Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The meaning of Diva

VH1 has announced that it's going to be interrupting its highbrow programming (including 'Charm School with Ricki Lake' and 'Megan Wants a Millionaire') to bring back an old favourite. After a four year absence, we can finally start looking forward to the 2009 edition of VH1 Divas.

Airing back in 1998, the first VH1 Divas concert was staged to help raise money for the channel's "Save The Music Foundation". Despite the impressive names in the line-up, most people actually tuned in to see how any venue could possibly house the titanic egos of some of music's biggest names. Sharing a stage (but presumably not a dressing room) were Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey.

Particular attention was paid to Carey, who has a well-documented reputation for diva-like behaviour, and Franklin - the biggest diva of them all (in circumference as well as talent). Thankfully, the only histrionics on the night were the vocal kind, and VH1 were sufficiently happy to make the event an annual one.

Over the years the show played host to the biggest female names in music, including Patti LaBelle, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Cher, Mary J. Blige, Donna Summer, and (weirdly) Elton John. At the time people questioned Elton's eligibility, only to be reminded that, in contemporary terms at least, he was the quintessential diva - a vast talent dwarfed by shrieking demands and a complete absence of humility.

Now with the concept being dragged out of early retirement, the carefully tweezed eyebrows of the entertainment business are being raised once again. But this time it's not the gender of the acts that are causing consternation, more the status. So far, only four stars have been named, with Kelly Clarkson considered the veteran of the group that also includes Leona Lewis, Adele and Miley Cyrus.

Given that Adele and Leona only really found fame in the last 18 months, and Miley has yet to graduate beyond the Disney channel (come to think of it, she hasn't even graduated high school), it's hard not to feel that the true diva is a dying breed. Being a great singer is one thing, but the appeal of the diva lies is to be found in the inaccessible prima donna, not the quality of the live vocal. Grace Jones is a diva, even though her voice sounds like the belch of dishwater disappearing down the drain.

As great as I'm sure their performances will be, I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by the idea of an all-star show where the talent just gushes about "How amazing it is to be here". The show's called Divas, so we want people who refuse to leave their dressing room until there are enough humidifiers to create a thundercloud. Still, they've got a couple of months to turn into monsters. My money's on Leona.

1 comment:

  1. yes I agree they are definitely not divas not even one ounce of it, you have to add the likes of madonna, beyonce, etc, but you have to admit even out of the old line-up it still was only mariah, celine and aretha that could be classified like that, carole, and shania I think were more than happy just to be paid and put under that headline than actually fulfilling that role....but come on dont degrade grace jones!!!
    P.S and what about a Shirley Bassey in there huh???