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 clichés 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.