Written by: Gerard Ucelli, Staff Writer
As we go into the final days of 2011, this special was simply a fantastic way to end off the year. The “Divas” for this year included Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine, Jennifer Hudson, Jessie J, and Jill Scott.
The concept for this year was to commemorate different aspects of soul music. The cities that were focused on were Chicago, London, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Memphis. The Roots definitely deserve a lot of props because they were the house band for the whole night. One of the biggest aspects of this ceremony was the tribute to Amy Winehouse that was performed by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Florence Welch.
Accommodating performers along with the Divas included Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Boyz II Men, Estelle, Marshia Ambrosius, Travie McCoy, Anita Baker, Mavis Staples, Wanda Jackson, Martha Reeves, and Ledisi. The presenters included Dolly Parton, Queen Latifiah, Samuel L. Jackson, Terrance Howard, Nas, Common, Archie Panjabi, Sherri Shepard, and La La Anthony.
To start off the night, Florence Welch performed her song “Shake It Out” which is arguably one of the biggest songs of the year. As always, her voice was phenomenal, and it really set the tone for how the rest of the show was going to flow. Two aspects of the performance that I found very interesting were having two drummers and the background vocals were almost as good as Florence’s vocals.
The following performance was definitely one of my favorites of the night. It included Mary J Blige, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Hudson. The performance started out with a cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes. The dance choreography was great. The dancers went for the 1960s retro Motown era. Al of a sudden, it turned into a medley of an original song for each performer. Jennifer Hudson performed “Spotlight,” Mary J Blige performed “Real Gone,” and Kelly Clarkson performed “Since U Been Gone.” All of a sudden it reprised back into “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”
If there were two performers that were not on their game for the night, it was Travie McCoy and surprisingly Jill Scott. Travie McCoy and Estelle start off the performance with the music medley “Wake Up Everybody,” “You Got Me,” and “Motown Philly.” Even though Estelle has an amazing voice and a very wide vocal range, Travie McCoy was the exact opposite. Obviously he’s known as a rapper so it’s not like you’re going to be hearing a voice like Luther Vandross. My argument is why have him do it over someone like Maxwell or Darien Brockington? Jill Scott on the other hand just seemed a little bit off when she performed her ballad “Hear My Call.” Her voice is beautiful, but it just didn’t feel right and a little out of place for the flow of the whole show.
As far as vocals alone, the best performance of the whole night was Jessie J and Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “Knock On Wood” by Eddie Floyd. Jessie J really surprised me because she is the newest name of the “Divas” in the music industry. Just by her voice alone, it goes to show that she is here to stay and for a very long time. Her range was impeccable and she really made the song her own. Jennifer Hudson as always did an amazing job. That was definitely the best combination as far as vocal talent.
Make sure to watch the premiere of VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul tonight at 9/8 c. Share your thoughts on the show on the comment section below.