MTV Unplugged +3
|MTV Unplugged +3|
|Video by Mariah Carey|
|Released||June 26, 1992|
|Recorded||March 16, 1992|
|Genre||R&B, gospel, dance, soul, pop|
|Mariah Carey video chronology|
MTV Unplugged +3 is the second live DVD/video release by American singer-songwriter Mariah Carey, released in the United States on June 26, 1992 by Columbia Records. Following the success of Carey's previous two albums and the growing critical commentary on her lack of concert tours and unsubstantial televised performances, Sony BMG organized a performance show at the Kaufman Astoria Studios, New York on March 16, 1992. The show, titled MTV Unplugged, originally aired on MTV to help promote Carey's then album Emotions (1991). However, after its success, the show was released to the public as an EP, with an accompanying VHS titled MTV Unplugged +3.
In an attempt to prove Carey's live vocals were not derived from studio synthesizers, the performance earned generally positive review from music critics. They praised Carey's live vocal ability, and felt the EP and video helped showcase her talent. MTV Unplugged +3 topped the Music Video sales chart of Billboard, and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of over 100,000 copies throughout the country.
After the release of Carey's second studio album, Emotions (1991), critics began wondering whether Carey would finally embark on a worldwide tour, having not toured to promote her self-titled debut album. Although Carey had done several sporadic award show appearances, as well as television program performances, critics began accusing Carey of being a studio artist, not capable of delivering or replicating the same quality vocals live, especially her whistle register. During several televised interviews, Carey addressed the accusations, claiming that she did not tour out of fear of the long travel times and distances, as well as the strain on her voice performing her songs back-to-back. However, in hopes of putting any claims of her being a manufactured artist to rest, Carey and Walter Afanasieff decided to book an appearance on MTV Unplugged, a television program aired by MTV. The show's purpose was to present well-known artists, and feature them "unplugged" or stripped of studio equipment. While live, the show allowed several musicians and back up vocalists, while recorded in an acoustic setting. The issues Carey faced once the show was booked was the content; she didn't know what material to present at the intimate concert. While Carey felt strongly of her more soulful and powerful songs, it was decided that her most popular content to that point would be included. Days prior to the show's taping, Carey and Afanasieff thought of adding a cover version of an older song, in order to provide something different and unexpected. They chose "I'll Be There", a song made popular by The Jackson 5 in 1970, rehearsing it few times before the night of the show.
A sample from the live performance of the song. It was released as a single, without being re-recorded at a studio. The snippet features Carey's second verse, which was originally sung by the young Michael Jackson in 1970.
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Carey's performance was recorded on March 16, 1992 at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York. The show featured a number of musicians, back-up vocalists and just a crew of ten, for filming and recording. It was directed by Larry Jordan, who had previously worked with Carey on the music video for "Someday". Dana Jon Chapelle was chosen as the sound mixer, having worked with Carey on her previous two studio albums. The show began with the song "Emotions" (1991); Carey entered the studio dressed in a black jacket and matching pants and boots. Prior to the song's studio introduction, Carey opened the song with an impromptu gospel and a capella number, eventually leading to the song's chorus led by David Cole. After the song, Carey introduced the band and staff; to her left was a four-piece string section with Belinda Whitney Barnett, Cecilia Hobbs-Gardner, Wince Garvey and Laura Corcos, while San Shea played the harpsichord and harmonium. The show's rhythm section was led by Gigi Conway on the drums, Randy Jackson on bass, Vernon Black on guitar, and Sammy Figueroa and Ren Klyce, both percussionists. Additionally, Carey had ten background singers on stage, led by Trey Lorenz and Patrique McMillan. The next song on the set-list was "If It's Over" (1991), a collaboration with Carole King. Walter Afanasieff replaced Cole on the piano, during which time a set of five male musicians were brought on stage. They were Lew Delgado, baritone saxophone; Lenny Pickett, tenor saxophone; George Young, alto saxophone; Earl Gardner, trumpet; and Steve Turre, trombone. They had been present during Carey's live performance of the song on Saturday Night Live a few months prior. As Carey introduced