Before the ball dropped and 2016 finally came to an end, revelers in Times Square and viewers watching at home were treated to an incredibly awkward five minutes of Mariah Carey.
The pop diva had just finished singing “Auld Lang Syne” as part of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest.” Then the track of her 1991 hit “Emotions” began. “Got me feeling,” Carey attempted, before stopping and telling her backup dancers to “just walk me down” the stairs.
“We can’t hear,” she said. Throughout the rest of the song, Carey walked around the stage and alternated between attempting to sing a phrase and explaining what was happening.
“We didn’t have a check for this song, so we’ll just sing. It went to number one,” she said. “We’re missing some of the vocals, but it is what it is.”
A representative for Carey said there were a production issue and technical difficulties with the singer’s earpiece, adding “there unfortunately was nothing she could do to continue with the performance given the circumstances.”
And the singer with a wide vocal range tweeted her own brief explanation: “S— happens.”
Carey was the final headliner before the ball dropped. As “Emotions” continued, she held the microphone out to the crowd: “I say let the audience sing, okay?”
Finally the track ended. “That was,” Carey said, with a long pause, “amazing.”
Carey seemed to turn around the performance with another song, as she stood in place and sang “We Belong Together.” But midway through the 2005 track, she pulled the microphone away, revealing that she had apparently been lip-syncing. One of her backup dancers quickly showed up and walked her toward the front of the stage.
“Bring out the feathers — yes!” she said as the performance ended. “It just don’t get any better.”
Mariah Carey's disgusted sign off is a perfect goodbye to 2016 https://t.co/Ig35rXICTk
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 1, 2017
According to a statement from Carey’s representatives, the singer rehearsed the afternoon of the performance “with no sound issues” but just before taking the stage Saturday night, she alerted stage managers and producers that her earpiece wasn’t working, ABC News reported.
“They told her it would be fine once she was on stage. However, that was not the case and they were again told that her ear piece was not working,” the statement reads, ABC News reported. “Instead of endeavoring to fix the issue so that Mariah could perform, they went live.”
Carey’s representatives said she “was intent on honoring her commitment and therefore took the stage essentially flying blind,” and defended her use of a backing track as common for live performances, saying she wasn’t planning to lip-sync, ABC News reported.
“She was not ‘winging’ this moment and took it very seriously,” Nicole Perna, a publicist for Carey, told Billboard. “A shame that production set her up to fail.”
Dick Clark Productions said in a statement that an initial investigation found the company had “no involvement in the challenges associated with Ms. Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance.”
The company acknowledged that technical errors on live television happen in “very rare instances,” but said suggesting that Dick Clark Productions “would ever intentionally compromise the success of any artist is defamatory, outrageous and frankly absurd.”
It added: “We want to be clear that we have the utmost respect for Ms. Carey as an artist and acknowledge her tremendous accomplishments in the industry.”
This isn’t the first time Carey has been at the center of a botched high-profile performance. In 2014, she faltered during NBC’s annual “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” tree-lighting special, not hitting a bunch of notes during “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
She later apologized, tweeting that the “situation was beyond my control. I apologize to all that showed up, you know that I would never want to disappoint you.”
According to TMZ, she arrived three hours late for a taped performance because she was meeting with lawyers in the midst of her divorce, so producers had her sing live instead. The reaction to the Rockefeller gig online was pretty brutal, and Deadspin even published a video of her isolated, unedited vocals.
While this time that particular fate won’t meet Carey (as she barely sang), she did become Twitter’s top trending topic, as critics and defenders of the pop star rushed to broadcast their takes.
With 15 minutes left to 2016, you thought you'd seen the worst, then Mariah Carey happened #abcnye
— Gloria Fallon (@GloriaFallon123) January 1, 2017
Mariah Carey was like that one person in a group project who didn't do any of the work and now has to present the whole project
— Jennifer Sheng (@Jennifer_Sheng) January 1, 2017
Suffering from major secondhand embarrassment from this Mariah Carey performance
— Olivia Caridi (@OliviaCaridi) January 1, 2017
Everyone seems to enjoy crucifying Mariah Carey but I'm just thankful she always finds the courage to push on.
— Petty LaBelle (@fkapigs) January 1, 2017
Mariah Carey fails better than 99% of the world succeeds.
— Dave Holmes (@DaveHolmes) January 1, 2017
On Friday, Page Six published an item that reported extra attention was being given to make sure Carey showed up on time, citing a show “insider.”
And although the social media accounts of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” promoted Carey’s performance beforehand, there was no mention of it afterward — almost as if they wished it had never happened.
[This post has been updated.]