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When I got a press email announcing a new season of Basketball Wives LA, I was legitimately surprised. I’d assumed VH1 decided to take this show out back, shoot it and put it out of its misery to make room for new blood on its programming slate. You know, the humane thing to do.

The original franchise, based in Miami and launched in 2010, went on to glory in 2013 after five seasons—two of which were too many. Given its Los Angeles spinoff’s befuddling last season, I thought it was clear to all that it’s time to be like En Vogue and give it up, turn it loose on this show. Who was going to make up the cast? Certainly not any actual wives of professional basketball players at this point, but maybe a woman who got at least three DMs from a ball player on Instagram? What else could these women possibly have to argue about?

Yet, after recalling my days in catechism and recently listening to Mary Mary songs chopped and screwed, I decided to give this show another chance and find the answers to these questions. Moreover, I wanted to ponder whether or not this show still has any purpose.

So, who is on the show? Malaysia Pargo, Brandi Maxiell, Jackie Christie plus the imports from the now-deceased Miami version, Shaunie O’Neal and Tami Roman all return. Draya Michele gave up on the show midway during its last run, so best of luck to her, the swimsuits and trying to land that Evelyn Lozada-like spinoff. Mehgan James of Bad Girls Club fame is gone, though she promises she’ll return to TV soon. James was probably too much of an insurance risk even by this show’s standard.

There are two new cast members: D.J. Duffey, who dates a basketball agent, which I guess technically fits the bill, and Angel Love, a registered nurse who has three degrees and a baby with a Washington Wizards player. Duffey is a Dallas native and play-sister to Brandi, only she doesn’t get along well with Brandi’s BFF, Malaysia Pargo. Judging by the season preview, she will punch you in the face if you force her to. I wonder if she’s from Oak Cliff?

As for Angel Love, she is on a “break” from her boyfriend and said that if her man is cheating, she doesn’t want to know about it. She’s basically a very pretty girl with the same lil sad tale we’ve heard so many times on this show. I wish her well in her future endeavors, but Toni Braxton didn’t release “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” for nothing. Learn, girl.

What do these women bicker about? The same damn things from the previous season. Listen, it’s cute that we all pretend Shaunie O’Neal can fire her co-workers because she has an executive-producer credit, but that’s not exactly true or all that interesting. Like Royce Reed on the original Basketball Wives, Brandi was not fired for daring to talk slick to Shaunie, so spare us this storyline. Producers could’ve gone on a scavenger hunt in the Shade Room for better material.

Malaysia is still gorgeous, though she seems unnecessarily catty. Was this filmed before she received her divorce settlement? You know what? Never mind. I like Malaysia, and she will show up at your event in sweats ready to square up. I’m going to spread positivity with her.

Oh, Jackie Christie is still Jackie Christie. We learned that when checking her man for infidelity, she inspects his testicles. Listen, if you have to do a scratch and sniff or grab a measurement cup, you don’t have enough trust in your relationship. Yeah, I’m single, but I’m also not Inspector Gadget with a mate’s junk. Jackie later noted that her first husband was white and she enjoyed the smell of his white hair.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Yesterday, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was given way too much credit for having what has been deemed the most diverse group of acting nominees for the Emmys ever. Yes, unforgivable snub of Constance Wu for her work on Fresh Off The Boat notwithstanding, it is a good thing that the Emmys are being more inclusive. However, that’s how it’s “post to be” so let’s not give them a round of applause (or make that ass clap) for doing something they should’ve been doing for decades. That said, I would like to thank the Academy for getting one thing especially right: recognizing the brilliance of the visual component to Beyoncé’s celebrated sixth album, Lemonade.

Lemonade received four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Variety Special, Outstanding Picture Editing For A Variety Production, and Outstanding Production Design For A Variety, Nonfiction, Event, or Award Special. Beyoncé has been netted Emmy nods in the past, for her 2013 Super Bowl halftime show and her “On The Run Tour” HBO special. If there is a God, she’s probably pissed Yoncé didn’t win the one for the Super Bowl, though I fully anticipate the King to score at least one win for her Lemonade film. (If not, expect people like me to be using a lot of bee emojis and cursing out the Academy.)

