Why we're really worried about Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey isn't having the easiest time lately. The Grammy winning singer-songwriter became a trending topic for all the wrong reasons to close out a tumultuous 2016—a year that saw her finalize a divorce, call off a wedding, launch a reality show, and, finally, deliver a brutally embarrassing performance. What happened to the A-list diva?

Her New Year's Eve performance was a disaster

Carey may have physically survived 2016, but her closing performance on New Year's Eve may have put the final nail in the coffin of her mainstream pop career. Carey, 46, was busted lip syncing during her New Year's Rockin' Eve performance in Times Square. Most stars lip sync these performances, or at least perform with a backing track, because of the loud, outdoor setting—but it was clear that when Mimi's performance didn't go as planned, she just up and quit.

She began with a festive version of "Auld Lang Syne" but was visibly perturbed by an audio issue, as she kept pulling at her inner-ear monitor and mouthing words that were different from what the audience could hear. The song transitioned midway through into "Emotions," at which point Carey attempted to hit a few notes before giving up entirely. "Well, Happy New Year," she cracked. "We can't hear, but I'll just go through the motions…I'm trying to be a good sport here." She also pointed out, "We didn't have a check for this song…we're missing some of the vocals, but it is what it is…I'm just going to let the audience sing."

During "We Belong Together," Carey barely moved her lips at all and instead paced awkwardly around the stage and muttering, "This is the studio version…It just don't get any better."

She was mercilessly skewered online following her show

Carey immediately started trending on Twitter, Facebook, and just about everywhere else following her train wreck of a New Year's Eve performance. One Twitter user commented, "ISIS just took responsibility for Mariah Carey's performance." Another blamed Russian hackers. Some folks complained of "secondhand embarrassment," while others nominated her backup dancers for Academy Awards because they gallantly continued to perform as their boss imploded. One particularly brutal and timely critique? "2016's last victim was Mariah Carey."

Even acclaimed singer Josh Groban got in on the action, writing (via People), "Any time one of the greatest voices of my generation lip syncs, an angel loses its wings." He later deleted the tweet, then wrote, "Deleted my tweets about a certain performance because it was made in humor but taken way more meanly than intended. Not out to diss artists."

The finger-pointing reaches a fever pitch

Sources close to Carey told TMZ she suspected she was "sabotaged" to nab higher ratings. Insiders claim she repeatedly told Dick Clark Productions that her inner ear monitors weren't working throughout the night, and there may well be truth to that. She was even caught on camera bantering with host Ryan Seacrest about not being able to hear him properly. After the interview, Carey and her camp told producers she couldn't hear through her monitor; they allegedly assured her that she'd be at a different frequency for her performance and would be fine. As close as six minutes prior to her performance, Carey cited technical issues with both the monitor and her microphone, with a team member having to replace batteries in the latter. Sources also say Carey's TelePrompTer was broken, throwing off not just her lyrics but her stage cues. What's more, there is footage of Carey rehearsing for the event, so it's not like she was totally coming into the show unprepared. Still, Dick Clark Productions denied the allegations, calling the sabotage talk "silly."

Robert Goldstein, owner of Maryland Sound International—the company that makes the sound equipment for New Year's Rockin' Eve—told the Los Angeles Times, "Every monitor and in-ear device worked perfectly. I can't comment beyond that and don't know what her nontechnical issue may have been."

Carey's manager, Stella Bulochnikov, griped to Us Weekly that she was "furious" with the show's producers. "I'm certainly not calling the FBI to investigate. It is what it is: New Year's Eve in Times Square. Mariah did them a favor. She was the biggest star there and they did not have their s**t together. They acknowledged that they knew her inner ears were not working," she added. "They did not cut to a commercial. They did not cut to the West Coast feed, they left her out there to get ratings." A source added that Carey's team emailed Dick Clark Productions "asking why they are suspiciously silent and let Mariah take all of the hits today when they are responsible for the mess."

Carey herself maintained a sense of humor, tweeting a silly GIF of herself and writing, "S**t happens…Have a happy and healthy new year everybody! Here's to making more headlines in 2017."

She may have opened herself up to a lawsuit

Carey's sabotage claims could potentially cost her. "She was not 'winging' this moment and took it very seriously," Carey's rep, Nicole Perna, previously told Billboard in response to producers allegedly demanding Carey "wing it" when her earpieces stopped working. "A shame that production set her up to fail," Perna added.

