TVOne's R&B Divas

Last summer, Faith Evans premiered R&B Divas on TVOne, and it opened to record ratings for the fledgling cable network. The series featured R&B stars from the late '90s and early 2000s, including Evans, Keke Wyatt, Monifah, Nicci Gilbert (from Brownstone) and Syleena Johnson. Appealing to TVOne's older black audience, R&B Divas bills itself as a "positive" reality show, meaning it doesn't have the ferocious cat fights and snippy gossip that mark celeb-reality disasters like Basketball Wives. The controversies tend to be fairly mild: One recent episode from a spinoff series, R&B Divas: Los Angeles, found the ladies mad at Kelly Price for skipping her own charity event. (They quickly made up.)

What R&B Divas does expose is the way the music industry devalues black artists, and black women in particular. Natural weight gain and how this "ruins" a woman's image, high-profile divorces like Chante Moore's split with Kenny Lattimore, and the mainstream media's neglect of what's now considered "traditional" and "adult" R&B (as opposed to the youth-oriented urban pop of Chris Brown, Ciara and others) are just some of the topics. There are a lot of tears and self-help solutions (at one point Chante Moore suggests a ceremony in which the ladies "marry themselves"). But these issues clearly resonate with women of any age who refuse to conform to clich├ęs about beauty and propriety.

So this playlist has an unusual structure: It presents the divas' career peaks alongside their most recent material. Which songs are better? You decide.

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