Jewel and Beyonce Knowles: Ethan Miller/REUTERS/NewsCom
Brian Hiatt
May 23, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Jewel, Whitney, Beyonce — best & worst of ”Divas”

Too many divas, too few duets. That was the obvious flaw in VH1’s often lethargic two-hour-and-fifteen-minute ”Divas Duets” special, which seemed more intent on promoting the new albums of its participants (among them Celine Dion, Chaka Khan, Jewel, Beyoncé, and Lisa Marie Presley) than in living up to its premise. Host Queen Latifah’s rote series of ”diva jokes” (They have entourages! They have publicists! Now laugh!) didn’t help, nor did secondary host Sharon Osbourne’s insincere fawning over the artists (”You set the stage on fire!”). Still, there were a couple of great musical moments along the way — and some delightfully dreadful fashion choices. We run down the best and worst of the concert:


Beyoncé and Jewel Luckily, no one had to play Ike in this unlikely duo’s sexy, Tina-licious version of ”Proud Mary,” which found Beyoncé and, yes, Jewel strutting and growling with convincing fire — and even briefly grinding together, t.A.T.u. style. Yes, Jewel got the John Fogerty-penned lyrics wrong (it’s ”pumped a lot of pain,” not ”pumped a lot of Tang”!). But the former folkie has rarely sounded better or less mannered, and though her bordering-on-nonexistent skirt seemed (to paraphrase a recent ”Will & Grace” episode) in danger of exposing her baked Alaska, she looked pretty good, too. The versatile Beyoncé, meanwhile, seemed to be almost channeling Ms. Turner, revealing a rock edge that’s um, destined to serve her well in her solo career.

Lisa Marie Presley and Pat Benatar Lisa Marie gave her first public performance just two months ago. So how did she manage to blow Ms. Benatar off the stage — in a duet on the ’80s rocker’s own hit ”Heartbreaker,” no less? You’d almost think it was in her blood. Belying her somewhat joyless debut album, Presley was a hunk of burning charisma at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, swiveling her hips and curling her lip in a most familiar manner, even if her vocals seemed underpowered and undermixed. But what was up with Benatar’s guitar-playing hubby Neil Girardo intruding on Pat’s backstage interview with Sharon Osbourne? Dude, the show’s not called ”Divas and Their Pushy Spouses.”


Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston Oh, wait, forget what we just said about the show’s title. The hoarse, sweaty Brown, who apparently thinks sprinting back and forth across the stage qualifies him as the ”greatest entertainer ever,” sounded like a laryngitic senior citizen doing a Bobby Brown impersonation as he duetted with his wife on ”Something in Common” and ”Your Love.” And while her buttery soprano is blessedly intact, Houston — decked out in a truly unfortunate pantsuit with a jacket that turned into a translucent skirt in back — seemed more interested in doing odd little dance steps than in involving herself emotionally in the music. That’s her prerogative.

Mary J. Blige Look, the great Mary J. never lacks for soul, and her duet with Chaka Khan was pretty good. But let’s face it: Her occasionally shaky sense of pitch went completely haywire during her solo medley of hits (including ”Real Love” and ”Family Affair”). Blige, dressed a go-go-boots-and-skirt outfit that made her look like a reject from Britney’s ”…Baby One More Time” video, was hitting notes previously explored only by ”American Idol” rejects. As if to compensate, she began singing louder. No more drama, please.

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