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American singer Mariah Carey performing live at Expo 2020 One Year to Go celebrations at Burj Park in Dubai on Sunday 20 October 2019. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Image Credit:

Mariah Carey still has it — but was there ever any doubt?

The five-time Grammy Award-winning singer, dressed in a floor-length golden gown with her locks blowing in the wind, was the woman of the hour at Expo 2020’s One Year to Go (1YTG) celebrations in Dubai on Sunday evening.

“Thank you to all of you in every emirate for being part of [this],” she told the Burj Park crowd. “It’s going to be the World’s Greatest Show, so be sure to be there next year.”

Fans braved the dwindling heat and stubborn humidity of late October to catch a glimpse of the iconic singer in the flesh. After all, Carey is the second-best selling female artist in American history behind only Barbra Streisand.

The 49-year-old New York native revisited albums that go back nearly three decades, up until her latest album ‘Caution’ (2018). And while the scant breeze wasn’t anything to rave about, Carey’s generous set list was — it included ‘A No No’, ‘Dreamlover’, ‘My All’, ‘Make It Happen’, ‘I’ll Be There’ (The Jackson 5), ‘Always Be My Baby’, ‘Obsessed’, ‘We Belong Together’ and ‘Hero’.

The standout moment of the night, however, was when Carey did her 1991 track ‘Emotions’.

She hit the song’s famous whistle notes that gave us chills. And something happens when Carey sings those high notes. Not only do you hear them — loud, clear and piercing — but you feel them inside your head, a slightly uncomfortable pressure in your skull… that’s how powerful, singular and beautiful they are.

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American singer Mariah Carey performing live at Expo 2020 One Year to Go celebrations at Burj Park in Dubai on Sunday 20 October 2019. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News


During ‘Always Be My Baby’, Carey brought out her eight-year-old twins, Moroccan Scott Canon and Monroe Canon, to greet the crowd.

“Hey peeps,” said daughter Monroe, while son Moroccan chimed in: “Hi, Dubai.” Ever the showwoman, Mimi urged the two little ones to muster up more energy for the crowd. “Can we get something more exciting? Come on! A little more lively!” she pressed, to which Monroe replied: “What up, Dubai?”

“They brought them out a little bit too early,” explained Carey, as the kids continued to pose and dance in the background.

This was Carey’s third time performing in Dubai. As always, she wasn’t afraid to show the personality that fans love her for.

During one track, she noticed the Dubai Fountain come to life behind her and stopped to marvel at the sight, putting on a deliberately fancy intonation: “Oh, look at the water. So exc-it-ing.”

It also wouldn’t be a Carey concert without one little ‘diva’ moment. Carey managed to make even that lovable, as she punctuated a complaint about a technical matter with her silky laugh. (Yes, the same laugh you can hear at the end of her studio recording of ‘A No No’.)

“I hate to do this, but when it’s impromptu darling, this is what happens,” said Carey. “‘Cause they’re in my ear with the click, click, click, just so we know the timing. I need to hear the piano louder, please. I’m sorry, you guys,” she said, laughing. “Are we good? Alright, we’re winging it.”

Winging it probably never sounded so good, as Carey launched into her set-closer ‘Hero’. The 1993 tear-jerker track was originally intended for Gloria Estefan, but it has become one of Carey’s most recognisable hits and was the eighth US No 1 of her career.

The song was a great end to a great night and as expected, Carey left the stage a hero herself.


Emirati superstar Hussain Al Jassmi opened the show, arriving in a traditional ghutra and kandura and wearing his signature heart-warming smile. The Expo 2020 ambassador had the backing of an orchestra, as he performed hits such as ‘Ana Shaki’, ‘Ahibak’ and ‘Bushret Khair’.

He also sang happy birthday to one surprised fan, telling them: “Anything is possible in Dubai.”

Bollywood actress Shraddha Kapoor then took the stage with the evening’s co-host and Emirati social media personality Khalid Al Ameri. The pair counted down to Expo 2020 at precisely 8.20pm (20.20). A fireworks display followed, as the Burj Khalifa lit up in the background.

The free musical concert marked 365 days until the launch of Expo 2020 in Dubai, also known as the World’s Greatest Show. The global affair will open its doors to the public from October 20, 2020 and run until April 10, 2021. Running for six months, it is expected to draw in visitors from all around the world.