Music Article

Ladies First

What do Madonna, Norah, Kelly, and Cher have in common? For starters, they're all part of a hot new trend: The return of the diva

Cher, Madonna, ... | LUCK BE A LADY (Clockwise from top left) Madonna, Clarkson, Cher, and Jones
Image credit: Cher: Scott Weiner/Retna
LUCK BE A LADY (Clockwise from top left) Madonna, Clarkson, Cher, and Jones

Paging Sarah McLachlan: There's a brand new Lilith Fair lineup -- and it's a Lollapalooza. The latest Billboard album chart boasts four top-10 divas, and they couldn't be a more bizarre -- or enticing -- mix: Succor mom Madonna (No. 1 with ''American Life''), ''American Idol'' upstart Kelly Clarkson (No. 3, ''Thankful''), Grammy hog Norah Jones (No. 6, ''Come Away with Me''), and -- insert your own joke here -- Cher (No. 5, ''The Very Best of Cher). Can't imagine what else these diverse women have in common? Neither could we:

MADONNA
AGE 44
TOP TEN HITS 32
GRAMMYS 3
FAVORED ATTIRE Fatigues and camouflage... this week
STAR CONNECTION She kicked off her career studying with choreographer Alvin Ailey, but she's been the only star in her universe ever since.
LOW POINT Posing with Vanilla Ice in her soft-core porn tome ''Sex'' in 1992
HIGH POINT The critical and commercial success of 1998's ''Ray of Light''
EW SAYS ''At its best, her new album offers blunt, questing, decisive music at a chaotic time. At its weakest, she sounds like a gal who's grown content with hubby and kids and the hard-earned privilege of hiring the help to keep herself at tip-top tautness.''

KELLY CLARKSON
AGE 21
TOP TEN HITS 1
GRAMMYS C'mon, she just got here
FAVORED ATTIRE Lately, Christina Aguilera lite
STAR CONNECTION A little Fox show called ''American Idol,'' dawg.
LOW POINT From what we've seen, ''From Justin to Kelly'' should be it.
HIGH POINT Beating Justin Guarini's scrawny butt for the ''Idol'' title
EW SAYS ''Her voice, at times raspy, at times beautifully sultry, is a potent reminder of why America embraced her.''

NORAH JONES
AGE 24
TOP TEN HITS 1
GRAMMYS 5
FAVORED ATTIRE Target t-shirts and jeans.
STAR CONNECTION Her dad Ravi Shankar, Indian music legend.
LOW POINT She almost packed in her career after shopping a demo around New York City for a year without a nibble.
HIGH POINT Sweeping the 2002 Grammys with her first full-length album.
EW SAYS ''Her voice is supple and precise, her touch on piano lovely. And both speak of the here and now.''

CHER
AGE 56
TOP TEN HITS 12
GRAMMYS 1
FAVORED ATTIRE Wigs, thongs, and just enough floss to avoid a public indecency arrest
STAR CONNECTION Then-boyfriend Sonny Bono introduced her to now-indicted hitmaker Phil Spector, who produced her Beatles-themed novelty song ''Ringo I Love You.''
LOW POINT One word: infomercials.
HIGH POINT Battling back from that cringeworthy low point to score a hit with ''Believe'' in 1998.
EW SAYS (of her farewell tour) ''It would be easy to accuse Cher of overdoing it in this concert special, but instead of passing judgment, we're just gonna sit here and watch the diva ride a huge prop elephant across the stage.''

Originally posted May 02, 2003