Dick Clark Productions took those words very seriously, telling E! News, "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."

The statement continued, "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."

"Defamatory" is the key word here: it implies a potential lawsuit for defamation. Carey reportedly isn't buying the defamation claims, with a source close to the songbird telling TMZ that Dick Clark Productions "begged" her to perform and that she did the show for free. The insider eloquently added, "We could be in Aspen right now having the best time instead of being in dog s**t Times Square that smelled like a f**king sewer."

Carey's manager, Bulochnikov, later backed away from claims that producers planned from the start to sabotage Carey, but told the New York Post, "Once things went wrong, they took the decision to keep rolling and make her look like a train wreck for the ratings. They owe her a public apology." A source later told E! News, "[Carey] went through vocals and her team ran through sound. All was well at rehearsal. She was prompt for rehearsal and her performance. DCP knew her ear piece wasn't working and sent her on stage regardless," the source continued. "It was sloppy and unprofessional on their part. Their statement says they didn't intentionally sabotage her, which [her team] agrees with. It doesn't apologize for failing to do a good job producing her performance, which is what happened. Her team knows that there are sometimes technical issues with live performances. All her manager asked DCP for was an apology for the poor job that they did producing and support of Mariah."

She may still be reeling from her breakup

In 2014, Carey's split from then-husband Nick Cannon directly affected her live performances, including a taping of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting, so it's possible her September 2016 split from billionaire fiancé James Packer may be taking a toll on her vocals yet again. She reportedly found out through the media that her engagement to Packer was over, with reports suggesting she was devastated by the news. Shortly after the breakup, Carey canceled a South American tour, citing emotional distress, but TMZ claimed Packer scoffed at the notion and claimed the cancellation was due to poor sales. Carey has since been rebounding with backup dancer Bryan Tanaka, but it's no secret that this isn't how she expected her love life to turn out.

She may be unstable

After her breakup from Packer, sources close to the rich Aussie told People, "It's typical Mariah to just twist things that don't sound good to her. They split because she has issues…Mariah has had mental breakdowns in the past. She hasn't been acting very mentally stable lately."

After the failure of Glitter and a bad breakup in 2001, Carey underwent psychiatric treatment, with some sources claiming she even attempted suicide at the time.

Carey's own close friend, Lee Daniels, told the Bevelations radio show in May 2016, "She is very fragile, and she has been through a lot. She has been used, she has been abused…Some people don't have that Teflon sort of thing that I do, so she masks it with this coquettish thing that is hiding her nervousness and her pain and her own family's abuse to her. She is misunderstood." He continued, "I've seen how people attack her. They are mean to her. People try to start stuff between her, and she plays into it, but it's all a joke."

Her handlers aren't helping

Carey insiders blame a lot of her recent failures on her management team, especially manager Bulochnikov, who joined the team after Carey parted ways with her longtime management and publicity teams. "It seems as if Mariah has allowed a complete stranger, her new manager, to run her life, and others believe this woman is toxic. Seasoned executives in their profession don't want to put up with her," a source close to the singer told Page Six. "Stella is hard to work with. Mariah doesn't understand what's going on because Stella paints a different picture, so Mariah probably thinks it's petty disagreements. These are not just random people who have left her. These are loyal people who have been around for years, some 20."

A source told Page Six that tensions heightened when Bulochnikov encouraged Carey to sign on to the reality show Mariah's World. "Someone of Mariah's stature should not be doing this. Whitney Houston did a reality show and that was the real end of it," a source close to Carey said in March 2016. "We hope that it doesn't end up being like when Whitney did Being Bobby Brown." The insider added, "Mariah's amazing and treats people with the utmost respect and kindness and Stella is the total opposite. She comes from producing reality TV and calls herself the Russian dictator." Another source dished, "Stella is the furthest thing from a manager. She's a TV producer. She's practically moved in with Mariah and now she has so much stuff on her that she can get her to do anything. She's pulling the strings, and Mariah does whatever she says." The source added that Bulochnikov even brought on her own lawyers and bookkeepers for Carey, and that some staffers haven't been paid and are threatening lawsuits.

Bulochnikov has denied all the claims.

