Judge John Floyd knows that Glitter wasn't gold, but just about everything else Mariah Carey touches is.
"If you don't take the risks, you'll never experience the adventure!"
The best-selling female artist in the history of popular music hits the road for the best-selling concert tour of her nearly two decade career, behind the best-selling album of 2005, The Emancipation of Mimi. This three-disc set demonstrates perfectly the numerous reasons for Carey's enduring global popularity and phenomenal, ongoing success.
Facts of the Case
Disc One of Mariah Carey: The Adventures of Mimi features a high-energy performance at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, a Jukebox option that allows you to play the featured songs in your own chosen sequence, and a Select-a-Song option. Disc Two includes a documentary about the tour and the Anaheim show, a Karaoke option featuring six of Carey's most beloved tunes (which can be played with or without the singer's vocals), and a trio of comedic shorts about her detractors, entitled "Lovers & Haters." Disc Three is an interactive DVD-Rom offering a still gallery, six-month membership to the singer's online fan club, ringtones, wallpapers, and other bonus materials.
As I write this review, Mariah Carey sits atop the Billboard charts with her record-setting 18th #1 single, "Touch My Body" (from her upcoming album, E=MC²). That's an average of one chart-topping hit per year since the release of her self-titled debut album in 1990, and more #1 songs than any other artist in history except the Beatles. Carey was the only musician to top the Billboard Hot 100 in every year of the 1990s, and remains the only female solo artist ever to sell more than 50,000,000 albums in the U.S. The multi-racial, Long Island native has overcome poverty and prejudice, personal turmoil, and seismic shifts in pop music trends to become a true icon of the recording industry, and she shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Despite this, Carey still takes plenty of heat from the media and some members of the music-buying public.
There are those who maintain that Carey's success is solely the result of her relationship with record executive Tommy Mottola, despite the fact that their marriage ended a decade ago, and the singer has scored 10 #1 hits and won dozens of awards (including an Oscar for Best Original Song for "When You Believe," from The Prince of Egypt) since their split. Others argue that she is all curves and a high voice, completely ignoring the fact that she wrote or co-wrote 17 of her 18 chart-topping songs (exactly 17 more than were penned by the next best-selling solo artist, Elvis Presley), and most of the other material on her 11 studio albums to date. Some call her a diva who is difficult to work with, despite a laundry list of successful collaborations with artists as diverse as Whitney Houston, Carole King, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Luther Vandross, and Aretha Franklin. Some say she betrayed her musical roots by gradually introducing more hip-hop flavor into her albums, apparently unconvinced that such diversification was wise in spite of the numerous hits she's produced since her earliest collaborations with rappers on 1995's Daydream. Many critics bemoan the increased emphasis on sex appeal in her videos, unimpressed that Carey was one of the first pop singers to eschew starvation diets and embrace a full-figured look, and unmoved by the fact that she works so hard to maintain her appearance that she looks better at 38 than most women do at 25. Some detractors, citing her hospitalization for exhaustion during the 2001 Glitter debacle, even maintain that Carey is mentally unstable. Of course, in 18 years in the public eye, she has no history of drug problems or unruly public behavior, has never been in trouble with the law, recovered from that infamous "breakdown" in just a few months (with no further incident since), and has gone on to even greater professional success than ever before despite the bad press that followed. A close look at her relatively stable life and staggering record of achievement should prompt even those who are not fans of her music to wonder whether these critics are just looking for an excuse to tear down the multi-platinum singer.
Mariah Carey: The Adventures of Mimi ably illustrates the versatility and accessibility of the artist behind the multi-faceted image. Onstage in front of thousands of fans, the woman who was once accused by naysayers of being too reliant on studio production techniques to perform live appears as comfortable and energetic as she would singing at a party with her closest friends. As always, Carey played a major part in designing the impressive stage sets, compiling a seamless song list that playfully contrasts similar-themed and -styled hits from various periods in her career, and even choreographing the back-up dancers, her influence on every facet of the tour contributing to the revelatory nature of the featured concert. Backstage in the accompanying documentary and featurette, she speaks candidly about the various artistic decisions that went into the show, and the ups and downs of the tour as a whole. In the "Lovers & Haters" shorts, she has fun lampooning the cruel, often outrageous claims made by her most outspoken critics. Just as 1997's Butterfly was a declaration of independence from Mottola's oppressive control, The Emancipation of Mimi was the artist's way of breaking the chains of public perception following the failure of Glitter and its mediocre soundtrack, and this concert video showcases the confident, resilient Mariah Carey that has emerged since its release.
Carey looks and sounds spectacular onstage. Her coy, flirtatious interplay with the audience, her revealing wardrobe, and some subtle but memorable tweaking of the arrangements of her signature hits instantly engage the audience, and her legendary voice is as strong as it has been since her early recording days. A host of familiar faces also appears during the show via video clips on the stage's multiple screens, including Da Brat, Jay-Z, and the late ODB. Trey Lorenz joins the diva onstage to perform their beautiful, show-stopping cover of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" (first recorded by the duo on MTV's Unplugged in 1992). Even better is a surprise appearance by Boyz II Men, revisiting their chart-topping, tear-jerking Carey collaboration, "One Sweet Day." The song set a record in 1995 that still stands today by remaining at #1 for 16 consecutive weeks, and its bittersweet power is still undeniable in this rare joint performance more than a decade later.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There isn't much negative to say about this set. The bonus materials are plentiful and fun for Carey's fans, old and new alike. The video and sound are topnotch. About the only complaint I can make is that the free temporary membership to the "Honey B. Fly" fan club requires a credit card number, and your account will be automatically renewed and your card charged if you don't cancel before the initial 6-month trial expires.
Love her or hate her, Mariah Carey has been a fixture of popular music over the last two decades, and this concert exemplifies all of the qualities that have made her so. Longtime fans will love the lively stage performance and backstage insights, while new fans will be introduced to many of the early tracks that lead to The Emancipation of Mimi's artistic confidence and strength. Even Carey's most ardent detractors will be hard pressed to find fault with her powerhouse performance here.
Not guilty. Watch Carey perform 16 years ago on Unplugged before
watching this entertaining DVD and you'll rightly conclude that she has not only
fully matured as an artist and earned her countless accolades, but will continue
to be a force in pop music for many, many years to come. Court is adjourned so
that the presiding judge may head over to Best Buy and wait in line to pick up
his copy of E=MC²!
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