Live: VH1 Brings Out The Divas At The Hammerstein Ballroom

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via VH1
VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul
Hammerstein Ballroom
Sunday, December 18

Better than: Whatever Ryan Seacrest is going to cook up for VH1 Soul.

Last night's VH1 Divas taping existed both as a performance and self-contained, 24-hours-out advertising opportunity for its broadcast. (Tonight at 9 ET!) TV tapings are always strange to experience first-hand, given the way they're designed for after-the-fact consumption; there are lots of long lulls in the action for the purposes of commercial breaking/set redesigning, and in "let's all get together and put on a show" scenarios like this one there are TelePrompTers with lyrics ready to assist the under-rehearsed. Despite the breaks and assists, though, this taping didn't have the hermetically sealed feeling of ones I attended during the pre-social-media era—people were encouraged to tweet and Foursquare check-in and let their pals on social media know what they were experiencing via corporately provided hashtag. In the 21st century, after all, all publicity is.

The night's bent toward soul meant that most of the acts on the bill had pipes and cred—Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, Martha Reeves, and Wanda Jackson represented for the pre-music-video era, while the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Jennifer Hudson were among the new-schoolers. Jessie J's tireless, apparently unending promotional campaign also continued here; her new party trick involves her stuttering out words instead of singing them in toto, a tic that serves to both illuminate the bleatiness of her voice and make her seem even more malleable and annoying. She's the opposite of a diva, her jet-black-dyed artifice doing a miserable job of covering up the void within; I expect either a turn to Christian rock or the "mysterious" leak of a sex tape within the next 12 months.

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Live: Travie McCoy and Pete Wentz's Black Cards Get Emotional at the Gramercy Theatre

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Maura Johnston
The Sgt. Schlepper's Who Needs Hearts Club Band Tour feat. Travie McCoy, Donnis, Black Cards, XV, and Bad Rabbits
Gramercy Theatre
Tuesday, March 24

Better than: Being broken up with by email.

There was apparently some sort of apocalyptic weather going on outside the Gramercy Theatre on Thursday night, although inside the Gramercy Theatre, where the five-act Sgt. Schlepper's Who Needs Hearts Club Band Tour was powering through a musically stuffed show, things were as sweaty as they might have been on a spring evening. (Not summer, since there were quite a few people sporting outerwear. But other people wore sleeveless tops underneath their coats!)

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The Most Overlooked Tracks of 2010: El Debarge Featuring Fabolous, Quadron, Travie McCoy Featuring Cee-Lo

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Our look back at all things 2010 continues this week as we highlight some of the year's most overlooked tracks. In this edition: different shades of soul.

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