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Who’s to Blame for Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve Performance Debacle?

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31: Singer Mariah Carey performs during New Year's Eve 2017 in Times Square on December 31, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/FilmMagic)

If you weren’t watching on New Year’s Eve and spent the rest of the weekend in noble observation of a resolution to cut down on using the internet, perhaps you haven’t yet seen the baffling spectacle that was Mariah Carey’s performance in Times Square. If you’ve already seen it, you’re probably wondering: how in the world did that happen, and whose fault was it?

Carey was performing as part of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest, the baroquely titled ball-drop special on ABC, when an apparent problem with her in-ear monitors caused her to give up singing her 1991 hit “Emotions” entirely. While her backup dancers gamely tried to keep the show going and millions of viewers watched at home, Carey spent the entire song strutting back and forth across the stage and muttering complaints about the sound into the microphone. “That was amazing,” she said as she finished, which is one word for what happened. If you haven’t seen it, you should stop what you’re doing right now and watch it below.

Naturally, no one wants to take the blame for the debacle, and Carey’s camp and Dick Clark Productions have spent the first days of 2017 sniping at each other through the press. Billboard has a good rundown of the allegations made by each side. Stella Bulochnikov, Carey’s manager, blamed DCP for the failure of the singer’s in-ear monitors. (These are wireless headphones that play the backing track and the microphone feed of the performer’s own voice, so you can hear yourself singing over a noisy crowd.) “After the show, I called [Dick Clark Productions’] Mark Shimmel and I said, ‘What the f— happened?’ He said, ‘Let me call you back,’ then called me back and confirmed the in-ears were not working and asked if I would make a joint statement. I said, ‘No way,'” Bulochnikov told Billboard. She also noted that DCP and ABC chose not to cut Carey’s performance from the West Coast broadcast of the show, which aired three hours later, and accused them of wanting “eyeballs at any expense.”

In response DCP issued a statement calling the claims from Carey’s team “defamatory, outrageous and frankly absurd.” The statement read:

“As the premier producer of live television events for nearly 50 years, we pride ourselves on our reputation and long-standing relationships with artists. To suggest that dcp, as producer of music shows including the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and Academy of Country Music Awards, would ever intentionally compromise the success of any artist is defamatory, outrageous and frankly absurd. In very rare instances there are of course technical errors that can occur with live television, however, an initial investigation has indicated that dcp had no involvement in the challenges associated with Ms. Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance. We want to be clear that we have the utmost respect for Ms. Carey as an artist and acknowledge her tremendous accomplishments in the industry.”

Both sides seem to agree that there was a problem with the monitors–the question is whether Carey’s handlers or DCP was responsible for making sure they were operating correctly. However, according to one of Billboard‘s sources at the production, there was an even bigger complicating factor: Mariah didn’t show up to practice. The singer had “had ample time to rehearse,” the source said, “and chose not to.”