EW was on the scene at last night’s taping of VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul (airing tonight at 9 p.m. ET). In addition to talking to the Divas — including repeat performers Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott, Kelly Clarkson, plus Jessie J and Florence + the Machine’s Florence Welch — we narrowed down exactly why the 13-year-old institution is still worth checking out. Below, five reasons to tune into tonight’s special.
5. Erykah Badu was everywhere. Though she has more often been in the headlines for controversy than her music in the last several years, Badu was the go-to girl for the evening’s festivities. The show was organized around medleys showcasing songs from soul hubs including Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis, London, and Detroit. By my count, Badu was in at least three of these medleys, and let me tell you, there is something glorious about watching Memphis icon Mavis Staples get her “Tyrone” on.
4. Boyz II Men are back. With ’90s nostalgia in full effect, it was no surprise that these guys got a huge rush of cheers during the Philly tribute. Twenty years after their debut album, they’re in the midst of preparing for a tour, and their voices are still on-point. They even broke out the sweater-vests for good measure. What more can we ask?
3. If you haven’t heard of Marsha Ambrosius yet, take note. In a room full of big voices, the former Floetry singer stood out. She had a couple weeks at the top of the Billboard charts this March and has been gaining steam since then. She is definitely one to watch in 2012.
2. Florence Welch delivered one of the most “Why haven’t we already made this happen?” performances of the night when she covered an Annie Lennox song. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you which song, but rest assured, it’s worth tuning in for.
1. And if that wasn’t enough, the evening’s climactic performance — a tribute to Amy Winehouse — showed not only Winehouse’s brilliance but also proved once again that Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings never disappoint. They paid tribute to Winehouse with a few of her tunes before moving on to an electrifying performance of their own material that was worth the price of admission alone.
All of which is without mentioning how Clarkson performed on a sprained ankle, Jessie J continued her reign of catsuit terror, Ledisi shook her Starbucks reputation by blowing the roof off, Blige got her mosh-pit jump on during a trio performance that featured “Since U Been Gone,” Hudson had pink-suited backup dancers who were ineffably awesome, and Dolly Parton was there. Dolly! If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.