So, you know what that means? Beyoncé is one step closer to becoming an EGOT. Only 12 entertainers can boast claims of winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Of those, only four are women, and only one is a Black woman (Whoopi Goldberg). Already, there are stories of how both Beyoncé and Adele are one step closer. Now, while I will concede that Adele’s 2013 Oscar win for the theme to the James Bond film, Skyfall, puts her a wee bit ahead of Houston’s finest in the race, I still think Beyoncé has the better chance of becoming an EGOT first.

And since I’m already talking that cash money s**t, I’d like to reiterate that I believe Beyoncé is a decent actress. Has she chosen terrible roles? Sure, but you know what will fix that? Recently, the New York Times published the article “What Does the Academy Value in a Black Performance?”

In it, writer Brandon K. Thorp noted: “Consider: In the history of the Oscars, 10 black women have been nominated for best actress, and nine of them played characters who are homeless or might soon become so.” Thorp also wrote: “Nearly every black best-actress nominee has faced a similar plight, right up through Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), in which Quvenzhané Wallis played a little girl about to lose her home to a flood. No black woman has ever received a best-actress nomination for portraying an executive or even a character with a college degree.”

Last year, Beyoncé was reportedly taking acting lessons and carefully searching for an “iconic role.” I’d like to believe Hollywood, and subsequently, the Academy, will evolve with time, but I live in America, thus, won’t hold my breath. That means all she has to do is play into Hollywood’s little fixation with Black pathology and – boom – she’s like Halle Berry and doing something to make me feel good.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Does the world need a saved version of The Real?

According to Jamal Bryant, a co-host of The Preachers, “There’s never been more of a need for a show like this.” The faith-based panel show, currently on a three-week test run in New York and Los Angeles, features “four outspoken preachers known for their unique takes on pop culture, news events and spirituality.” The four are Bryant, John Gray, E. Dewey Smith Jr., and Orrick Quick. Considering that Bryant is the same man who has employed phrases in his sermons such as “sanctified sissies,” while quoting Chris Brown’s “These hos ain’t loyal” lyric, there’s legitimate reason to find his claim of The Preachers’ necessity rather dubious.

Mere minutes into the show’s first segment on debut day, such suspicions were confirmed.

During a discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, while Smith did acknowledge the role racism plays in policing, he discussed the work of his law-enforcement-working uncle before asking, “Does a black police officer’s life matter?”

Then, Quick offered the following analogy: “If you have three children and one of them breaks curfew, would you punish all children? So my question is why would we punish every police officer as if they pulled the trigger?”

A better question is why would one want to contribute to the false narrative that critics of bad policing are generalizing all who work in law enforcement?

After that came Gray, who acknowledged that he had been racially profiled in his “very nice neighborhood” in Houston while he sat in his car parked in his driveway. When Bryant asked the panel what should be done moving forward, Gray decided that instead of being “bitter” and “disillusioned,” he would opt to “go to the police department with gifts to introduce myself.” Gray also thanked the police for what they do, noting it was “his job to initiate peace and be the bridge-builder.”

A cameraperson then panned to an applauding group of nonblack women, none of whom will likely ever have to know what it is like to feel tortured by those who have taken a sworn oath to serve and protect all. It may be Gray’s job to initiate peace as a pastor, but such rules do not apply to black people who find themselves judged guilty due to bigotry by someone donning a badge.

Throughout the premiere episode and in numerous interviews and promos touting the show, it was celebrated that there is now a show with four men—notably black men—on TV. However, like the talk show hosted by Tyrese and Rev. Run on OWN earlier this year, we know that being black, or being black and male alone, is not enough. Do we need a homophobic pastor with this large a platform? Do we need black clergymen preaching messages of docility to hurting black folks on national television?

What good is your melanin count if your messaging is messy?

Read the rest at The Root.

