Mariah Carey celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah on a holiday segment of Billy on the Street with Billy Eichner. She hugged strangers, conversed in Swedish, and performed a minor DIY crafting project.
The video, released online on December 16, is six blissful minutes of the legendary diva canvassing the streets of Manhattan, trying to be a good sport but looking like she’s getting her adult braces tightened. It’s 367 seconds of the Queen of Christmas descending from her throne to connect with her subjects during the darkest days of the year. It’s butterflies and mistletoes and menorahs and a very funny look into the celebrity-industrial complex. Let’s go Lambily, let’s go.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the Mariah Carey Christmas album, which includes the greatest Christmas song of the last 100 years, All I Want for Christmas Is You, which she says in the video she wrote in “fully, maybe an hour and a half.” The song’s power is not to be dismissed–after two and a half decades, it became a number one song literally during the writing of this article.
The 49-year-old—draped in crimson and trimmed in gold, hair like a butterscotch waterfall, contour casting a dramatic shadow like Santa himself leaping out of a fireplace—joined Eichner in his favorite activity: accosting people on the streets of New York with questions and demands.
Most episodes of Billy on the Street, Eichner’s beloved gameshow, take place during daylight. Mariah’s nighttime segment seems both more seasonally whimsical and also makes me wonder if she has a rider that says she won’t appear on camera in direct sunlight. Hopefully they gave her whatever she wanted—it’s clear that a master is at work here. In the course of the short video she: sings “I Have A Little Dreidel” from memory, speaks Swedish then appropriately acknowledges that she is showing off, kindly validates a man who says he was both naughty and nice this year, shakes hands with a puppy, and participates in a group hug.
It is written all over Mariah Carey’s face that she longs to be stretched out before a roaring fire in a remote chalet, drinking Veuve as a manservant drops by with a velvet-lined hutch filled with baby bunnies for her amusement. Her gameness to participate in this activity, which seems to represent everything I imagine she loathes (lack of creative control, unfettered contact with random people, etc) feels loving. This woman who has already given us so much—she’s the female singer with the greatest number of Billboard 100 number-one hits in history, as Billy points out—is still willing to totter around carrying a heart-eyes emoji Christmas ornament, trying to get strangers to kiss.
Mariah Carey’s voice sounds like sparkles and the taste of eggnog, her songs jolt the heart, and her presence as an improviser is deliciously uncomfortable. Like most of the Billy on the Street videos, her on-the-street segment gently reminds us that, like politicians, celebrities need us more than we need them. Part of Billy Eichner’s genius is to expose the mechanisms of that relationship without being mean, and with Mariah, who’s so beloved yet typically aloof, he is especially successful. Fans and celebrities are a weird, symbiotic family of entertainers and the entertained, passing each other on dark streets, trying to have moments of joy. And also, in Mariah’s case, to establish appropriate boundaries. And may it be so, for us all. ‘Tis the season to have balance.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour.