(Opinion) “This is what I deal with when I come into my ‘job’ every day,” said Mariah Carey on last night’s installment of American Idol, with the most positively sardonic eye roll a diva could muster.
Fellow judge Nicki Minaj had angered Carey, turning down Chicago contestant Stephanie Schimel for copying the rapper’s cartoonish purple eye shadow. However, it wasn’t Minaj who seemed most ridiculous in this instance. The way Carey referred to her $18 million per season “job” was packed with loathing, a hatred of the mundane, and general resentment.
Serving as a judge on American Idol is a coveted platform for many musicians, due to the increased visibility it gives their own work and image. However, for Carey, it is strangely like flipping burgers—an unsavory vocation rather than a profession.
The way Carey phrased the retort, compounded with her later comment that Idol was her first “real” job (she is 42), begs the question of how she landed on the talent competition in the first place.
All jokes aside, Mariah Carey is the best selling female artist of all time, having sold over 200 million records in her twenty-year career. Carey’s 1990s fusion of rap and R&B, exemplified best in 1995’s “Fantasy” featuring ODB was not merely innovative, but downright revolutionary.
Before Carey, R&B princesses didn’t collaborate with bad boy rappers. Now the “diva/thug” duet, as it has been affectionately monikered, is the new norm. Mere weeks ago, even the most mainstream of pop artists–Britney Spears—enlisted Wil.i.am for a boost on “Scream and Shout.”
Carey’s dizzying string of success included the Puffy collaboration “Honey,” Jay-Z duet “Heartbreaker,” and most recently, the R&B jammer “We Belong Together.” At her peak, Carey blended R&B vocals, rap beats, and pop trends like no other, until a few years ago. Starting with 2009’s pop ditty “Obsessed,” Carey strayed a bit too far from her R&B roots, putting out singles that attempted to please radio, rather than direct it.
So, like Jennifer Lopez before her, she accepted American Idol’s offer, albeit with a bit more reluctance. What Carey hopes to do with the platform is unclear, as she has yet to announce new music for 2013.
As long as tear soaked Idol wannabes keep prostrating themselves before her, she will never feel the pressure to get back in touch with what put her on such a pedestal: talent, coupled with immense creativity and innovation.
If Idol premiere week has demonstrated one thing, it is that Season 12 will be about Mariah Carey, and contestants will have to battle her ego to merely get a note in edgewise.
When a contestant sang Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”, she delightedly replied “It sure was! It still is darling” to an eye roll from Minaj. As if we needed reminding, Carey’s diva delusion rivals no one. “You’re having a lavender moment I really like” she said to a contestant wearing a purple turban, before requesting something from producers for her “parched” mouth.
Ironically, it is her ego that is forcing her to sit on the judges panel, as her notorious diva behavior, head-tilting marriage to Nick Cannon, and birth of twins Moroccan (named for the decor of a room in Carey’s Tribeca penthouse) and Monroe have made any of her recent musical efforts seem unfocused at best.
So, for now, bickering with Nicki Minaj is Carey’s new game, where she can ruffle her bedazzled diva feathers, but also distract America from pondering how Mariah Carey ended up with this “job” in the first place.