NEW YORK — On Sunday night, some of the music industry’s biggest divas gathered at Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan to pay tribute to some of the most-soulful divas in the biz for “VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul.” Kelly Clarkson, Florence Welch, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Jessie J and Jill Scott all put their new-millennium spin on classics from cities like Detroit, Chicago, London, Philadelphia and Memphis, Tennessee.
“I don’t even know what a diva is,” Dolly Parton told MTV News on the red carpet before the big show kicked off. “I think it’s someone that’s strong in their beliefs, strong in their own talent, strong in who they are. … I see a lot of divas around here, and some say I am one, and I don’t know if that’s true or not,” she joked. “Do you think I’m a diva?”
Jessie J waxed poetic about the title “diva.” “Sometimes the media can completely misunderstand what the word ’diva’ means,” she said. “To me, tonight is what it’s about, and every single person’s that been here that’s had longevity, passion, consistent, amazing music that goes around the globe. For me to be a part of it in any way is incredible.”
The show recalled some of the greatest hits from divas present, past and future. And it even took time to fondly remember the late Amy Winehouse, whose own music was so deeply inspired by soul music of days past.
“She’s in a class by herself,” Mary J. Blige said. “She just broke the mold when she came out; it was like, ’Wow, who is this?’ And I could hear all of the pain before I even knew she had pain.”
While every diva at the show, which airs Monday night (December 19) on VH1, has played a pivotal role in pop music, Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy doesn’t believe that many will be as influential as Winehouse. “I don’t think there’s gonna be another voice that cut through the way her voice cut through,” he said. “And I think that alone makes her a legend.”
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine , one of the performers during the tribute, summed up Winehouse: “She was the most incredible artist, and I feel kind of overwhelmed to be doing it,” she said. She later took the stage with Nas, Wanda Jackson and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings to remember Winehouse’s catalogue of music.