range. She's belting out the high stuff, all of it, and bringing more and more to the program every show. At this rate, half of her final gig at the Beacon will be Mariah deafening the Upper West Side while dogs as far as New Haven are freaking out over the frequency of her voice. Bow before her superhuman might, because this performance schedule is just as rigorous as her Vegas residency — albeit on a much smaller scale — and that intensity should be respected.
3) Her best Christmas song isn't "All I Want for Christmas Is You." This makes for a totally ridiculous and satisfying finale, but "O Holy Night" brings down the house each and every night. She seems to enjoy herself the most with "Oh Santa!" and the audience tends to agree based on the especially uplifting part of the show it's given to us. (Or they do if their dance moves have anything to say about it.)
4) Mariah thinks about the Big Picture, and so should you. I'll say it again: This is a marathon, not a sprint, and audiences forget that musicians — especially those who tour or mount residencies of this nature — don't just show up and sing and come back the next night as if it's just something to do, like walking or brushing your hair. Mariah's All I Want for Christmas Is You concert series has its groan-worthy moments, but that has more to do with the family-friendly sheen the hyper-scripted interludes and choreographed numbers embrace. I may be tired and starting to get a little sick of that "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" tap number, but...I'm kind of into Christmas now, you guys. I don't own an ugly Christmas sweater — I usually borrow one from my mom, HI JANEY — but this whole affair kind of makes me want to get one. I bought Christmas cards in time to actually send them. I may be getting emotionally and aurally waterboarded with rockin' around the Christmas tree and all that, but if there's anyone who can get someone in the holiday spirit and make them feel less weird about it in the process, it's Mariah. She isn't the reason for the season, but she'll give you a hell of a reason to celebrate it, one sustained high note at the climax of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" at a time.
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