Has Mariah Carey Psyched Out Her Voice?

Jul 8th, 2009 // 4 Comments

So what’s up with Mariah Carey’s voice? Was she feeling the emotions welling up from Michael Jackson’s death during her slightly off performance yesterday, as she claimed—or is her voice just shot from Choire Sicha at The Awl thinks it might be the latter, based on an interview he conducted with her a few years back where they discussed just how her voice made its octave-leaping sounds. “I do really have different vocal cords,” she told Sicha at the time. “It’s because they’re not––I don’t use my voice the way different people use their vocal cords. A lot of people couldn’t sing through the nodules the way I do; I’ve learned to sing through my vocal cords.” How did she do this? Through the power of her mind! Sicha explains, and then theorizes:

So she would regularly go to Dr. Scott Kessler and together they would look at pictures of her vocal folds. To produce her trademark high-pitch sounds, she sings through her nodules, or at least, conceives of singing through them; sites of damage created most likely by, well, creating those high-pitch sounds.


Over the years, it’s pretty obvious that there have been changes to Carey’s voice. (Also she seems like a much happier person, and one that is making better music!) And what remains is a pretty luscious, hissy thing. But you also get the sense that everything is so completely jury-rigged between her mind and her throat. And it looks to me, watching both yesterday’s and other recent performance, that while she is singing, she’s seriously thinking through what will “fail” in the right way, to produce a stop, or allow her to pull off melisma, or jump about between voices, producing a pleasing effect—and what might possibly fail in a bad way, ending in disaster. I think that while she is singing, she is in a bit of panic about manufacturing sound.



Hmm. Hmm! Well, “panic” certainly did come into play yesterday somehow. And I can see the whole idea of the “failing” that worked in the old days not playing the correct sorts of tricks now–Carey, after all, has been singing professionally for some 19 years now, as the below clip of collected performances would indicate:





Honestly I kind of like her voice best when it isn’t trying so hard. Like on “I’ll Be Lovin’ You Long Time,” which was pretty straightforwardly awesome, possibly in part because it was free of unnecessary high-C leaps:



That chorus is a thing of beauty, too.


Is Mariah Carey’s Voice Just Done For? [The Awl]

  1. I notice she didn’t apologise or make excuses for her whole series of awful vocal performances over the last year. She was outsung by a decent percentage of a pretty poor bunch of X-Factor contestants in late 2008 and positively shamed the same show by the subsequent performances of the likes of Beyonce and Leona Lewis. She was marginally better than Britney though.

  2. She’s got little to prove. Very few people ever have sung better.

  3. @juiceandgin: agreed.

    and thank you Maura for once again repping “lovin you long time,” easily my favorite Mariah song since her glory days in the 90′s. It’s a classic.

    I do think her voice has declined a great deal (she certainly can’t pull off the whistle register anymore) and it is somewhat of a shame, but at the same time I think it’s ok for her voice to change as long as she doesn’t try to shoehorn into what it used to do.

  4. manuel2210

    she didnt do awful vocal performances!!! but WHEN AND WHICH ONEEEEE?? her voice crack on I'll be there?? that was the only performance when she did a bad note and all over 20 years of carreer !!! only one bad note !!OMG and the rest of the song was amazing !! but people only focus when her voice crack !!! Madonna sings bad since 1983 Whitney houston since 2000 and what??? Mariah only did a bad note !!!

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