So I'll admit, when the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2017, I wasn't paying much attention to the TV and we were watching the "ball drop" here in Toronto, not in NY. It wasn't until the next day that I heard Mariah Carey had yet another public blunder, in front of a lot of people. I've watched it a couple times and still really don't know what happened. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that it was out of her control but still, she's a veteran, she's a professional and she just sort of stood there and let it all fall apart.
The event made me think of quite a few things, which I will share with you now.
You could hear Mariah's voice coming through the backing track on some parts, specifically the super high notes, meaning she was going to either lip synch through them or perhaps talk over them but she obviously wasn't going to try to hit those notes live. I think most times, the average audience member is too far away to tell when someone is lip synching (unless something absolutely terrible happens - Ashlee Simpson on SNL comes to mind) but I think it's a shame that people ever do - to me it's cheating. There are bands that have made careers out of it (Boney M, one of my personal favourites, did full on 90 min shows lip synching, badly, over their own studio recordings - which sadly was a significant improvement to their live attempts). I remember once when we were singing at Scotiabank Buskerfest, an audience member could be heard over the din, saying we weren't really singing, that we had assistance. To me, that was one of the best compliments that we ever got, because no, we weren't but we were performing and harmonizing so well that this guy thought we were in the very least, enhanced. Occasionally I will say to an audience "all you're hearing is our four voices and this tambourine" and that all started because of what this guy had said.
Recently Glenn showed us a video of Patti LaBelle in a difficult situation, singing at the White House that is comparable to Mariah's NYE performance, which you can see here.
It just blows my mind that these professionals would ever sing live without having a grasp on the lyrics. People ask us all the time how we remember all the lyrics to our songs... it's not hard, it's called muscle memory. I would never in a million years step on the stage of the White House if I didn't know my song inside out and backwards... just blows my mind.
However, the real reason of this post is to tell this story...
In 2010, George Scott, After Hours' tenor of 13 years announced he was leaving. He gave us a lot of notice so we had time to find a suitable replacement. We had put out an ad and had arranged a couple auditions. This story is about one of the last people to reply to the ad, we'll call him Mr. Mariah.
Mr. Mariah was a very good looking model (seriously) who had a passion for singing. He had a great lead voice, a decent high range and harmonizing ability. Wanting to sing in a group was a new idea for him but he had a couple videos on YouTube that were quite entertaining and sounded nice. He auditioned with "I Believe I Can Fly" by R Kelly and we thought it was fate since George absolutely detested that song, so it seemed fitting the guy replacing him would audition with that, we couldn't help but laugh. He nailed the song, which is not an easy one to sing, so the position was his.
We had a few rehearsals with him that went pretty well. However, things took a turn one day when he came to see me for a one on one vocal lesson. First he told me that he thought doo-wop was boring (which was obviously going to be a problem) and that, wait for it, going forward he wanted After Hours to only do MARIAH CAREY COVERS!
As they say, all good things must come to an end, and thus, that was the end of Mr. Mariah.
Truth is, while we've never covered a Mariah Carey song and unlikely ever will, our bass Jon Pong can actually hit Mariah's top notes.
Just ask him to do it and I'm sure he'll oblige, you can tell him I sent you.