Mariah, miasma and melisma


One of the delights of being a musician is that you get to learn all sorts of interesting terms for various concepts and techniques.

Melisma is one such term and refers to singing a single syllable and protracting it over a series of changing musical notes.

(As opposed to ‘Miasma’ with which it can share certain qualities as I’ll demonstrate later…)

The word ‘me’, for example, could be sung over three notes as ‘me-e-e’.

One of the best-known examples is probably in the Christmas carol ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’ in which the ‘o’ sound in ‘Gloria’ is strung out over 4 bars and some 30 notes:


It’s a legitimate technique when composing and performing and is used in all sorts of music including pop, jazz, blues and rock.

However, like all techniques it can be overused and one of the chief culprits is Mariah Carey.

You can hear her tortuous melisma at the end of almost every line she sings and it gets intrusive and downright annoying to say the least. Some would be fine – but an excess takes me towards red mist territory.

I also have to admit a dislike for Ms Carey’s egotistical attitude and behaviour. I mean, make no mistake, she’s hugely successful and popular (she’s outsold Madonna in the US) but, then again, so are Egg McMuffins and Gregg’s pasties but I wouldn’t give either to a fucking dog.

So, imagine my mood after I read this.

The author – one John Arlidge – seems to be such a fixture up Mariah’s back passage that I suspect that he’s now getting his post delivered there after such observational gems as:

  • She’s lying on her back in a darkened room in the basement of the TV Asahi studios in Tokyo, dressed in a black miniskirt, a leopard-print Dolce & Gabbana trench coat and 8in Gucci bitch stacks.
  • But under the skin of this twittering popsicle is a businesswoman who has sold more singles, albums and downloads in the US than any other female artist, even Madonna.
  • Carey pulls up in her stretch limousine and steps out into a small but perfectly formed crowd.
  • Okay, there may be wine on the table — this is still rock’n’roll — but Carey is focused.
  • “I don’t care if the rock-band person thinks, ‘Oh, I’m a sellout’. Well, guess what? They’re a sellout anyway for going to a record company. I’m sorry — you are.
  • She hoists herself up slowly from her chaise longue, asks whether there are any stairs on the way to the limo — walking in 8in heels ain’t easy — and tells a flunky to round up the gaudy Hello Kitty dolls and take them to the limo. “I have to have my little toys,” she gushes.

My favourite part of the whole sycophantic piece is this quote from Carey herself:

“I change ethnically according to where I am in the world. I can be a spokesperson for black, white and Latina. MC could stand for multicultural.”

Well, I know what MC could also stand for but I’d welcome any other suggestions…