R&B Divas has been surprisingly good. Can we call it a guilty pleasure? We get a look inside the current lives of five soulful R&B divas of yesteryear. It’s a nice juxtaposition to what VH1 has been advertising for years.
Faith Evans has gathered a group of elite vocalists–Nicci Gilbert, Syleena Johnson, Monifah and Keke Wyatt–for a charity compilation album. “Lovin’ Me” and “Tears of Joy” are early indicators that the LP will be worth the $10.
Episode 1: “Sisters In Song”
A reintroduction of sorts happens in the first episode. We witness the divas that share a kindred sisterhood reunite in Atlanta. In the episode, Monifah uses Keke’s baby shower to reveal her secret–she has been in a committed relationship with a woman for quite some time. This takes Michael, Keke’s pious husband, aback. Although their union doesn’t affect him directly, he can’t support it for religious reasons. Elsewhere in the episode, Keke’s insecurities are exposed. She practically wears the pants in the relationship, while judgmental Michael prances in a bra and heels. The irony. Maybe he should listen to Syleena’s “Guess What.”
Nicci of Brownstone says her heart is no longer in making music and she would prefer singing background on the project. Obviously Nicci co-created the show as a way to promote her various projects, as opposed to reviving her singing career. (Watch Episode 1 Here)
Episode 2: “Mothers, Models and Divas”
Nicci is quite the businesswoman. The writer/director/producer launches her “big girl” line, Curvato, in the second episode. In the opening scene, Nicci is on the radio with Egypt searching for models and speaking on the vain side of the industry. At 24, her record label pressured her to get a tummy tuck. She presents her line to the ladies at a mother’s day brunch, where she surprises Faith with a visit from her beautiful daughter China.
Bat-sh*t crazy Keke continues dragging her weak husband around everywhere with her. Monifah confronts her about Michael’s unwanted presence, to which she reveals he is always with her because she’s afraid that he will be unfaithful to her. To prevent her baby from walking in on a “dead mommy,” “the girl that sang with Avant” stabbed her ex-husband in self-defense. Seek therapy, please. She later hits the studio, with her husband, and yet again exposes her mental state.
Monifah reunites with her daughter Akemi and discussed her former struggles with drugs and alcohol. She didn’t want her daughter to experience the same tragedy she did–Monifah’s father died of a heroin overdose–so she decided to get clean. Mo also sought Akemi’s opinion on her relationship with Terez. Like Michael, her daughter is religious and disapproves of their union. She claims that the Bible says, “homosexuality is a brokenness in our sexuality.” (Watch Episode 2 Here)
Episode 3: “Labor Pains”
The third episode is centered on Keke’s absurdity. Although seemingly controlling, Nicci urges Syleena to talk to Keke about detaching with Michael. Syleena agrees and advises Nicci to back her up whenever the intervention occurs. While at dinner, Mo unintentionally opens the conversation by clarifying to Keke what she said previously. Syleena, the “tough love bitch,” used the opportunity to segue to what her and Nicci discussed earlier. Nicci basically threw her under the bus, and Keke proceeded with her melodramatic testimony. Mo reminds them that “God put tools here for us to use” and to seek therapy. (She said that because most churchy black people don’t believe in therapy.) Elsewhere in the episode, the 30-year-old gives birth to her sixth child. Now about those green beans.
Syleena and Mo sit down with Nicci to hash out their differences. In the brief segment, Syleena quickly became my favorite R&B Diva. (I will disregard she attacked me on Twitter for positively reviewing and posting a stream of one of her songs.)
Faith hooks up with her good friend Kelly Price to enlist her for the charity project. They reminisce on their mentor Whitney Houston, who passed shortly after appearing at KP’s pre-Grammy party.
The divas meet with decorated producer Big Jim to work on the album. Again, Nicci speaks on her lack of passion for singing and Jim thinks he can rekindle that. The divas sit around the piano with Jim and harmonize, displaying their God-given talent. Can they just axe Nicci from the album? (Watch Episode 3 Here)
Episode 4: “Monifah’s Surprise”
In episode four, Faith introduces Keke, and her carry-on, to Big Jim. She says with each of her six children, she lost one octave from her 12-octave range (I don’t even know) and now she’s down to “six or eight.” (The funny thing about this is that she later suggests others to “do the math” on how long she has been singing.)
Syleena, Mo and Nicci enter Jim’s studio to organically write a song as a group. Of course Debbie Downer (Nicci) finds a problem with the songwriting formula. Syleena, inspired by Mo’s reaction, easily develops a melody and poignant lyrics. Mo follows. Again, Nicci extracts all of the positive energy out of the room when Jim criticizes her verse. She says her “Grammy nominations” have solidified her as a writer. (Note that she said nominations, not wins.) Nicci, being the condescending and self-centered person the cameras have made her seem to be, becomes agitated with the entire session and removes herself. (Thank ya!) Jim’s assistant David Moore said it best: “that mentality is why their careers went the way that it went.” It may not apply to the other ladies, but it apparently applies to Mrs. Gilbert.
Faith gets booked for a showcase at a gay pride event in Washington, D.C. and invites the divas to tag along. Omnipresent Michael is annoyed because he doesn’t ‘agree or believe’ in homosexuality. (Why not just stay home? Oh yeah, that’s not an option.) Faith books a tour bus to accommodate Keke and her crew. Once they arrive in D.C., Mo surprises the divas with a drag show featuring interpretations of their most well known looks. Michael attends the show and goes from being a zealot to a homophobe. (Anyone else noticed how he scooted over when Terez sat next to him? Apparently gay is contagious.) (Watch Episode 4 Here)