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VH1 Divas 2012 (2012)
An entertaining show with big mistakes
The 2012 "VH1 Divas" show looked really promising when VH1 announced that it would be a tribute to the great Whitney Houston, who passed away earlier. Many fans started to wonder which divas would appear to honor her on the show: bets went from the legends who inspired her (Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick...), to her contemporaries (Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Toni Braxton...), to the ones she inspired (Christina Aguilera, Brandy, Monica, Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson...).
But later another big diva, Donna Summer, passed away too so the producers decided to change the concept of the show and make it a dance tribute to honor both of them. This was a wise decision, because many other shows honored Whitney later in 2012 and another one entirely dedicated to her would have been repetitive.
Another wise decision was to feature Whitney's up-tempo songs. Other tributes focused on her ballads, so doing her dance tunes brought something fresh to the table.
Although the VH1 producers weren't able to get real Divas for the concert, they were smart enough to pick real vocalists to sing the Whitney songs: Jordin Sparks, Melanie Fiona and Ledisi. However, the song arrangements were atrocious. The same happened with the Donna Summer tribute. The band turned her classics into and horrendous remix. How sad!
The line-up was also really disappointing. The concert was celebrated at a time when big female voices were promoting new releases: Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Carrie Underwood, Brandy, Leona Lewis and Emeli Sandé had all new albums out. So it was a huge letdown to know that VH1 couldn't get any of them.
Luckily, they could get Kelly Clarkson, who always delivers. Her performance of "Catch My Breath" was stellar. She was the true diva of the night.
Adam Lambert was a good choice as the host. His opening number covering David Bowie's "Let's Dance" was one of the best performances of the evening, and he saved the Donna tribute with his renditions of "Hot Stuff" and "Last Dance". However, his cover of Madonna's "Ray Of Light" was awful. He was completely out of tune during the first half of the song, and his choreography was ridiculous.
Ciara was a surprise. Not only she proved that she can sing live, but also that she is one of the best dancers out there. Her cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" was a highlight, but as the show was called "Divas", a tribute to Janet Jackson would have been more appropriate.
Metric was another surprise. The band sounded good, both on the performance of their song "Breathing Underwater" and on their cover of Blondie's classic "Heart Of Glass". But why did they get more than one song to perform while the others only had one?
Paloma Faith and Natasha Bedingfield delivered nice performances too, as they both have big voices (the first requirement to be a diva)!
Kelly Rowland and Keri Hilson were weak choices though. They do look as divas, but they don't have the voices. Their performances on the Donna Summer tribute lacked power.
However, the MAJOR MISTAKE of the show was the addition of Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Pitbull to the bill. What were they doing on a show called "Divas"?
Pitbull doesn't have the attitude like for example Elton John, George Michael or Adam Lambert have to be considered "divos".
And Miley and Demi are the opposite of divas. They don't have the voice, they also don't have stage presence (another big requirement to be called "diva"). Miley was horrible butchering Billy Idol's classic "Rebel Yell" (same happened with her when she sung "If It Makes You Happy" with Sheryl Crow on Divas 2009). Also, what did that song have to do with the dance theme of the show? It was completely out of place.
The only reason I can find to try to understand why they were invited was that the producers wanted to reach to a younger audience, as the show was heavily promoted in social networks. But that is not enough reason, VH1. You need glamorous vocalists on Divas, not teen idols. It was painful to watch them on a show called "Divas".
All in all, it was an entertaining show. But it was still kind of a mess if you compare it with the very first shows. It's a bit of a mystery why VH1 can't get bigger names.
If VH1 attempts to do another show in 2013 I hope they gather some of today's top female vocalists (not teen pop stars) together on the same stage, singing both their own songs and a number of collaborations. My choices would be Adele, Chistina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Pink, and Carrie Underwood as headliners, and Emeli Sandé and Delta Goodrem as guests. Allow each of them to do more than just one song and bring them all together to sing the last one.
The current format does not allow the performer to make a concert-like connection. That was what was so great about the first couple of years. It was like you got to see a mini-version of all these great singers tours, with some fun duets sprinkled in. Now they run the show like a bad awards show, without the awards.
VH1 really needs to get it together next time if they want to have a successful show. I hope that they will do one show with REAL DIVAS (not mediocre artists that sell millions of records and are on TV all the time) to make up for this and restore respect. Time to watch the two first shows and be reminded of how the "VH1 Divas" shows used to be.
VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul (2011)
Good show, with some hits and a few misses
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.
VH1 Divas Live 2009 (2009)
A show where the true Divas were guests
This show was damned from its early stages. I mean, why did VH1 need to know who the Divas are? We all know who they are, it was not necessary to open a message board for fans to submit their choices. Especially because the people who use the Internet are mostly young, and as it happened, they got many suggestions of female performers who are hot at the moment but not necessarily true Divas. I remember reading stupid choices such as Lady GaGa, Ashanti, Ciara, Britney Spears, Pussycat Dolls, Disney stars, etc.
Silly me, I thought the producers at VH1 would have enough criteria to select real Divas for their revamped show. But then that bad day came when VH1 announced their first performers, among them one of the most wrong choices VH1 has ever made for a Diva show: Miley Cyrus. When I first read it I thought it was a joke. A very bad joke. It took me time to realize it was real. The rest of the performers were not that bad, in fact they would have made great guests in separate Divas concerts, the mistake was to have them as headliners on the same show. Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, Adele and Kelly Clarkson all have great voices and stage presence, but the show lacked true legends as headliners.
Another awful choice came with the selection of Paula Abdul as the host of the concert. I still don't understand why VH1 needs to book a host for the Divas concert. The first shows didn't have one and they still are the best Divas shows there have been. I don't mean that I didn't enjoy previous hosts, Ellen was fun and Queen Latifah was great singing in 2003. But Paula Abdul was horrible. Not only she lip-synched her full performance, doing it horribly by the way, but she also kept making stupid jokes about "American Idol" and Simon Cowell. "This is not American Idol", she said at the beginning. Well, it wasn't but it seemed as if it was. Constant references to the show were made throughout the concert, a show that has never needed other shows to be successful.
Now let's talk about the guests. If VH1 is able to get for their Divas show people like Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper, Toni Braxton and Liza Minnelli, why not making a true Divas show by having them as the headliners? But no, they were there either as musical guests or guest presenters. Stevie Wonder was also there. Nothing against him, he is in fact one of my all time favorite artists, but this show was called "Divas" and it should have only featured women. Women to perform and women to present (what the hell were Corbin Bleu and the men of "True Blood" doing there?). I remember when the first concerts had Hollywood stars like Susan Sarandon and Hilary Swank as presenters instead of people that are only famous in US television.
About the performances, there were pretty good ones: Kelly Clarkson was stunning on "Already Gone", Jennifer Hudson did pretty well on "Spotlight", Adele was flawless on "Hometown Glory", Martina McBride sung like a bird on "A Broken Wing" and Leona Lewis' duet with Cyndi Lauper was simply beautiful. But the sad thing was the fact that they didn't get more time to perform another song. The Divas show is famous for having Divas singing not only her new songs, but also her hits. Were was "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis, "Battlefield" by Jordin Sparks or "Chasing Pavements" by Adele? VH1 decided to include videos to present each headliner and that cut time to have more performances. Sad.
Speaking of the crowded performers list, this year VH1 had to include veterans as guests because they were fearing the show would suffer for having only newbies as headliners. This time it was a good idea. But I really don't get why VH1 keeps insisting on having too many guests on the Divas show. The first one had only Carole King and it is still the best Divas show to date. I would have preferred to see, for example, Jennifer Hudson singing with Leona Lewis, or Kelly Clarkson with Adele. Another missed opportunity like the one in 2003 when they had Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, two of the most famous and best Divas of the last 15 years, on the same show but did not perform together. That could have been memorable.
One of the few successes of this year's show was the decision to get it back to New York city. In the past I really missed the first shows where the Divas got close to the audience in a more intimate venue. But this year I missed the Divas interacting with the public, like they did in 1998, 1999 and 2000. And I also missed greatly the finale performance where all the performers get to sing together the same song. Where was that this year? Instead they showed a fat man dressed as a female viking or something playing the fool on a balcony. Yes, I know what you are thinking so I'm not even going to comment that.
I hope the people at VH1 learn from their mistakes and make a Divas show worth watching in 2010 with true Divas like Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Vanessa Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Roberta Flack, Sheryl Crow, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Tyler... I don't hold my breath though, as I have read that for 2009 they made a list of new female singers and that this year they have only scratched the surface. So we should not panic if in next concerts we see people like Fergie, Rihanna, Lady GaGa, Taylor Swift or Katy Perry headlining the show. Nothing against them, but they are not Divas.