Celebrate The 12 Divas Of Christmas

Windy City Times
Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin

This holiday season, celebrate the 12 divas of Christmas. Keep these new releases in mind while honoring these beloved female singers.

At 65, Bette Midler still got it. The DVD The Showgirl Must Go On has this multitalented star proving why she reigned supreme in “Oy” Vegas with this thoroughly delightful performance. Midler still melts our hearts with “The Rose” and her take on “Wind beneath My Wings.” Don’t worry; her brassy sense of humor is abundant. Just check out “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and her feisty opening numbers.

Kylie Minogue did not have a stop in Chicago on her recent trek, but the keepsake Aphrodite: Les Folies Live in London is due Nov. 29. The stateside leg was scaled back and did not include the water spectacle or the song “Closer,” which are in this concert from London. The highlights are an epic take of “On a Night Like This,” a reworking of Eurythmics’ “There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)” and extended versions of “Confide in Me” and “Slow.”

On the cover of Lady Gaga‘s DVD The Monster Ball Tour at Madison Square Garden, her bra sparks while firing bullets, not too differently than how Katy Perry launched fireworks from her top in one of her hit videos. Here, the outspoken blonde entertains her hometown crowd with her string of smashes, including my favorites “Born This Way” and “LoveGame.” It is clear that Lady Gaga is well-versed in Michael Jackson’s and Madonna’s showmanship.

The “Paparazzi” singer also is issuing Born This Way the Remix, a collection of new versions of material from her chart-topping album. Mixes come courtesy of today’s hottest acts, like Foster the People, Hurts and Goldfrapp.

The holidays may never be the same as A Very Gaga Thanksgiving airs on ABC on Thursday, Nov. 24.

Cyndi Lauper‘s Grammy-nominated Memphis Blues salutes the classics of the genre with stirring renditions of “Shattered Dreams,” “Just Your Fool” and “Early in the Morning.” The companion concert DVD, To Memphis with Love, captures the barefoot Lauper’s lively stage presence as she belts out these evergreens. She also sets her ’80s hits “She Bop,” “Change of Heart” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” to a blues arrangement. The showstopper is Tracy Nelson joining Lauper on “Down So Low.”

Expect to see Lauper’s “True Colors” with a forthcoming autobiography from Simon & Schuster. Doing a reality show and penning the drag-themed musical Kinky Boots are in the works, too. Lauper’s True Color Fund hosts an all-star concert at New York’s Beacon Theatre Thursday, Dec. 4 to benefit True Colors Residence, a housing facility for homeless LGBT youth. (Also, the fund was honored in Chicago this past weekend.)

Canadian lesbian twins Tegan and Sara just released Get Along, which has two documentaries from tours in the United States and India, plus a DVD and CD of an intimate concert in Vancouver. Get Along spans the pair’s career with material like “Alligator,” “I Hear Noises” and “Back in Your Head.”

This has been quite a year for Adele. While she is recovering from surgery to repair a benign polyp on her vocal chords, the DVD Live at the Royal Albert Hall will be out Nov. 29. Here, the Grammy winner belts out her hits like “Rumour Has It,” “Chasing Pavement” and “Rolling in the Deep.” Covers of “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” “Lovesong” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” are on the setlist, too. A CD comes with the DVD.

Shelby Lynne keeps a steady pace with her fantastic releases, as Revelation Road serves as the follow-up to last year’s Merry Christmas and its predecessor, Tears, Lies and Alibis. On her latest, Lynne offers insight and a strong spiritual leaning with a Southern twist. On the introduction to “Heaven’s Only Days down the Road” she sings her heart out–as if she has the choral lead at a small countryside church. “Even Angels” is moving, as Lynne reminds the listener that “even angels fall down sometimes.”

The feeling and the message on Revelation Road are very personal and intimate. As the sole writer, producer and performer here, Lynne is onto something; after all, she did win the Best New Artist Grammy with six of albums already out at that time. Lynne will be on the Marion-Carole “Showboat” float during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Soul siren Lalah Hathaway returns with Where It All Begins. Her beautiful, husky voice claims the spotlight on upbeat jams (“My Everything”) and gorgeous, slow R&B numbers (“Lie to Me”). The selection here reminds us that she is soul royalty and the daughter of the late Donny Hathaway. “If You Want To” should be on everybody’s holiday party play list. It is a surefire favorite.

The multicultural influences of Miami are present on Gloria Estefan’s Miss Little Havana. Pharrell Williams produced the album, which explains why it comes across as spry and energetic. On the dance hit “Wepa,” “The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.” The bonus track is a slightly more organic remake of Jennifer Lopez’s party anthem, “Let’s Get Loud.” The heat on Miss Little Havana will dull Chicago winter’s sting; it’s available exclusively via Target and iTunes.

Jem and the Holograms is a treasured, colorful ’80s cartoon with catchy pop music and life lessons in its storylines. The title character, Jem, is an internationally renowned pink-haired singer. Few know she really is an illusion-enhanced version of the kind-hearted Jerrica Benton, who heads a foundation to fund an orphanage. The antagonists are The Misfits, fronted by the malicious Pizaz. Her sidekicks are the bad girl with a heart of gold, Stormer, and the mean-spirited Roxy.

Each episode has a couple of music videos to complement the themes at hand. As a band, Jem and the Holograms favors all-age appropriate ditties like “Deception” and “Like a Dream,” while The Misfits is partial to a funkier sound, as heard on “Winning Is Everything” and “Takin’ It All.”

All three seasons of Jem and the Holograms can be found on an 11-disc box set with a video jukebox as one of its bonus features. Until now, the final season remained hard to find on DVD. Out and proud singer Sir Ari Gold provides the singing voice to the young orphan girl with deteriorating eyesight, Ba Nee.

Concert tickets make great gifts too, especially when favorites like Chaka Khan (Saturday, Nov. 26, at UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave.), Brandi Carlile (Thursday, Dec. 1, at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.), Florence and the Machine (Sunday, Dec. 4, at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.) and Tori Amos (Saturday, Dec. 10, at The Chicago Theatre) have scheduled shows in Chicago.

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