As reigning Entertainer of the Year, pop star Mariah Carey carries a lot of power in an industry built on fame and allure. The fact that she’s the most accomplished (and a bit of a chameleon) of all female solo artists makes her more than a little intimidating.
Yet Carey’s greatest gift and greatest problem is that she has a huge base of fans who are just drawn to her every single time she shows up. Even if she’s just leaving the house for a simple grocery trip — with dollar stores being, well, dollar stores — it will earn her a massive follow on social media. The fact that Carey is performing a paid co-host gig on QVC isn’t going to quash the throngs of followers lining up hours early to catch a glimpse.
She may not get as many as for, say, a Drake concert or Katy Perry’s Vegas shows. Her standing is less hierarchical than it is controlling. By hooking up with the long-running home improvement show, she’s guaranteeing that each episode of her merch for Target will be sold out.
Perry has a hard time commanding the same level of devotion or fear, which is a source of controversy. Her own fan base is fervent and highly expressive, but she’s an artist whose general presence demands that people brace themselves for a lot of repetitive hit songs (see the world premiere of “Swish Swish”). Even her prime coup, an independent space on Netflix, has only been of any benefit for superfans because of the megalithic prize Perry is best known for.
Both standouts have found a way to subvert their large pockets of loyal fans into an elaborate reality show. Most artists of any kind stick to one reality show. Carey’s “Mariah’s World” has been and is currently being filmed, but has released none of its material, nor even announced an air date. Meanwhile, Perry’s “Katy Perry: Part of Me” has put together a pretty conventional crowd-pleaser featuring songs straight from her current “Witness” album, a semi-intimate concert film, and a documentary, but none of it is subtitled “Katy.”
Neither star has tried much of anything new in the genre, with Carey’s alternately family-friendly and risqué flirtations predating the phenomenon. It makes it hard to overlook her version of a reality show — that of herself and her entourage doing her everyday things. And that is why she’s one of the most distinctive and difficult artists in pop.