The word ‘diva’ is found in Latin and derives from divus, which means god. The term grew into the English language after it was used in an 1831 opera by Bellini called ‘Norman’ and ever since it has been used as a term for an operatic singer. Even then it was rarely used, until the word resurfaced in gay culture and drag circles in the ’70s. In the ’90s, VH-1 made the word world-renowned with its immensely popular “Divas Live” concerts, and now everyone is a diva — from WWE wrestlers to porn stars. Even corporations are using ‘diva’ to market lines of dolls, lip gloss and clothes. Yet the essence of a true diva is forgotten. Being a diva is not specific to beauty or wealth or even gender. There is no concrete definition for the word, but the most essential elements of a diva are charisma and attitude. During this ever-important fall quarter, everyone in the music industry is eyeing the top spot for the lucrative holiday season. So they’re bringing out their strongest weapon — the divas.
Dissect Mariah’s career and you’ll discover all the basic elements of what makes a diva. Her talent is resilient, her voice is grand, her charisma is splendid and her character is classy.
Mariah is not one to fade, though right now many expect her to after last year’s “Glitter” debacle. The soundtrack was highly publicized as a flop, yet the fact that it went triple platinum somehow escaped notice. Critics forgot that “Glitter” was a concept album. In addition, it was released on September 11, 2001.
The past is the past. Mariah is back with “Charmbracelet,” an album that will knock you off your feet and send every diva back to the studio. Under her own label — MonarC Records — and in control of her career, Mariah releases her most confessional and intimate release since “Butterfly.”
“Charmbracelet” opens with the first single and survival ballad “Through The Rain,” which also closes with the R&B version featuring Kelly Price — Carey’s former back-up singer — and Joe.
The ballads are dominating with the flawless “My All”-esque “I Only Wanted” and a delicious collaboration with Jermaine Dupri, “The One.”
They keep on coming with songs carried solely by Carey’s stellar voice such as “My Saving Grace” and her tribute to her father who died last summer, “Sunflowers For Alfred Roy” — a haunting and teary hymn.
Carey covers none other than Def Leppard on “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak,” when the chanteuse shines as one of the best vocalists of our era.
But R&B fans will also enjoy “Charmbracelet.” Jay-Z appears on the radio-friendly “You Got Me” and the Westside Connection guest on the self-describing “Irresistable.” Furthermore, Mariah samples and invites Cam’ron on “Boy (I Need You).”
As if those tracks are not enough, the best is yet to come. The standout tracks are the funky, smokey-bar ambiance in “Subtle Invitation” — this song has a hook like no other. The other stunning track is “Clown,” a mid-tempo track with an overflow of lyrics that is a blatant diss at Eminem. It’s about time someone spoke up against him.
These 15 tracks are proof that Mariah is here to stay. “Charmbracelet” is a complete entity of exceptional work. Nothing less than a masterpiece from a legend.
Toni Braxton — “More Than A Woman”
After a long absence and an unsatisfying Christmas album last year, Braxton is back with her deep vocals on her most upbeat album ever.
“More Than A Woman” marks a new era in Braxton’s career, with tracks like the groove-beat “Give It Back” and the Neptunes’ masterwork single “Hit The Freeway,” both of which feature rappers — The Big Tymers in the first and Loon in the latter. Then there is the Tupac cover “Me & My Boyfriend” — the same exact sample Jay-Z uses in his collaboration with Beyonce, which reportedly resulted in a hissy fit from Braxton’s side.
Braxton’s voice is not only strong, but distinctive. On “Lies, Lies, Lies,” she is angered, yet wise. On “Rock Me, Roll Me,” smooth and sultry. However, to the fans of the adult contemporary, there are still signature ballads like “A Better Man” and the album closer “Always,” but nothing as profound as “Un-break My Heart.”
It’s about time Braxton released a full-length album with hit songs on it. “The Heat” was a complete effort, although it didn’t produce enough hits.
However, “More Than A Woman” is the opposite — it has a couple of powerful singles, but does not capture the depth of the average Braxton album.
Whitney Houston — “Just Whitney…”
What happened to Whitney? She made her mark in the ’80s and evolved into the ’90s as one of the most powerful and grandiose vocalists this world has seen. But lately, her health issues — ranging from cocaine-sniffing controversy to a rumored eating disorder sparked by T.V. appearances — have been all over the map, and her marriage to Bobby Brown has been under speculation.
Recently, we have seen more of Whitney on the pages of the “National Enquirer” than we’ve heard on the radio stations.
Fans are in desperate need of new material and this album is supposed to be the quencher.
However, the first single “Whatchulookinat,” where Houston attacks the media frenzy surrounding her failed to even be played on radio or TV.
It succeeded only as a remix in clubs under the reconstruction of dub-gods “Thunderpuss.”
“Just Whitney… ” is a kind of rebirth for Houston. It also sounds like a self-help diary. Her adamant number “Tell Me No” proves this, with its strong musical arrangement and endurance lyrics.
