THE EMANCIPATION OF ME ME!
Honey, when a friend called last night with a free ticket to see Mariah at Madison Square Garden, I squealed one of those high bird notes she does! (OK, so my squeal was a bit more like a pig's.) I'm a big fan, but I've never seen her perform. I've never really been to many large concerts. My parents were too cheap to splurge for tickets as when I was a kid, and as an adult, there just aren't many artists I'd pay to see. I travelled to Philly to see Prince's last tour, I caught Cher's farewell tour--easy enough as it lasted 5 years--but besides Patti Labelle, who I've seen 5 times, I don't usually think the concerts are worth the ticket price. Yikes! I guess that means I'm as cheap as my parents... Besdes, I never even saw Patti when she was at her highest chart status, so to see Mariah, the top-selling female artist of all time with 17 #1's at the peak of her comeback, was quite a thrill.
Sean Paul opened. He's sexy, energetic, and his 3 female dancers were outrageously talented. But even though his songs are super-hooky, a little dancehall goes a long way with me. And that constant "Get your hands up!" shit is so annoying. I'll put them up when I want to , not because you've yelled it at me 15 times! Now if he' said put you legs up, that'd be a different story!
He finished, an after a 15 minute break, the MC-monogrammed curtains opened. Miss Thing's stage set got a staning ovation. I think it was by Bennny Meina who use to work with J-Lo, but crystal fringe curtains were hanging off of butterfly-encrusted spiral staircases with neon MIMI signs--you get the idea. She pulled out all the stops for this one. Incluing cameos by Jay-Z and P. Diddy--if you care. It was refreshing to see P. walk out without having his mouth hanging open, as he usually poses. Nope, this time, he walks out onto the Maison Square Garden stage with a toothpick in his mouth--the new look, which says "down-home hip-hop mogul." There were other rapper cameos as well, but I was more interested in Mariah's costume changes an the rhinestone-encrusted mic's which accompanied them--in each color! Next up? Rhinestone-covered mic stands, for her I'LL BE THERE duet with Trey Lorenz.
I've heard singing teachers discussing how Mariah has ruined her voice, how she has no more middle range, just the high squeak an the whispery lower register. They agreed on this with such authority that I may have even posted something about this, because she was supposely using a lever on her mic to turn up a pre-recorded vocal track when she couldn't/didn't want to hit a tough note to augment her lip-synching with the track. Seeing her from a 6th row seat with huge video projections, I din't see any such lever manipulations. Nor was there any part of her register which she did not hit with glorious ease.
I'd heard complaints that her costumes were "drag-queeny". And? What's the problem with that? Theyre were a lot of rhinestone aplliques and side-slits, which do indicate budget Vegas, but as an afficionado of those looks I didn't mind a bit. Seated practically right between the editor of V magazine an Marc Jacobs, I'm sure they may have been a little more judgementally fashion forward, but my only beef with her look is the bare midriff's. I heard Mariah say on a talk show something like "I was tired of everyone telling me I was fat, so I lost weight." (That never occurred to me.) So lose weight she did, and even in the bare midriffs her abdomen looks tight. But it just doesn't indent enough to look good in a bare midriff. (I wonder what it was that made those 60's Hollywood bikini babes look so curvy? Waists trained inward by girdles?) She looks fine in the side cut-outs which bare the sides of her mid-section, becuase that strip of fabric down the center, like the several long rhinestone strand necklaces she worked, cut down on the size of her waist effectively. (Look out for one on me, soon! Or Maybe I'll try wearing two.)
Her hair was long an goddess-y and I was glad to see her working her "stadium-style" paint, with lots of thick lash on top. She seemed to be in a great mood, poked fun at her ups and downs, and had one slight diva moment when the pastor who was supposed to begin one number could not be found backstage. She laughed this off and handled it with ease. I recall sone interview she i right after her "crack-up" and the interviewer was trying to say that one of her singles had flopped. She countered, a little testy, with "Actually it was #1" and he says, "Yeah, but the single was being sold for 99 cents." I wish she had told him "Well actually, I'm the singer, so I don't put the stickers on the cd singles." But the interviewer seemed as if he was trying to get her to admit "I put out a flop record and movie and went crazy!" I'll admit that the MTV strip episode made her seem a little weird, but I really think she just focuses on the music, singing an promotion. And must work herself to death to be sound this great--and lose weight at the same time!?!
I'm an "old school Mariah fan", so I'm not as fond of the hip-hop flavored recent hits, which are really just repeating a groove taken from Tom Tom Club's GENIUS OF LOVE or Mtume's JUICY FRUIT or whichever classic jam--she oes choose uneniably great jams-- and riffing over them. The songs like HONEY and FANTASY, etc. But she's at her best when she can get behind some chord changes and milk them in songs like WE BELONG TOGETHER. Leave the choppy, light-on-melody cuts to the light-on-talent r&b divas who need them. But Mariah needs that choppy sound if she's to remain current--and it's obviously worked as evidenced by her massive comeback. It worked for Nelly Furtado, too. To me, it's real shame that someone responsible for a great song like Nelly's I'M LIKE A BIRD or Mariah's VISION OF LOVE would be forced by the unsophisticated tasted of today's listeners, to come out with PROMISCUOUS GIRLS or "those chickens is ash and I'm lotion", which Mariah sings in IT'S LIKE THAT from her latest album. However, seeing Mariah sing the self-penned "take charge of your life" anthem MAKE IT HAPPEN trumped any luke-warm feelings I had towards all her hip-pop flavored cuts. Adding EMOTIONS and SOMEDAY to her set would have made it perfect! But the blast of pink crepe paper butterflies which exploded over the audience was a sweet touch that left you feeling as if you'd been caressed, as they floated down, by the presence of this major diva.