Teen queens, boy bands, country chicks, and seasoned vets fight it out -- and the winner just might surprise you, says Mark Bautz

By Mark Bautz
Updated July 31, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dixie Chicks: Steven Tackeff/ImageDirect

Who gave the year’s best TV concert?

In conjunction with AOL, EW.com’s critics are weighing in with their take on a special series of weekly TV polls. Read on to see who we think should win the latest category, then visit AOL’s Television section to cast your vote.

Question WHO GAVE THE YEAR’S BEST TV CONCERT?

Nominees
Britney Spears (FOX)
Christina Aguilera (ABC)
‘N Sync (HBO)
Backstreet Boys (CBS)
Faith Hill (CBS)
Dixie Chicks (NBC)
Elton John (CBS)
Bruce Springsteen (HBO)
Janet Jackson (MTV)

Who we think should win Choosing the season’s best TV concert is like picking your favorite Beatle: Your choice says more about you than the music. With that in mind, we handicap the nominees in four fab categories — then pick the overall winner.

TEEN QUEENS Sure, in this TV hour Britney walks Waikiki Beach in a nifty pink bikini and looks great cruising the turquoise bay in a speedboat. But what she doesn’t do is approach Christina’s vocal talent or onstage invention. While Ms. Aguilera manages to outshine her duet partners (including Brian McKnight), her blond competitor learns a lesson in musical humility from Überguests Destiny’s Child. Take Britney for a swim, if you must, but please leave the music to Christina.

BOY POWER From the moment ‘N Sync drops from Madison Square Garden’s ceiling on long puppet strings, they’ve won this battle. True, the Backstreet Boys make it an honest fight with their genuinely affecting vocals and low-key stage show. But the new kids on the block have more energy, more momentum, and an extra 30 minutes of airtime. ‘N Sync takes it with no strings attached.

GOOD OL’ GALS Faith Hill has beauty, charm, and a few good songs on her side, but she’s up against country’s best live act. Not only are the Dixie Chicks terrific musicians, they’ve honed their rapport with audiences through years of club shows. So while Hill croons coolly from a distance (like the most confident entrant in a local talent show), the Chicks boogie down fearlessly, three women on the verge of a musical hoedown.

THE GOOD OLD BOYS They don’t call him the Boss for nothing. Whether singing raveups like ”Born to Run” or ballads like his police provoking ”American Skin (41 Shots),” Springsteen charms the crowd without resorting to gimmicks (no, Mya, he hasn’t added backup dancers). John is a great singer/ songwriter, but ”gimmick” has proudly become his middle name (he’s never met a sequin or sing-along he doesn’t like). So for purity alone (read: a dark T-shirt, a vintage Telecaster, and nothing more), Springsteen is the vet to bet.

OVERALL WINNER Springsteen is arguably the best live performer of the past three decades, and his shows are still memorable events, even if his boyish energy has morphed into a quieter form of middle-aged melancholy. The Dixie Chicks, though, are performers just discovering their genius, which gives their show that essential extra spark. Springsteen owned the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. But this decade blongs to a new crew: Natalie, Emily, and Martie. Chicks rule!

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