After the disappointment that was 'VH1 Divas Salute The Troops', I didn't expect VH1 to come up with a decent 'Divas' show. In 2010, instead of having divas, they booked Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Grace Potter, Jennifer Nettles... Not that it was a bad show, in fact I enjoyed some performances. The problem was that there were no divas. So when VH1 announced Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Florence + the Machine, Jill Scott and Jessie J as headliners of the 2011 'Divas' show, I got really excited!
Special guests were announced later: Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, Martha Reeves, Estelle, Marsha Ambrosius, Ledisi, Erykah Badu, Sharon Jones & The Dap- Kings, Wanda Jackson... Travie McCoy and Boyz II Men were also added (I don't understand why VH1 asks men to be 'Divas').
Even Anita Baker was asked to perform!!! I had waited long to see Anita on 'Divas', so this got me really excited. It was a huge letdown that at the end she didn't perform due to disagreements with the producers, but the concert had enough divas to get me stuck to the TV screen.
'VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul' started with three of the headliners performing together for the first time. As a Supremes number, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson opened the show with a medley of their own songs and the Supremes' hit "You Keep Me Hangin' On". It was great!
It was followed by the tribute to Memphis soul, presented by Queen Latifah and legendary DIVA Dolly Parton. Pity the show was dedicated to soul music, as I would have loved to see Dolly perform. The Memphis tribute consisted of 2 songs: "Knock On Wood", with Jennifer Hudson and Jessie J (fantastic!) and "I'll Take You There", with Mavis Staples, Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu. Mavis was pretty good, but Chaka and Erykah were there to scream at any opportunity they had to (especially Chaka).
Florence + the Machine came next with "Shake It Out". I love Florence and I like this song, but she didn't perform it well. She shines when she performs with a soft, almost angelic, voice. But here she screamed and sung out of tune at certain parts of the performance. I have seen her perform this song on X-Factor and she was great, but here she wasn't. Sad.
The Detroit tribute was next. It opened with legendary Martha Reeves singing the Martha & The Vandellas song "Nowhere To Run" with Marsha Ambrosius and Sharon Jones. I love the songs Martha turned classics with the Vandellas ("Heat Wave", "Dancing In The Street"), but here she sounded as if she was out of breath all the time. Kelly Clarkson and Ledisi followed with a rendition of the Aretha classic "Chain Of Fools" (AMAZING!), and then Ledisi and Marsha Ambrosius filled the shoes of Anita Baker and Jill Scott performing the Anita song "Sweet Love" (they both delivered).
Jessie J had the audience jumping, clapping and singing along to her song "Domino". She was a nice touch, bringing a totally different energy to the show. She reminds me of a young Cyndi Lauper: colorful, funny... and with the voice of a 'diva'.
After that, Mary J. Blige brought the house down with her song "Mr. Wrong". Mary is the performer that has been part of 'VH1 Divas' the most (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2011). Some times she delivered and others she failed (she was awful in 2003). But now she sounds better than ever. It feels as if she finally knows what her voice is capable of, and doesn't try to reach notes she can't.
It was very appropriate to pay tribute to the late Amy Winehouse the same year she passed away. Sharon Jones and Wanda Jackson sung "You Know I'm No Good" (Wanda got a little help from Sharon when she forgot her lines and Sharon made the band play the part again), and Florence was stunning on "Back To Black" (it was too short though).
The Philadelphia tribute came after and was the worst part of the concert. It featured Estelle and Travie McCoy singing "Wake Up Everybody" (I wish VH1 had asked John Legend and Melanie Fiona to perform it), Erykah Badu and Jill Scott singing "You Got Me" with Black Thought from The Roots (Erykah is the weirdest performer I've ever seen) and Boyz II Men closing with "Motown Philly". Boyz II Men and Travie McCoy were completely out of place. Next time VH1: NO MEN!
Jill Scott became emotional performing her own "Hear My Call" and Kelly Clarkson (who despite twisting her ankle before the show decided to go on and perform) got the crowd moving through her new hit "Stronger".
London soul was featured through the voices of Erykah Badu, Marsha Ambrosius, Estelle and Florence Welch. The first three performed "Back To Life", but the best part of the tribute (and probably of the whole show) was Florence singing Annie Lennox's "Walking On Broken Glass".
Jennifer Hudson turned the place into a big dance club with "Night Of Your Life", a track that she did with David Guetta.
The Chicago tribute closed the show. Sharon Jones and Ledisi gave the Fontella Bass classic "Rescue Me" a new life, while Mary J. Blige and Chaka Khan teamed up to perform Chaka's "Ain't Nobody". Surprisingly, Mary was better than Chaka, who gave scream after scream.
All in all it was a good show, not the best Divas show but a great one!
HIGHLIGHTS: The opening medley, Kelly Clarkson's voice (it's like silk, can perform soul, rock, pop...), Jessie J's colorful style, Jennifer Hudson going dance with "Night Of Your Life", Florence Welch singing Amy Winehouse and Annie Lennox, Mary J. Blige on "Ain't Nobody", "Chain Of Fools" and "Rescue Me".
DIVAS I HOPE TO SEE IN 2012: Adele, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Cher, Alicia Keys and Carrie Underwood.
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