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When Boyz n the Hood premiered 25 years ago in July 1991, it was met with a string of violence. At least 25 incidents were reported in more than 800 theaters nationwide. But even in the face of that violence, and the media’s implications that Boyz was entirely to blame for it, director John Singleton never wavered from his movie’s message. In what was called a “hastily called news conference,” Singleton said the acts of violence were “indicative of the degeneration of American society, not a reflection of my film, which is about family, love and friendship.” Singleton went on to fault a society “breeds illiteracy and economic deprivation… There’s a whole generation of people who are disenfranchised.”

As far as those who committed the violent acts, Singleton said, “There’s a certain segment of the population that wants you to do what you’re doing to each other. But we don’t have time for that.”

Boyz n the Hood brought a certain awareness to gang life that had been missing from film and media. So often is mainstream culture and society talking at black people; Boyz n the Hood was black folks speaking for themselves. The film examined race and gender—notably black masculinity—with complexity, which decades later, proves to be a difficult task for far too many.

Even before he became a celebrated and iconic film director, John Singleton had the confidence to call out bullshit when he saw it. While he was a film student at the University of Southern California, Singleton attended an advance screening for the movie Colors. During a post-screening Q&A, Singleton told one of the film’s producers, “You advertise this movie like it’s about my community, and it’s really about two white cops. It’s not about what’s really going on there.”

When Boyz n the Hood was released in theaters, I was barely six years old. I saw the film by way of my sister, who was often my access point into what was pivotal in culture at the time but not especially kid-friendly. So, much like The Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” released around the same time as John Singleton’s iconic film, I was consuming imagery and narratives that required a sort of thoughtfulness and maturation only time could provide.

That said, young or not, there were some things I could pick up on in those moments.

Despite him proving to be more of a chaotic figure in my life, I knew that like Tre Styles, I was still considered very fortunate to be a black boy child with my black male father in my life to others around me. I knew of people like Doughboy, who, after serving time in time in prison, quickly returned to old habits. In the coming years, I came across figures like Ricky, whose athletic prowess was their only real means of escaping an area that offered little much in the way of options of attaining real social mobility. And while my hood was not as chaotic as what was happening in South Central Los Angeles, I knew of drugs, gangs, and young black men losing their lives to gun violence (in some cases, only a few streets over from me) just like those characters.

Read the rest at Complex.

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The ample praise bestowed upon the likes of Young Thug, Jaden Smith, and other Black male entertainers for their often notably gender fluid style is both deserved and occasionally overblown. The latter has very little to do with them, however. As celebratory as it is to see famous Black men rise above the hypermasculinity often forced upon each of us, it is technically nothing particularly new but nonetheless unnoted. 

If you take a gander over at images of artists like The Isley Brothers decades ago, you will see that how some of the members dressed then could easily be described as gender fluid, gender queer, androgynous, and any other term that would denote someone not giving a fuck about whatever rigid gender norms suggests how they should dress. The same goes for the likes of disco artist Sylvester, and of course, the legendary Prince, whose unapologetic aesthetic forever changed the way the world viewed Black men. While in some respects, it’s right to describe these men as “ahead of their time,” it’s important to add that these Black men existed in a time that was more favorable to their styles.

What makes acts like Young Thug seem new to many is that for at least nearly three decades now, a singular version of Black masculinity was largely populated to the masses via a very specific strain of hip hop being the dominant force in popular culture. Now, there are men who have grown up within that culture pushing back on that. What separates Young Thug from both his contemporaries and predecessors, though, is that he is now not only defining what it means to be a Black man on his own terms, but ignoring the concept of gender altogether.

That is a much more powerful statement to make, and given his current stature, a sizable contribution to the culture.

As he explains in a video for Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 campaign, “In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants. I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.”

For some artists, style is often a tool of provocation. A man putting on a dress will certainly garner attentionespecially if he is Black and especially if he is a rapper. However, whatever folks may find of Young Thug’s intentions, his words in this ad matter more than any dress he’s ever donned.

