[Note: not so much a review as a full-on recap and discussion…I’d say *spoilers ahead* except you already know she’s going to sing…right? So let’s get into what she wore and to whom she was bitchy.]
Some might say that a “premise” isn’t really necessary for a Mariah Carey Christmas Special. She’s practically Christmas royalty – hand her a microphone and we’re set. But nobody ever accused Mariah of not being extra, and so we have this:
Tiffany Haddish opens up a book and begins reading a Christmas tale about the year 2020 and how it was very difficult for people, resulting in a general lack of Christmas cheer. We check in with Billy the Elf (Billy Eisner) at the North Pole, who confirms the numbers are dangerously low. He greets Millie Bobby Brown, Bette Midler, and Heidi Klum, who concur (a random consortium, but I’ll take it). Billy surmises that there’s really only one thing to be done:
Cut to: Mariah Carey in a body-con holiday onesie the envy of ski bunnies everywhere, trimming the tree with her beautiful twins, Monroe and Moroccan, and a third child who’s basically just there to do the acting on their behalf. Unfortunately, no such stand-in is available for Mariah, who gives the most wooden Mariah Carey performance of her life (in fairness, she is probably physically incapable of moving her face). Mariah’s secret Santa phone is ringing, and she is summoned to the North Pole to save Christmas the way only Mariah Carey can. To the Batcave! Or the secret Christmas cave behind the fireplace anyway, where a self-propelled sleigh is awaiting to to whisk her away to the North Pole.
Anyway, she arrives to the North Pole like she is its Queen, and she kind of basically is. As “Santa’s Great Friend,” her arrival merits a parade thrown in her honour, rolled out so quickly they must keep it on standby and rehearse it periodically, like funerals for all the members of the royal family.
Or, I suppose I should say the “North Pole” – we’ve really taken increasing artistic license with the North Pole over the years. The geographic North Pole is found in the Arctic Ocean, on constantly shifting pieces of sea ice. It’s mostly just the sea ice, icebergs, and glaciers up there (no, those aren’t synonyms), with plant life mostly limited to grasses, mosses and lichens, not the oodles of evergreens Christmas Special set decorators are prone to overuse.
Mariah consents, from the bottom of her generous
bosom heart to give a concert that will bring cheer to all who hear it. In her first costume change (out of 6.5), she appears in a glittering gold gown and stands beside a red lacquered piano to belt out the first of many Christmas carols.
In a third outfit, a short red and black dress with an impressively unnecessary train, she greets Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri for a song, Snoop Dogg looking like he’s blissed out on some sort of special elf blend in a big red Santa suit he’s not remotely self-conscious about. And then Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson join her on stage, and by join her I mean quite visibly play back up singer to Mariah Carey’s lead singer. Wearing green dresses (Ariana in a cute velvet number and Jennifer looking like an absolute vision in sequins) and standing slightly behind and to the sides of Ms.
Diva Carey, flanking her like they’re definitely not the stars of this special. When Mariah hits those high whistle notes of hers with a finger in her ear (an affectation when you’re lip-syncing, sure, but Mariah Carey is like 117% affectation), you might almost believe she’s doing it to block out Ms. Grande who’s joining her up in that upper register, but no, Mariah Carey has marked her territory and no one could mistake this as anything but her show. Not even Misty Copeland, ballerina extraordinaire, who’s up next.
Then there’s the silver dress which Mariah wears standing out in the “forest.” Let’s take a moment to shout out the formidable wardrobe department who help Mariah’s considerable assets defy gravity with a minimum of straps or structural support. This, above all, is the magic in Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special. Her wig department is no less overworked but a little less technically proficient. The silver dress segment has her sporting a windblown look that stays windblown even without her dedicated wind machines, of which there are many.
Next we have the great big white dress that takes up nearly the entire stage. If you saw a woman wearing it down the aisle you’d wonder who the hell she think she is (Celine Dion?). She could be hiding several Billy Eichners under there. But then, for the next song, it seems the voluminous skirt is removed to reveal a fitted mermaid dress underneath, with sheer cutouts, no sleeves, and plenty of cleave. This is the portion of our evening in which Mariah will now heal the world, and she does it with two things: candle light, and extensive humming. If you’re thinking about watching this special, BYOC (bring your own candle). Millie, Heidi, and Bette all seem to have been cured. Billy Eichner confirms up: cheer is alive and well! Mariah has indeed saved the day, as we all knew she would.
Tiffany Haddish closes the book on Mariah’s Christmas miracle, but have no fear, we’re all heading back to the North Pole for one last number, and Mariah will be joined onstage by her children, who are pretty enthusiastic little dancers. Her encore deserves one last costume change, into a military/nutcracker inspired red sequined number that is worthy of the song that inspired the special, All I Want For Christmas Is You. Mariah Carey could be cryogenically frozen the other 11 months of the year and just rolled out for Christmas, and to add another billion to her bank account for a song she co-wrote and co-produced with Walter Afanasieff. That song gains in popularity every damn year, it’s a modern Christmas classic and it keeps her busy all December long, belting it out at every tree lighting ceremony across the country. It even broke the record for the longest trip to the number one position, reaching the spot 25 years after the song’s original release. It’s her bread and butter and has the coveted last spot in her Christmas Special (though it’s teased earlier). It’s exactly the kind of special you need around the holidays, and it couldn’t contain any more Mariah per square inch without exploding.