Various Artists

VH1 Divas: 2002

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In keeping with its setting in Las Vegas, the 2002 edition of VH1's ongoing Divas series of benefit concerts for its Save the Music Foundation has a slick, airbrushed quality to it in both the audio and video portions of this combined CD/DVD package. Celine Dion, the new queen of Vegas; Cher; the Dixie Chicks; and Shakira are the top-billed performers, with Anastacia and Stevie Nicks listed as "special guests," the former because she doesn't have the stature of the other divas, the latter because she really is a guest, sitting in with the Dixie Chicks on their arrangement of her song "Landslide" (an arrangement with which she doesn't seem entirely familiar). The show is at its best at the beginning, when Dion and Anastacia kick things off with AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," a surprising choice that they do well with. But things quickly descend into artificial glitz with the appearance of a 52-year-old, yet remarkably smooth-skinned Cher pretending (not very hard) to sing "Believe," and they never recover. Cher's canned two-song set is followed by Shakira, the new Charo, with an unplugged version of her embarrassingly self-parodic song "Underneath Your Clothes," made even sillier by its acoustic-guitar/bongo accompaniment. Dion does an excerpt from her Vegas act, and then a so-called "Elvis Medley" closes things, with Cher switching from blonde to a black ducktail and leather jacket for an unconvincing "Heartbreak Hotel." In contrast to other Divas shows, these females barely acknowledge each other, as afraid of being upstaged as they are of messing up their coiffures. Anastacia, doing her Aretha Franklin/Tina Turner impersonation, at least sounds like she alone didn't arrive with her vocals pre-sung on a DAT. Worthy a cause as the VH1 foundation may be, this is music that doesn't need saving, in any format.

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