This is a Black man with the moniker Young Thug saying that he does not believe in gender. For many children and young adults who now have the space to feel somewhat freer in expressing their frustrations with societal norms that don’t speak to them, they now have someone like a straight rapper named Young Thug publicly lending credence to their argument.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Much like the instantaneous, fame-adjacent status he procured by being shown wearing trendy clothes that showed off his ankles on the internet, the older black gentleman known as “Mr. Steal Your Grandma” has hastily fallen from many folks’ good graces. Much of it has to do with a since-deleted Facebook status in which Irvin Randle laid out a few ground rules for the younger Negroes.

“I have a message for my young African-Americans if y’all want to succeed in this life and stay out of trouble,” Randle wrote. “I know being successful doesn’t spare us from getting killed but most of the times, it keeps us out of trouble.”

These tips included going to school, not wearing baggy pants, covering up that body with more articles of clothing and forgoing the option of “calling yourselves bad bitches.” Well, as a certified bad bitch who doesn’t typically mind the sight of sagging, let me just say, I’m glad many of the blacks respectfully told Randle to go back to watching old episodes of Sanford and Son and stop doling out “respectability politics.” Y’all gave that man too much for simply being an AARP-age man wearing tight-ass clothing anyway.

Unfortunately, Mr. Steal Your Grandma’s impact has already guaranteed that other pop-pops are about to storm your social media feeds with shots of them in those tight, black Adidas pants. In fact, I’ve already seen screenshots of older black men in their 50s and 60s more or less trying to “do it for the ’gram.” OK, Facebook, for the most part, ’cause old folks love themselves some Facebook, but you get it.

Sadly, the stampede cannot be stopped. Nonetheless, I can help you cope with the growing old-head movement happening online.

Step 1: Be like French Montana and don’t panic.

Listen, my grandparents have gone on to glory, so while I miss my pa-pa terribly, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about him showing up in my feed wearing tight shorts he got from a J.C. Penney or Macy’s sale trying to show you he’s still got it. For those of you that do, though, do not stress yourself out. We’re all black, so we really needn’t play with our heart rates like that—especially if we eat Popeye’s.

Breathe. Breathe some more. Exhale. Shoop shoop. Pace yourself.

Step 2: Think of Blanche Devereaux.

I’m not into cat daddies like some of my nasty friends are, but I do think there’s something to be said for respecting older folks who want to be seen as desirable. Yes, that denotes sexuality. Calm down. I know it’s your grandpa, older daddy, great-uncle or just someone who played one of those roles growing up. The point is, older chaps have always lived their lives despite growing older, only now, social media has made it more apparent. You need to accept this.

Step 3: Know that they are Ms. Evelyn, but you are Toni and Tamar.

By that, I mean you must acknowledge that one day, you’re going to be that older person who wants to still be fly. It’s fine so long as you don’t get carried away.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Unless you have been living under the largest rock in the world with no cable or internet access, when it comes to the Kardashians, you know what it is.

If anyone asks you what they do for a living, they’re being insincere and smug. We know what they do: They tell us every tidbit of their personal lives in front of a camera crew for professional gain. Everything they do and everyone they surround themselves with is readily available for public consumption. This has been the case for several years now. One doesn’t have to like that they make a living this way, but the cheapening of celebrity has happened and that family was shrewd enough to monetize it.

To that end, anyone who enters any of Kim Kardashian’s or her kinfolks’ spaces knows what they are signing up for. So when I heard Tyga’s recent interview with Los Angeles radio station Real 92.3, my immediate response was, “Negro, please.” My follow-up comment was, “You gotta shut your black ass up.”

On how the relationship impacted his career, Tyga said: “When you’re in a very public relationship like that, it’s hard for other people to see you differently than that. Being in that … it took a lot, careerwise, everything. It overshadowed a lot of my talents and a lot of things that I worked hard for.”

Tyga went on to add: “She’s young. When you’re young, you’re going to make mistakes. All of those mistakes are going to be in the public eye so that puts a lot of strain on the relationship. Right now, I want to focus on what I need to do. I just wanted to get back to just me. I think for her as well.”

