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Mariah Carey w/Diddy
Thursday, March 1
Better than: A promotional tote filled with branded swag.
Initally, some words about Diddy’s performance were going to open this review, but when Mariah Carey hit the stage after him, his portion of the show was all but forgotten. Still, for the sake of context, a brief explanation of his purpose.
Diddy opened last night’s event at Gotham Hall, a promotional event for Caesars Entertainment Corporation’s unveiling of their new loyalty member program called “Total Rewards.” The whole production was an over-the-top spectacle that was streamed online, with live performances happening in four cities around the country: Maroon 5 was in Chicago, Gavin Degraw in New Orleans, Lil Wayne in Los Angeles.
But none of those artists had more buzz going in than Mariah Carey, and none of them rose to the occasion quite like she did. Diddy was fun, performing his Bad Boy catalogue, but when Mariah hit the stage, she owned it.
Carey opened with “It’s Like That,” her dancefloor-tailored 2005 single from The Emancipation of Mimi, and for someone who was supposedly getting her sea legs back, it didn’t seem like she’s lost a step—instead, it seemed like she gained one. Most of the dancing duties were handled by her stable of male backup dancers, but Carey, sporting a sleek black gown, sashayed, leaned, and grooved along with her sharp band.
As many have reported, last night’s show was Carey’s first performance since she gave birth to Moroccan and Monroe, the twins she adorably refers to as “Dem Babies.” Onstage, she couldn’t stop gushing about them. She would have brought them out, she said, but apparently Monroe is “shy and takes a while to warm up to an audience.”
In lieu of their absence, she performed what she said was their favorite song, “Always Be My Baby.” (This makes sense, considering that when it came out in 1995, it was, like, everyone’s favorite song.) Last night, the crowd roared the moment the band played the song’s first notes. She turned the nostalgia all the way up next, performing the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” with Trey Lorenz, the backup singer with whom she originally performed the duet on her now-20-year-old MTV Unplugged EP.
But for all the hits Carey performed during her 40-minute set, it was in between the songs where she made the most memorable impression. Carey was as down-to-earth as a diva of her stature can be, seemingly thankful for the long break she took from performing and happy to be relieved of it all the same time. For each song, she gave a little backstory. When she needed freshening up, she didn’t leave the stage; instead, she summoned her glam squad.
Carey’s return isn’t only a triumph because she can still hit dem high notes. It’s because she is, now, as a seemingly happily married woman, and a new mother, completely comfortable in her heels—and when she isn’t, she’s completely comfortable with taking them off. She called out all the smartphones filming her every move, and went on a little tirade about how nothing in this day and age is sacred. There was a time when such a moment could have been considered Mariah being Mariah, but this was something more therapeutic, more honest.
On her first night back on stage, Carey sent a subtle message that her days of being solely a smiling singer are behind her. The new Mariah is going to still do those things—smile and sing—but not without giving her fans more of the personality behind the voice. Last night Carey showed that while the diamonds may still literally be plastered all over her microphone, figuratively, the gloves are off.
Critical bias: I used to have a crush on Mariah Carey, then it got lost, but now? Crush re-activated.
Random notebook dump: Your move, Beyoncé.
It’s Like That
Shake It Off
Touch My Body
Always Be My Baby
I’ll Be There
We Belong Together