the song, she said "this next song I wrote with one of my idols, Carole King", beginning the performance shortly after. For "Someday", Cole returned to the stage, replacing Afanasieff on the keyboard. During the song, Carey would often place her index finger over her left ear, especially while using the whistle register. She later explained to the audience that it would help her in hearing herself more precisely, something needed to properly execute a higher ranged note. Once again, as Carey began "Vision of Love" (1990), her "first single ever", Afansieff swapped positions with Cole. The performance varied heavily from the studio version, as it was more low key and only used voices in a cappella form, without any heavy instrumentation. Prior to beginning the fifth song on the set-list, "Make It Happen" (1992), Afanasieff shared the organ with Cole, playing the bass while the latter handled the treble. After the song began, the back-up began "piling their vocals" over Carey's, according to author Chris Nickson, and allowed the song to attain a more "churchy feel". He felt the song was superior to the studio version, due to its stripped performance and vocals:
"The roughness of this version succeeded in a way the recorded version on 'Emotions' could never manage. In the sterile atmosphere of a studio, where perfection, technology, and overdubbing were the rules, spontaneity had no place. On the stage, it was valued, and this performance had it. Everyone pushed everyone just a little further, to create something wonderful, and judging by the response, the audience realized it, as did Mariah when the song was finished."
Soon after completing "Make It Happen", Carey eagerly presented the final song on the set list, "I'll Be There". The way the song was arranged, Carey took Michael Jackson's lead, while Trey Lorenz sang the second lead, originally sung by Jermaine Jackson. After performing the sung alongside a very simple arrangement and minimal instrumentals, the back-up singers began humming to the tune of "Can't Let Go" (1991), leading Carey to present "another final" song for the show. Several days after the concert, Carey sat down with Melinda Newman from Billboard, telling her of the experience recording the show, as well as her view on it from a creative perspective. She said "Unplugged taught me a lot about myself because I tend to nitpick everything I do and make it a bit too perfect because I'm a perfectionist. I'll always go over the raw stuff, and now I've gotten to the point where I understand the raw stuff is usually better."
Originally, MTV planned to air the show several times during April 1992, it was normal for MTV Unplugged sessions to air around six times during the month of release, before being archived. Carey's version was met with critical acclaim and extended popularity, leading to it being shown more often than usual. Fans from around the United States made multiple requests for the show to be aired on television, and by the end of April 1992, Carey's episode of MTV Unplugged had aired over three-times as much as an average episode would. The concert's success tempted Sony officials to use it as some form of an album. However, Carey and Afansieff were already making headway on a new album set tentatively for release in 1993. This being so, Sony decided to release it as an EP, selling for a reduced price due to its shorter length. After the success of the EP's lead single "I'll Be There", Sony chose to release not only the EP, but a VHS accompaniment package; a video of the actual concert titled MTV Unplugged +3. Aside from featuring the seven song's performed at Kaufman Astoria Studios, it held three music videos; "Can't Let Go", "Make It Happen", and a rare remix version and video of "Emotions".
MTV Unplugged +3 garnered generally positive reviews from music critics. Allmusic editor Shawn M. Haney gave the video three out of five stars, praising Carey's vocals as well as her cover of "I'll Be There". Haney wrote "Gradually, the power and esteem of these tales lift to new heights and remain at a peak with the breathtaking, moment-making performance of "I'll Be There," a charming song first cut by The Jackson 5." Writing for the St. Petersburg Times, Sabrina Miller called Carey an "artiste" and wrote "Programs like MTV Unplugged showcase talent like hers with an exclamation point." Journalist and writer from The New York Times Jon Pareles branded the performance "shrewed", and claimed Carey's cover of "I'll Be There" "set off fireworks". A writer for Entertainment Weekly called the show a "vocal Tour de force", and wrote "in addition to her breathtaking pipes, she has developed a commanding stage presence." Additionally, they felt Carey's performance of "I'll Be There" was "killer" and concluded their review with "In the process, this rare public appearance reminded us there was a big-league performer inside that party dress."