The album continues with its sincere emotion on “On My Own” restating the theme of overcoming struggle that overwhelms this release.
The current single, “One Of Those Days,” is a middling R&B belter, but has yet to conjure up the past success of Houston’s heyday.
Houston’s career has launched some of the best love songs. Who can forget the Dolly Parton-penned “I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” or the more recent “I Learned From The Best.” However, this album lacks a track as striking. Then again, ballads take time to catch on.
One would think the diva would abstain from using her name as the title of this release, since her first two album were titled “Whitney Houston” and “Whitney.” But nonetheless, this album is a pleasing treat.
Jennifer Lopez — “This is Me…Then”
Who told J.Lo she could sing?
It is sad to see that even with so many people working hard in the studio to make her sound okay, she still comes off as a drunken karaoke participant in a local bar. She can’t sing, and maybe she can dance, but she is not Janet.
“This Is Me…Then” is by far the worst offering of hers. The songs waver in the mid-tempo area like “Still” and two versions of a sad “The One.”
But for proof that J.Lo is not a singer listen to the uninspired “Loving You” and “All I Have.”
With every copy of the album is a sample of Lopez’s fragrance “Glow.” That is when you know it is not about music anymore, but a mere attempt at selling anything — like this obviously rushed album.
Lopez attempts to humanize her persona with “Jenny from The Block” — a song that’s catchy like the flu.
Then she delivers pure cheese with a ballad titled “Dear Ben,” which should be called “Dear (insert new name every three months).”
The rest of the album sounds so bland, it’s hard to distinguish the songs from one another.
Jennifer should stick to movies and leave music to the professionals — except she’s not a good actress either.
Shania Twain — “Up!”
Shania resurfaces with even more attitude and enough tongue-and-cheek to make you look for chaps on eBay.
After her crossover success “Come On Over,” Twain releases this 19-track full-lengther “Up!” But that’s not all.
The release is a double disc with the same album, twice. You see, in a bid to win over both her country fans and recent pop fans, Twain
has released tw
o versions of the album for the price of one.
The red disc is a rockier, mainstream-friendly version of the songs and the green disc sees the country twang in tact.
International buyers get a blue disc instead of the green one, with an Eastern edge to it. So, basically, you get two copies if you get the album.
The attitude is in with the racy “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” and the catchy “Up!” Other tracks that catch your eye from just reading the title are the fun “Ka-Ching!” and the bland “Nah!” Notice the exclamation points after each title.
Who blames her for being happy, she got the prestigious diamond sales rating for her last album and is currently reigning atop the billboard charts with “Up!”
The album is essential for road trips with the shrewd “She’s Not Just A Pretty Face” and the sing-along “Waiter! Bring Me Water!”
Twain tries to touch on some latin flavor with “Juanita,” but fails.
And, of course, how can a Shania Twain album be complete without the prone-to-be-played-at-weddings tunes like “Forever And For Always” and the concluding “When You Kiss Me.”
Even though the constant glee can sometimes be annoying, this is a worthwhile album with enough pizzazz to keep you singing.
divas of the year
Elton John”Greatest Hits 1970-2002″
This triple CD is proof that Elton John is a bona fide diva. Spanning more than three decades, the songs range from “Tiny Dancer” and “Daniel” to the more recent “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” and “This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore.” It serves as an anthology, even capturing his Disney and Aida years. And, of course, who can forget the diva anthem “The Bitch is Back.”
This Australian import is sex on legs. She conquered the world but failed to break the US market until this year. Her comeback stateside years after her only hit — a leg-warmer anthem cover of “The Loco-Motion” — is like no other. With three hits songs in a year — “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” “Love at First Sight” and “Come Into My World” — and an album that’s as catchy as its title, Minogue is set for world domination after releasing the best dance album of the year.
This is the one that will stand out in a decade’s time after the sudden burst of popness. This album encompasses all — balladry, dance, hip hop, rock, pop and soul. Don’t let the lead single “Dirrty” fool you — this album carries many gems.
divas in training
Monica”All Eyez on Me”
This delayed release is the soultress’s most personal album. The lead single “All Eyez On Me” is an untempo experiment incorporating Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” Other tracks waver between listenable and mushy, such as the senseless “Too Hood.” Seems like Brandy got that crown.
This is a crossover cesspool of schmaltz, filled with overproduction and lacking any content, just like the song by the same name. “Cry” is a middle-of-the-road non-adventurous listing of songs in the Diane Warren template. A bland piece of work that even TRL would consider too fluffy.
Deborah Cox”The Morning After”
This songtress is a rising star. With the aid of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — of Janet Jackson fame — Cox provides a soulful and chill album. It starts with the drop-beat of “Up & Down (In & Out)” and meanders into a sultry set, including “Oh My Gosh” and “The Morning After.” Additional club mixes are on this CD for all the circuit boys and girls.