Mariah Carey New Year 2017

Awww, c'mon, she survived marriage to Tommy Mottola, she'll survive this.

Mariah Carey performs in Times Square at Dick Clark New Year's Rockin' Eve. (Photo: Angla Weiss / AFP - Getty Images)

Mariah Carey performs in Times Square at Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. (Photo: Angla Weiss / AFP – Getty Images)

She survived marriage to Tommy Mottola, she’ll live through this. “Mariah Carey’s technical challenge during the Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show on ABC took on a life of its own, garnering widespread social media mockery, including jokes that her circuitry was “hacked by the Russians.”

Rushin’ to judgment, maybe…  It remains unclear exactly what happened, but the general gist is that Carey’s in-ear monitors failed, preventing a proper performance. Unfortunate, no question, but the attendant media beating was so overheated as to usher in with 2017 a new class of communications, the flogosphere.  To call it an overreaction is an understatement; clearly, the media was bored by the happenings on New Year’s Eve,  (yet, as a nation, I guess we should feel fortunate that this was our big news in the overnight).

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing,” said Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). No telling what Shaw would have made of Mariah Carey teetering on skyscraper pumps in Times Square, all the equipment save that which nature endowed her malfunctioning, but our guess is it would have brought a twinkle to the slightly subversive Victorian philosopher’s eye.

So where are these inspirational thought leaders when a gal needs ’em? As 21st century Americans, we’re supposed to be a tolerant lot. Why can’t the glass be half-full: half performance art, half Harvard Business school lesson in putting yourself out there and not being afraid to make mistakes. “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough,” says billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, whose list of accomplishments includes Pay-Pal and Tesla.

I have to admit, I am not intimately familiar with the Mariah Carey repertoire. Oddly, my favorite MC track, “All I Want for Christmas” is not included among my hundred or so holiday albums, which only serves to make it more exotic and special. The song is easily in my top five seasonal faves, and has even, some years, sat at No. 1. So when she emerged onstage from beneath a ginormous plume of feathers, belting out what seemed to be a pitch-perfect rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” on somewhat background TV, I was pleased and entertained. She then segued into another song I half recognized, “Emotions.” Different than I vaguely remembered it from the radio (circa 1991), in an age of remixes, I didn’t think much of that, and my New Year’s Eve attention-span segued to other things.

My immediate takeaway was how game Mariah Carey was to brave temperatures between 27 and 35 degrees in a boa and what looked like a bathing suit to perform for the crowd in Times Square, and wonderment over whether and how they might be heating the stage (no such equipment was visible). Dancing in the freezing cold struck me as beyond challenging.

A whole news cycle had passed before I learned Carey’s performance was being bashed as some sort of debacle, fingers pointing in all directions, which struck me as overly mean. Carey herself seemed to have a healthy attitude about it, sharing on Twitter that stuff happens and things don’t always go as planned. It’s hard to imagine anyone had their New Year’s celebration ruined by the unfortunate turn of events. The corollary to trying unusual things is sometimes it doesn’t work, a tenet understood by all preeminent risk-takers.

Discussing what separates people who get out there and live life from those who just dream, Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to act, and you’ve gotta be willing to fail. You’ve gotta be willing to crash and burn.” Or turn to inspirational art consultant Vincent Van Gogh, who said, “Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again. “

When you have a voice like Mariah Carey’s, you are always going to recover. That voice is a national treasure, and one can only be grateful that her “mistakes” don’t include ruining it through smoke or drink.

As for her logistical shortcomings on Saturday night, as Artist Group International president Marsha Vlasic says, “It’s never the artists’ fault.” Whether she means that literally or metaphorically is beside the point. It’s accurate. Mariah Carey’s team, as well as the production staff at Dick Clark, let her down. “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time,”quoth Shaw (in retrospect, a self-professed expert of the misstep).

If an artist of Carey’s calibre, creatively and commercially — with more than 200 million records sold worldwide, making her one of the most successful music acts of all time — doesn’t want to rehearse in frigid temperatures, the lesser accomplished mortals on whose shoulders it falls to make sure things are a success (and surely there are dozens of them), darn well better see to it. Carey seemed to make the best of a bad situation, with her ad libs and fancy footwork. No disgrace.

The only time I ever felt sorry for Mariah Carey was when her marriage to Tommy Mottola was coming undone. He Svengalied her to superstardom as president of Sony Music, a 15-year reign that ended in 2000. During that time, the company grew from $800 million in annual revenues to $2 billion, surely one of the most successful track records of any label executive in history. Mottola seemed to be a triple-A personality, and Carey seemed like a sad, caged bird. (Although her favored allegory was Rapunzel.)

In 2013 Mottola told Matt Lauer  on The Today Show, “If it seemed like I was controlling let me apologize.” He continued: “Well I think that anyone that is successful becomes obsessive with what they are trying to succeed at.” From the perspective of today’s events, it seems maybe Carey could have use someone with Mottola’s instincts on her team (although having to marry to attain it is a bit extreme). Mottola’s Pygmalion-like approach to tactical Carey would not have been unfamiliar to Shaw.

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance,” wrote the bearded playwright. Good idea! More practically: “Be responsible to know why things didn’t work in your favor and how you could have approached things differently,” it was written in Forbes, filed under inspirational leadership. “Because we live in a more short-term, rapid-paced world of work – we need to be more mindful of pacing ourselves, to take the time to self-evaluate and learn from our mistakes. ” We all make mistakes. Here’s wishing Mariah Carey a happy, healthy 2017. Anyone who has taken enjoyment in her music should be gracious enough to appreciate that she’s made an effort, even when it’s not perfect.


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