What does one listen to on the way to New York's Mariah Carey Experience, a limited-time pop-up meant to celebrate the career of the diva and promote her latest album Caution? Do you cue up the buoyant tracks from Caution, a fresh collection of Carey's pop confections that have been garnering glowing reviews, including from Billboard, who called it "the perfect 2018 Mariah Carey album"? Or does one pull up classic Carey, from "Butterfly" to "Heartbreaker," songs old enough to drink and many even older than that? It's an extended musical journey that's on full display inside Sony Studios, less of a museum and more of a single floor of mini exhibits meant to bring her career to life. Oh, and sell some records.
Aside from a display of Mariah's actual dresses, the most notable part of the experience is a wall where one can listen to every one Carey's whooping 18 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 singles with personal headphones, starting with her bow "Vision of Love" and continuing with tracks from 1997's Butterfly ("Honey" and "My All") and into the next decade with 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi ("We Belong Together" and "Don't Forget About Us"). The wall is just as much a walk back in Mariah's past as it is a look at the vast evolution of pop music, stretching from the glory days of CD sales all the way to Napster and streaming. The shifting properties of the industry are apparent as well. It was on 1999's Rainbow, for example, where the JAY-Z assisted "Heartbreaker" can be found; her 14th No. 1, its music video alone cost a cool $2.5 million, one of the most expensive released smack in the middle of the MTV heyday of the genre, and a far cry from today's budgets.