In 1998, when VH1 aired their very first Divas special, they managed to book Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Céline Dion, Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, and Carole King, an impressive lineup that hit every musical demographic: the Queen of Soul, Cuban, French, country, pop, and singer-songwriter. The show was one Kylie Minogue performance away from being the all-female equivalent of the Million Dollar Quartet (Plus Three).
In 2012, VH1’s Divas lineup looks like:
This year’s show [hosted by Adam Lambert] will celebrate the dance-inducing music that is the vibrant soundtrack to every major blowout bash, unforgettable party and night out on the town. VH1 is bringing together Ciara, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Jordin Sparks to pay homage to the greatest divas of dance music with performances featuring current and classic dance hits. (Via)
OK, it’s not as bad as it looks like. Rowland and Sparks have undeniably impressive pipes, which should be the first criteria for any diva (followed by attitude, overall showmanship, then originality), while Ciara…well, she covered Beyonce’s “Diva,” so that has to count for something, I guess. As for Miley and Demi, no clue. They aren’t even really known for being dance acts, either; there’s a difference between a dance floor hit and a party song, and Miley and Demi excel at making soundtracks to freshman college keggers. (That’s a compliment — “See You Again” and “Party in the USA” are two of the best feel-good pop songs of the past decade.)
But more distressingly, um, where’s my girl at?
A big part of being a diva is pissing people off, and few musicians annoy more than Christina Aguleria, for reasons that are too overtly misogynistic to bother getting into. That’s what separates her from America’s other major diva, Beyonce Knowles, who everyone loves; unlike the former-Xtina, who puts on her best bitch face wherever she goes, Beyonce has little to prove. (There’s also Mariah Carey, but she doesn’t seem interested in showing off her voice anymore, as not heard on the flirty Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel.) Let’s do this Peter King-style: in a sing-off staged at a neutral field in Wichita, there’s no way Beyonce’s topping this:
Every note hits a different emotional trigger point, and to quote diva-expert Jay Caspian King, “The diva’s role in society is to act as an emotional touchstone for her millions of listeners. To be a true diva, then, the singer must make us feel her pain. We have to care when she’s struggling, we have to believe the songs aren’t just bombed-out commercial jingles written by a team of 30 corporate songwriters.” “Beautiful” was penned by Linda Perry, the same woman behind Lisa Marie Presley’s “Idiot,” but in the performance above, Aguleria completely inhabits the song, frailly, then forcefully conveying that she not only wrote, but lived every inspirational line. Beyonce’s signature flaunting ballad, “Halo” is great, but she never hits that “holy sh*t” moment that makes you want to get out of your chair and give her an ovation. In other words, the chills never come.