pop by other means

Mariah Carey Still Loves Being No. 1, Duh

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Don’t be fooled by that time she put her feet up while hawking bedazzled jewelry on live television for the Home Shopping Network. Mariah Carey has no chill. She does not relax. She can’t. When you love winning this much, chill and relax are not in your vocabulary. Those words won’t help you add to your legion of devoted fans, five Grammys, 18 No. 1 singles, and 19 World Music Awards. They won’t help you during your upcoming residency on the Vegas strip or sell copies of your fourth iteration of a greatest-hits album. Chilling is for losers.

America’s first encounter with Mariah Carey’s lack of chill is probably best remembered by her legendary MTV Cribs episode, during which she showed off her massive shoe collection, her glazed walls, and her shower with “too many knobs” for her to bother. So she took a bath. It was later revealed that this attempt to look soothed and calm was all a ruse; she was wearing a bodysuit under those bubbles, you fools! Mariah Carey, like Tobias Fünke, is probably a never nude. Also like Tobias Fünke, Carey doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

Her shared experience in 2012 as a judge on American Idol with Nicki Minaj is a perfect example. Minaj repeatedly tried to upstage Carey during the season by having the gall to pretend that her opinion mattered in Carey’s presence. Carey would have none it, frequently undermining Minaj’s feedback during contestants’ auditions. Eventually, Minaj told producers, “I’m not fucking putting up with her fucking highness over there,” and even walked off the set once before threatening to Glock her co-panelist. Really, the incident boiled down to Minaj trying to steal Carey’s crown for best fake smile.

Mariah Carey is the trillest, and by that I mean trill in the operatic sense, like a trilling of the voice. Her mother was a trained opera singer, and unlike more recent pop divas (Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande notwithstanding), she didn’t get to where she is by being irresistibly charming or a mesmerizing enchantress. Her voice, like Kim Kardashian’s butt, is her very best asset, and she takes it seriously. So her recent single “Infinity” ends with ten seconds of her signature falsetto, followed by a playful melisma. If you read between the lines, what she’s really saying is, Fall back, bitches. I’m still the queen, and, Duh.

To commoners who only remember last year’s fail during the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” performance, the single’s brazenness will come as a shock. They’ve forgotten who this is. Carey has more No. 1 singles than Elvis Presley, a fact that she wants to remind everyone of with the release of yet another greatest-hits compilation, the upcoming #1 to Infinity. She’s also in Las Vegas for a residency at Caesar’s Palace beginning May 6, following previous divas like Celine Dion, Cher, Bette Midler, and Shania Twain, darling. She arrived there on Monday in a 1936 pink convertible before men dressed like gladiators carried her through the casino on a platform. “No matter what, we’re going to make it into a festive moment, darling. It’s an extravaganza,” she said.

Although Carey calls “Infinity” “a re-emancipation,” we all know what that really means: It’s a kiss-off dedicated to her ex-husband Nick Cannon, who is corny like Fritos. In 2011, Carey told Barbara Walters, “Nobody will ever be able to steal my spirit again.” She was still married to Cannon at the time, and the pair had just had #DemBabies, twins Monroe and Moroccan. Carey even admitted to Walters that she only trusted Cannon sometimes. “He’s a man, Barbara!” No chill, even in matrimony. Of course, Carey’s last album, Me. I Am Mariah … the Elusive Chanteuse, was a flop, but she blames that on her former record label. It was her last album for Def Jam before returning to her original home at Sony, where she met her first husband, Tommy Mottola. After she divorced him, she released some of the best music of her career, including “Heartbreaker,” “Shake It Off,” and “We Belong Together.”

Being a legend is a full-time job. It requires tactical precision on par with Carl von Clausewitz. Pop music, as any diva will tell you, is a war zone, and Mimi is a skilled vet determined to stay relevant and to stay on top — at all costs. “In this world I call the shots and I think I know best,” she once told Glamour. Because it’s her world, you see. We’re just living in it, and you should probably just get out of her way.