October 5th, 2009
04:33 PM ET

Mariah Carey: 'Imperfect' and fascinating

You learn a lot about diva-dom when you’re standing 10 feet away from a Mariah Carey performance, as I was Friday. Everything is done with extravagance: the lashes, the Christian Louboutin boots, the skin-tight dress revealing ample cleavage, the long tresses blowing in a gentle breeze provided by strategically placed fans. Check out the scene:

At one point, when Carey’s one-of-a-kind voice reached for the crescendo of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” a sudden burst of gold streamers showered her and her backing choir.

Ridiculous? Well, sure. But it’s also spectacular.

From the moment Carey stepped onto the “Today” show stage in Rockefeller Center early on Friday morning to perform a few cuts from her new album, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” her presence hit you like a perfumed hurricane. Fan or not, at close range Mariah Carey is utterly beguiling.

The best-selling female artist of the ‘90s, Carey has sold a whopping 160 million plus albums worldwide during the course of her impressive, if at times rocky, career. She also pulled off one of the most successful comebacks in music history, with her post-breakdown album “The Emancipation of Mimi” becoming the top seller of 2005 in the U.S.

And with the glow of her 18-month marriage to fellow singer Nick Cannon still obvious (they cuddled and kissed on stage after Friday’s set), as well as the positive reviews she’s getting for her acting role in the upcoming film “Precious,” Carey looked happy.

When we stepped onto her massive tour bus for an interview, it was clear she was a little drained from her “Today” performance, but she was perfectly pleasant and un-diva-like.

I was just getting Carey, who turns 40 next year, to talk about the significance of the word “imperfect” in her album title, when I was told to wrap it up.

Seriously? We were only 40 seconds into the interview.

Apparently the bus had overstayed its welcome on 49th Street, and the police outside were getting edgy. Mariah’s caravan had to push off.

Seconds after she shook my hand and said with sincerity that she wished we could’ve chatted longer, my cameraman and I found ourselves back on the street with scores of screaming fans.

Feeling slightly dejected, we watched as Carey’s chariot – all white and adorned with larger-than-life images of the same scantily clad Carey you see on her album cover – drove away.

No, Mariah isn’t perfect. And maybe that’s why we can’t stop looking.

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