MTV Unplugged +3 debuted atop the US Billboard Top Music Videos and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of over 100,000 units throughout the country.
|1.||"Emotions"||Mariah Carey, David Cole, Robert Clivillés||4:00|
|2.||"If It's Over"||M. Carey, Carole King||3:48|
|3.||"Someday"||M. Carey, Ben Margulies||3:57|
|4.||"Vision of Love"||M. Carey, B. Margulies||3:36|
|5.||"Make It Happen"||M. Carey, D. Cole, R. Clivillés||4:10|
|6.||"I'll Be There"||Berry Gordy, Bob West, Hal Davis, Willie Hutch||4:42|
|7.||"Can't Let Go"||M. Carey, Walter Afanasieff||4:35|
|8.||"Make It Happen" (video)||M. Carey, D. Cole, R. Clivillés||5:27|
|9.||"Can't Let Go" (video)||M. Carey, W. Afanasieff||3:49|
|10.||"Emotions" (12" club video edit)||M. Carey, D. Cole, R. Clivillés||4:58|
Credits and personnel
Credits for MTV Unplugged +3 adapted from the album's liner notes.
- Mariah Carey – arranger, composer, producer, executive producer, vocals
- Walter Afanasieff – arranger, composer, piano, producer
- Vernon "Ice" Black – guitar
- Henry Casper – background vocals
- Robert Clivillés – composer
- David Cole – composer, piano
- Laura Corcos – strings
- Melonie Daniels – background vocals
- Hal Davis – composer
- Lew Del Gatto – baritone saxophone
- Darryl Douglass Workshop Company – background vocals
- Sammy Figueroa – percussion
- Earl Gardner – trumpet
- Winterton Garvey – strings
- Greg "Gigi" Gonaway – drums
- Berry Gordy, Jr. – composer
- Peggy Harley – background vocals
- David Hewitt – engineer
- Cecilia Hobbs – strings
- Willie Hutch – composer
- Randy Jackson – bass
- Carole King – composer
- Ren Klyce – bells, celeste, timpani
- Trey Lorenz – vocals
- Ben Margulies – composer
- Patrique McMillian – vocals
- Geno Morris – vocals
- Peter Moshay – production coordination
- Lenny Pickett – tenor saxophone
- Cheree Price – background vocals
- Kelly Price – background vocals
- Dan Shea – harmonium, harpsichord
- Liz Stewart – background vocals
- Steve Turre – trombone
- Spencer Washington – background vocals
- Bob West – composer
- George Young – alto saxophone
Charts and certifications
- "MTV Unplugged [MTV Unplugged +3]". AOL Music. AOL Inc. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
- Nickson 1998, p. 70
- Nickson 1998, p. 71
- Nickson 1998, p. 72
- Nickson 1998, p. 73
- Nickson 1998, p. 74
- Nickson 1998, p. 75
- Nickson 1998, p. 76
- Nickson 1998, pp. 78–79
- Haney, Shawn M. "Mariah Carey: MTV Unplugged". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
- Miller, Sabrina (1992-08-07). "Mariah Carey a hit on MTV production Series". St. Petersburg Times (Times Publishing Company). Retrieved 2011-03-30.
- Pareles, Jon (1993-12-13). "Review/Pop; Venturing Outside the Studio, Mariah Carey Proves Her Mettle". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- "Carey On". Entertainment Weekly (Time Warner). 1992-12-25. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
- "Gold & Platinum > Search Results". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- Carey, Mariah (1992). MTV Unplugged +3 (Liner Notes) (Compact Disc). Mariah Carey. New York City, New York: ColumbiaRecords.
- "Top Music Video Cassettes". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc) 99 (81). 1992-06-30. ISSN 0006-2510.