Indeed, Kylie Jenner is young—she’s 18—and Tyga is 26. Although Kanye West once said, disgustingly, that Tyga was “smart” for getting in “early,” I join the likes of Amber Rose in being disgusted by his relationship with Jenner starting before she turned 18. There is a reason West made that claim, though. As much flak as the Kardashian-Jenner ladies (minus Kourtney Kardashian) get for dating famous (black) men, the reality is, many of these men are just as opportunistic and strategic as the women.

The Kardashians like to date men who just love being part of a much larger family setting. If they’re not dating that kind of guy, they’re dealing with men with marginal fame compared with theirs who wouldn’t mind an upgrade. The kind of guy who feels like he’s sitting in coach and wants more than just free nuts in his cramped middle seat. Tyga is that man in the middle who can’t wait to move on up. Why? Because the second he dates someone like Kylie Jenner, he becomes instantly famous.

This man was willing to risk his own episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for the sake of netting more headlines than his rap skills got him. Yeah, as catchy as “Rack City” is, Tyga ain’t exactly going over people’s heads with his incredible vocabulary, penchant for metaphor and overall great skill. Even if we’re going to pretend that Tyga does care about his music career being overshadowed, if that is the case, why is he still talking about a relationship that’s apparently over?

Read the rest at The Root.

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Bless Justin Timberlake’s vanilla-flavored heart. In the year of LEMONADE, he’s only now realizing that it’s a new day — a time in which the things he says that the kids would describe as “problematic” won’t just float away unquestioned.

To wit, moments after Timberlake said he was “#Inspired” by remarks made by actor/activist Jesse Williams celebrating blackness and decrying cultural appropriation at this year’s BET Awards, a few Twitter users felt similarly inspired to inform the pop singer that they had not forgotten his trifling past. One tweet yielded an actual response from the *NSYNC heartthrob turned pop star: “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too.”

Timberlake responded, though all he did was confirm that he likely missed key points made by Williams (while coming very close to echoing “all lives matter” rhetoric): “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”

Then came more eye-roll-inducing tweets. Like the one where he plays at being the victim: “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway…”

Or the one where he opts for a patronizing tone rather than a sincere display of humility: “I forget this forum sometimes… I was truly inspired by @iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one… A human race.” (Again with the “all lives” mindset.)

And of course the one where he offers a weak apology: “I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US. –JT”

As mighty white as all this sounds, I don’t believe cultural appropriation is the fundamental issue here. A Southern white boy from Memphis being into R&B isn’t surprising or remarkable in any meaningful way. The same goes for any child born in the 1980s who was inspired by the two of the biggest artists of that era: Michael Jackson and Prince. The white boy making music inspired by black art isn’t what’s wrong with Timberlake. It has little to do with why he enrages many of us at times.

What’s grating about Timberlake and white entertainers like him is that, for all their fandom as it relates to black culture, they don’t seem to give much of a damn about the black people who created that culture and continue to keep it alive and fresh. And, to make matters worse, these entertainers typically benefit and profit from our culture more than we ever do. The problem with people like Timberlake is that they will use their white feet and dance to Michael Jackson-indebted steps only to run back to their ivory towers when convenient.

In Timberlake’s case, this would be February 2004, in the hours that followed his Super Bowl performance with Janet Jackson—the one in which Timberlake pulled at her costume to reveal her breast on live TV. Though both apologized, Timberlake did so as if he had absolutely no idea what was intended to happen during that set—opting instead to place most of the onus on Jackson.

Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that she felt Timberlake left her hanging “to a certain degree.” Only years later would Timberlake admit to this in interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying, “I wish I had supported Janet more. I am not sorry I apologized, but I wish I had been there more for Janet.”

Timberlake used Jackson’s celebrity to increase his own, and then used his privilege as a white man to let the black woman take the fall for an incident that involved both of them. Many of us will never forget or forgive what he did to Janet Jackson because it’s a reminder of how little capital black people have in this country—even if you’re as popular and as influential a star as Janet Damita Jo Jackson.

Read the rest at Complex.