She's moving downmarket

Aside from her reality show, some longtime Lambs are worried Carey is just taking anything offered to her in order to make a quick buck, possibly at the expense of her legacy. She shilled Match.com in her "Infinity" music video, and fans criticized her in January 2016 for blatantly promoting an app on Facebook. Her Game of War ad was hilarious, but likely in a deliberate way. Carey's ex-husband, Tommy Mottola, shaded her subtly in this regard, telling an AdWeek panel (via Page Six), "Some bad experiences have occurred over the years, with female singer divas, ballplayer divas or those with the wrong entourages. We've all been through those bad management deals that turned into nightmares. To some extent they've tainted us and the industry."

How she can turn it around

Carey is very in on the joke in terms of her diva persona, and this is one arena in which her reality show could come in handy. If the New Year's Rockin' Eve debacle is depicted in the series, she might be able to present her side of the issues. However, she may be better off doing a televised interview with an A-level journalist—think Barbara Walters, Matt Lauer, or Diane Sawyer—coinciding with the release of a killer track.

The Elusive Chanteuse will hit the road with Lionel Richie in the spring of 2017, and if she delivers solid performances on tour, she could defend her throne as the Queen of Octaves. Carey, who's behind only Elvis Presley in terms of no. 1 singles, may also want to consider giving another Las Vegas residency a go because her Caesar's Palace performances garnered stellar reviews.

She should work on showing up on time, as tardiness seems to be a bad habit for Mimi, and she must continue to fine-tune her voice and choreography. When she feels ready for primetime, she can seek an opportunity to showcase those skills. Until then, Carey may want to lie low and maintain an air of mystery instead of parading around for the paparazzi with new beau Tanaka. Above all, Carey may want to rethink her management team because if the rumors are true, this dysfunction involves more than one diva.

Even her notorious ex-husband is concerned

How do you know when things are bad for Mariah Carey? When even her ex-husband, the notorious Tommy Mottola, says he's concerned about her.

"MC is arguably the greatest pop voice to come along in the last three decades. She has had more number one hits than any pop artist in history," the 67 year old—who has admitted to treating her badly in the past—told Page Six. "She is a global icon and a treasure with incredible talent not only as a singer but as a great songwriter. What happened on NYE could've happened to anyone! Yes, her technical people should've helped pay more attention to all of it so that there was no chance of that happening…It could have happened to anyone and it has, so everyone should just get off her back and leave her the Hell alone, and hopefully she will find her way to the right professionals for guidance. It's never about the fall, it's all about the recovery."

"My only advice is that she should hire more seasoned and respected professionals to surround her and help her with her career!" He added. "I would never have encouraged her or guided her to do something like a reality television show. I don't get it! That does absolutely nothing for her integrity, her credibility, or her massive talent!" "She should take a step back, think carefully and figure out what to do next," he continued. "That is what she does best. Most certainly none of these issues or problems ever existed with her in her early days at Sony for the first 10 years when she skyrocketed to global superstardom!! Where absolutely meticulous and methodical attention was paid to every single detail and nuance that went on into her career!"

She's disappearing from the spotlight

Carey was reportedly devastated by the incident. In an audio message posted to her Twitter account on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2016, the "We Belong Together" singer told fans, "I haven't really addressed the situation of what happened on New Year's Eve and in time, I will. But for now, I want everyone to know that I came to New Year's Eve in New York in great spirits and was looking forward to a celebratory moment with the world. It's a shame that we were put into the hands of a production team with technical issues that chose to capitalize on circumstances beyond our control."

"It's not practical for a singer to sing live and be able to hear themselves properly in the middle of Times Square with all the noise, in the freezing cold, the smoke from the smoke machines, thousands of people celebrating, especially when their ear monitors were not working at all," she said. "Listen, guys. They foiled me. Thus, it turned into an opportunity to humiliate me and all those who were excited to ring in the new year with me."

She continued, "I cannot deny that my feelings were hurt, but I'm working through this and I'm truly grateful for my fans and my true friends who have been so supportive during this time. I'm gonna take a break from media moments, social media moments. Although I am going to fulfill my professional obligations, this is an important time for me to finally take a moment for myself and to deal with my loved ones and to prepare for my upcoming tour in March…I can't wait to sing for you again."

Even fans are doubting her

Carey's legacy is being tarnished, figuratively and now literally, by the New Year's Eve incident. TMZ reports that a week after the mishap, Carey's star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame was vandalized. Someone put a question mark next to "Carey" on the star, which she was granted in August 2015 to mark 25 years in the business. It reportedly cost $1,500 to clean up the star, and cops are on the hunt for the guilty party—who will be charged with felony vandalism.