NEW YORK — This time, there were no malfunctions. And there was no hot tea either, but hey, it could have been worse. It could’ve been last year.
Mariah Carey, wearing a white fur coat, long earrings and a gold-colored glittery dress, took the stage in Times Square to close out 2017, one year after a debacle of a performance that could be a contender for the Mount Rushmore of live-television moments, right alongside Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction.
This time, Carey’s performance did not feature the backup dancers of last year. There was minimal choreography, as she stayed in mostly one spot onstage during a frigid New York City night. She started a two-song set at 11:38 p.m. with “Vision of Love,” her first single, from 1990. Before her second song — “Hero,” from 1993 — it seemed all was not well from Carey’s point of view. She wanted her tea. She wanted it then.
“Happy New Year!” Carey said, addressing the crowd. “Just want to take a sip of tea if they’ll let me. They told me there would be tea. Oh! It’s a disaster. OK. Well, we’ll just have to rough it. I’m going to be just like everybody else with no hot tea. But we’re going to try and do this one for you.”
Even without the tea, Carey’s performance gathered strength throughout the set without any obvious glitches — a marked improvement from last year. After the ball dropped at midnight, she was seen onstage on the ABC telecast, singing along with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” which was blaring over speakers. Minutes later, she gave a short interview to Ryan Seacrest, host of the night’s festivities for Dick Clark Productions.
“Oh, I’m feeling a lot better than last year, when I had to get my own police escort to walk away,” Carey said, after Seacrest asked how she was feeling.
Last year’s performance, a three-song set, was an abject, Murphy’s Law-level disaster. Carey started her set with the glitz one might expect of a pop star — again wearing a fur coat and surrounded by men holding feathers. After a flawless (and seemingly lip-synced) rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” problems began almost immediately with “Emotions,” Carey’s 1991 hit.
Within seconds, instead of singing the song, she ordered her dancers to “just walk me down,” referring to steps on the stage. And then she wished the crowd a happy New Year rather than sing the verse. The awkwardness increased exponentially from there, as Carey stood onstage without singing, throwing slight asides to the audience like, “We didn’t have a sound check but it’s New Year’s, baby, that’s OK, you guys,” and “I’m trying to be a good sport here.” She repeatedly complained of not being able to hear the monitor. There was clear lip-syncing.
But this time, both sides pulled out every stop to make sure there was no repeat. Carey personally sound checked the performance hours in advance.
It paid off. In a made-for-television act of pop culture redemption, Carey’s performance made it to the finish line, except for the desire for hot tea. In subzero wind chill, who could blame her? After “Hero” finished, the camera went back to Seacrest.
“And that is why she is Mariah Carey,” Seacrest said.