The Improvisation of Mimi: Mariah Carey + Jimmy Fallon = Surprise!

Vincent Anthony
6 Min Read

It was a little misty on that warm November night… when I started my 2.5 hour drive into Manhattan to tape a “Fan Video for Mariah Carey” with Jimmy Fallon. The day before, I received an invitation from Jimmy Fallon’s team to come to a taping for Mariah Carey. For Mariah Carey? Not with Mariah Carey? Nope. They said Jimmy wanted to interview her fans and get our “thoughts and reactions” to her new song, “The Art of Letting Go.” She’d be on the show the following day, and they’d show the video to Mariah. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant. At the time, I was living on Eastern Long Island and it was a Monday night. The prospect of driving to Manhattan and back on a work night wasn’t exactly on the top of my Monday to-do list. But… it was for Mariah, so I consulted a close friend and heeded her advice: “just go.” So, I went.

When I arrived at the recording studio, they collected our phones and essentially put us into quarantine in a holding room of sorts. There we sat, a group of Lambs, waiting with no idea about what was about to happen to us. We chatted, discussing Mariah for at least two hours as we waited to head into the taping.

Finally, it began. They told us they’d bring us up in groups of four, and then go onto the rooftop for some pizza afterwards. So, off we went, group by group. Except the groups never returned back to our waiting room, so as we waited, we still had no idea what was going on. Naturally, I ended up in the last group, and I guess they were tired of filming so they brought us in as a group of 8 and up we went.

We sat altogether on some couches in the recording studio, there alongside Jimmy who was bopping along to the song. I am a super shy person especially with a camera in front of me. I remember feeling so weird about how I must look “reacting” to the song “for the first time,” even though I had already heard it (like, duh!). However, I wanted to please the Queen in our video message for her, so… there I was, hoping she’d appreciate the #moment.

Little did any of us know… but Mariah was HIDING IN THE CLOSET. When the song’s bridge started, out she popped from the recording booth which, unbeknownst to us, was across the room from us. I was completely and utterly shook; mouth agape, hands clapped over my face. I couldn’t believe it! There she was, Mariah Carey, singing live in a recording studio literally inches away from me. Awestruck.

It me. Literally. I was a GIF on Jimmy’s Tumblr.

It ended far too quickly; Mariah said her goodbyes and thanked us, and Jimmy’s team whisked us away to the rooftop. There we stood, in collective awe, eating cold pizza, trying to digest what just happened to us. We had no clue, though, that the best was yet to come.

Someone started walking around with a clipboard and NDAs for us to sign, from the Mariah Carey company, and then informed us we’d be going back down into the studio to shoot something else. They said they needed more “audience reactions,” so Mariah would chat with us and they’d film us. Sounds amazing; chatting with Mimi? You don’t have to ask me twice!

So down we went; they set us up around the couches, with Mariah and her background singers (Trey Lorenz and Takeytha Johnson) standing around Big Jim Wright at the piano. In that moment, my existence was forever altered. Mariah proceeded to freestyle the most unbelievable musical moment I have ever experienced live. There, just feet away from me, Mariah showcased to us exactly why she is the Queen. She riffed, she freestyled new lyrics where she forgot them, and she threw some serious shade that was pure comedy. The performance completely embodied every reason why I respect and adore Mariah.

Watching it back now, it still feels surreal. I will be forever grateful for such an unforgettable experience. And, I am so glad that whoever was behind the camera ignored Mariah’s shade (“I see you filming me what the f—“), kept going, and then posted it to YouTube for the world to see.

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Vincent is the founder of the magazine and has had a strong passion for popular music since, well, 1997! If it's not obvious, his favorite artists include Destiny's Child, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, P!nk, and many more. Vincent lives in New York, where he is a high school English teacher, and currently he is pursuing a Master's in Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.