Pop & Hiss

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Michael Jackson memorial: Mariah Carey sings 'I'll Be There'

July 7, 2009 | 10:54 am

Mariah Pop & Hiss brings you quick thoughts on some of the main performances at today's public Michael Jackson memorial.

What: Mariah Carey's 'I'll Be There.' A No. 1 hit for Carey, who covered the Jackson 5 hit on her 1992 "MTV Unplugged" album. The ballad was an early sign of Jackson's strength as a vocalist, a childlike innocence conveyed with near expert phrasing. The Times' Ann Powers is inside Staples Center, and she offers that "Carey's version of the Jackson 5 song symbolizes innocence for her too -- it was one of her early hits, and a curly haired, cherubic Carey has been featured singing it in many televised Jackson tributes this last week. For Jackson's fans, the song recalls a period when the star made history as one of the first black teen idols to find acceptance across color lines."

At the memorial: In the very first verse Carey -- in a black, glittery dress -- made it clear that this would be a more restrained, elegant rendition of the song. Singing through the emotions, Carey was at a near-gasp in the song's opening moments. Her partner on the 1992 cover, Trey Lorenz, made an appearance here as well, heightening the performance's gospel undertones. Lorenz, in fact, showed off more vocal dynamics than Carey. But a more subtle Carey is a more graceful one. 

Inside the venue, Powers noted that Carey's take began in a tiny voice, as if to honor the boy Michael. When Carey found that Lorenz almost bowled her over, that's when she turned her voice up a notch to match her singing partner. Lorenz sang Michael's name in falsetto, and Carey added "Never Can Say Goodbye..." 

Very tasteful. 

-- Ann Powers and Todd Martens

Mariah Carey performs at a service for US pop star Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO