Mariah Carey’s team is fed up with feeling attacked and is ready to candidly elaborate on what exactly happened during the singer’s infamous performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Below Carey’s manager Stella Bulochnikov, who was by the singer’s side at the event, runs through what went down Saturday in detail to try and clear up the conflicting accounts about the ABC performance — which was marred by the singer’s audio issues. Over the past couple days, the singer has been accused of lip-syncing and even skipping the show’s rehearsal. Producer Dick Clark Productions has slammed any insinuation that they’re to blame for the fiasco as “absurd” (see their statement here), but here’s Bulochnikov with her recollection of the events.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So first, let’s talk about the rehearsal. There are anonymous production sources quoted as saying Carey skipped it?
Stella Bulochnikov: Not true. Not only did she not ditch rehearsal, we got to Times Square at 2:30. They weren’t ready for her until 3:20. We waited around for their stage manager. We had the stage from 3:20 to 3:50. She had a dance stand-in for the musical number. She sat on the side of the stage with her ear-pack and her in-ears and her microphone to make sure she could do the sound check. The most important thing to her was the sound. The sound was coming in choppy. She was assured it would work by the evening.
She did an interview with Ryan Seacrest at about 10:35 where her in-ear was very choppy. She could barely hear Ryan. She was struggling to hear him through the noise of Times Square.
We then went to [producer] Mark Shimmel’s assigned talent executive to Mariah. And I said, “Her in-ears do not work, it’s choppy, we need new ears for the performance.” She said, “Those are not the ears she’ll be working with for the performance. The ears she will be working with are in the trailer.” We went to the trailer at 10:45. She did touch-ups because she’s supposed to go on at 11:38. We put in the ears and did the mic pack. We walked to the holding tent about 11:20. We told both stage managers — remember this is not our production team, we’re out-sourcing our team which we never do — we told them the mic pack is not working. She can’t hear it, it’s faint. They brought her a new one, and that one didn’t work either, the mic pack was dead. They changed the battery pack. She said she still couldn’t hear. The second stage manager said, “It doesn’t work here in the tent, it will work on the stage.” She said, “Great, let’s go to the stage.”
It’s now four minutes to showtime. She says, “I hear nothing in my ears, my ears are dead.” The other stage manager says, “It will work right when we go live.” Then things start to get chaotic. They start counting her down — four minutes, three minutes. Mariah: “I can’t hear.” Them: “You’re gonna hear when it goes live — two minutes!”
So, right when it goes live, she can’t hear anything. The ears are dead. They’re dead. So she pulls them out of the ear because if the artist keeps them in their ears then all she hears is silence. Once she pulled them off her ear she was hoping to hear her music, but because of the circumstances — there’s noise from Times Square and the music is reverberating from the buildings — all she hears is chaos. She can’t hear her music. It’s a madhouse. At the point, there’s no way to recover.
On the third song when she could hear her track playing it was so bad she said, “F— it, I’ve had enough.”
Was there an attempt from her team to get her off the stage earlier? At one point one of her backup dancers seemed to motion her to get off the stage.
She should have walked off and thrown the mic at somebody’s head — that would have been a great moment. After the show, I called Mark Shimmel — who begged her to do the show and had her cut her vacation short from Aspen. This is a verbatim conversation. I asked, “What happened?” He said, “I just talked to my guys and I confirmed her in-ears didn’t work. Couldn’t she just wing it?” I’m like, “What are you talking about ‘winging it’? Are you on glue?” He’s like, “What do you want me to do?” I said, “I want you to cut the West Coast feed.” He calls me back and says, “We can’t do it.” So I’m like, “You would prefer to air a show with technical glitches so you can have a viral moment rather than protect the integrity of your show and Dick Clark Productions?” He said, “We just won’t do it. Do you want to do a joint statement?” And I said, “No, I want you to go f— yourself.” And that was it. I don’t think it was an unfair ask to ask them to cut [the segment from] the West Coast feed after they had this huge mechanical glitch.
What happened with Carey after she left the stage?
She was gracious enough to walk over to Seacrest and do the ball-drop moment and then she left.
How’s she feeling today about all this?
She’s just ignoring it. She’s got so many more important things to do. And this goes under the heading of “no good deed” because she was doing them a favor. Shimmel’s direct request was, “I’m begging you to do this. America needs this moment after Donald Trump, etc.” What a bunch of nonsense.
I can understand the frustration there if they knew her audio wasn’t working and then sent her out live on stage anyway.
But even when it didn’t work [when live], when she pulled her ears out, they should have cut to commercial. That says to me they wanted a viral moment at any expense. And that’s not a company with integrity for 50-something years. That’s not who Dick Clark was. He loved artists.
Fans are also accusing her of lip-syncing. From watching the video, it looked like part of the performance was meant to be lip-synced and part of it wasn’t?
No. It’s not lip-syncing. Lip-syncing is when people don’t sing at all. This is what people should understand. Every artist sings to a track, especially in circumstances like that when it’s really loud and impossible to have a great musical performance. You’re not singing at the Philharmonic. Every artist who goes out there sings to tracks. What Mariah was doing was singing to tracks. What you heard on the second song, “Emotions,” was her going to sing it live. That’s why you heard no vocals. It’s a song she sings every other day.
At least they are acknowledging there was a technical problem, though?
But to not apologize to her formally? That’s disgusting. We live in this viral world where anybody will do anything for a viral moment.
Dick Clark Productions didn’t have any immediate additional comment. This article has been updated since it was first published.