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While there is no confirmation about reports that the entire cast of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta has been fired, I do know that after the latest season of the hit reality series, something’s gotta give. For years now, LHHATL has been my favorite Negro telenovela, but I’m not enjoying it as much as I used to. Like, watching the last 12 episodes has been the equivalent of arriving at the fish fry hungry, only to be served cold pieces of tilapia (I prefer hot fried catfish, FYI).

Let’s gather ’round and count the mistakes:

1. Way too much focus on the King family.

Make no mistake: LHHATL is still a hit series and, for many of us, a viewing ritual. However, it’s very easy to go from “I plan around this show” to “Oh, girl, let the DVR catch it.” (This means you, Empireseason 2.) To be fair, I believed that the franchise needed new players, but that does not mean we needed to be bombarded with their personal problems mere seconds into the new season.

We went from a very long first date to shacking up within months. Now I feel kidnapped by them. Though the King family seems interesting—America’s Most Wanted alum, baby mama drama, psycho girlfriends—why have we spent so much time on these new folks? And what kills me about this is that in the end, most of them won’t be back next season. Scrapp Deleon is in prison, and his mama is facing 30 years for identity theft. So all of that was for naught.

Put some money on their books and put Tommie in anger management. Then be done with them. God bless or whatever.

2. D. Smith should just go back to producing.

I was quite excited about the idea of a transgender woman being on the show, but what’s most interesting about this season of the show is that although there’s been interesting, progressive conversations about gender and sexuality, D. Smith hasn’t been involved in most of them. D. Smith had every right to be offended by Waka Flocka’s transphobic comments, but her questioning his wife, Tammy Rivera, turned into a real-life back-and-forth fight in the comments section of the Shade Room.

Listen, D. Smith has major credits, but on this here franchise, Tammy Rivera and she are co-workers—and Tammy has a higher job title. I do find it fascinating that trans people get to be like everyone else on the show—aka an almost-villainlike character—but other than that, D. Smith has been depicted as just unnecessarily combative. There could have been some good conversations about tolerance and subtle forms of bigotry, but again, they were lost in the petty sauce.

As for those actual, progressive conversations I was referring to, those honors go to Mimi’s ex, Chris. I’m not sure Chris identifies as genderqueer, but that was essentially the breakdown given. Some of the best scenes of this show consisted of Mimi, Chris and Ariel discussing sexuality and gender identity on a couch over wine they probably got from Target. And that’s no shade. Target has a decent selection.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Toward the end of 2014, vicious and very much hateful people worked quickly to spread isolated, unedited vocals of a Mariah Carey holiday performance that was not her best (to say the least).

We know Mariah loves herself some Christmas, but unfortunately, when she performed “All I Want for Christmas Is You” during a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting special on NBC, she sounded like she had gargled with a lump of coal (no shade). Many folks took absolute glee in this spectacle.

In one post about the performance, a writer wrote: “Remember when Mariah Carey could sing? Most millennials probably can’t.”

As a millennial, let the record show that this is an absolute damn lie. Has Mariah’s once pristine and flawless voice shown signs of decline with time and possibly pinot grigio? I would never lie and deny this, dahling. Even if I am a proud member of her Lambily family, I can acknowledge that there have been moments in which one could say that Mimi sang as if she couldn’t fulfill the terms of her agreement with Ursula the Sea Witch, and thus, was being punished.

However, if there is one constant about Mariah Carey, it is that her vocal talent is enduring and ready to rebound. This would include Mariah during The Emancipation of Mimi era in which she let many doubters know back then that she was not washed up. This would also include right about now.

I’m not sure what Mariah has been doing—vocal rest, a new contract with Ursula, lots of prayer and tea—but she’s sounded lovely for most of the year. There are countless videos posted on YouTubefrom her recent Sweet Sweet Fantasy international tour. Maybe Mariah doesn’t sound like the MTV Unplugged special, but she is singing as strongly as she ever has in several years.

Mariah herself has also been posting video clips from her Las Vegas residency, Mariah #1 to Infinity, at Caesar’s Palace.

Read the rest at The Root.

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