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Awkward Male Bonding:
Men Strike Back

(or I was so bored by this concert, it took me three months to write my review)

By M. E. Ladd

Admittedly this review is long overdue, but if you ever get a chance to see one of the sure to be ad nauseum reruns of the Men Strike Back concert on the videoless Video Hits-One channel, watch it, not because it’s good, but to ask yourself, why is this so bad? The show had everything an undersexed woman would want in evening programming…singing sex objects. You have a stage full of sweaty testosterone up there, what’s not to love? What went wrong?

It’s my theory that an overload of testosterone simply nullifies itself out of existence and the result is one impotent show.

Men make bad divas. And I know this Men Strike Back concert wasn’t supposed to be about men trying to be like divas, but since the concert was in response to the divas shows (tagline: "Enough Divas ALREADY!"), one is forced into making comparisons. There’s no way out. And men suck as divas. Not to be sexist or anything. I have a theory about why men make more charismatic ice skaters than women. They’re more sexual skaters, more playful. Women, even when they try to be playful, come across real stiff. So they don’t call them ice princesses for nothing! Likewise, divas. By definition they're icy, dramatic and icy.

Well, to define "Diva" is a monstrous and thankless task. But it’s fair to say divas often sacrifice content for style (this is not necessarily a bad thing. Divas often perform like sherbet between heavy courses…brilliantly sweet, flashy, they refresh and clear your palette). Divas and complicated, serious artistry don’t often go hand and hand. And if Men Strike Back would have replaced female orange sherbet with male orange sherbet, then we’d have a comparable product, but Men Strike Back replaced female orange sherbet with noodle casserole and apple sherbet. And that’s like comparing apples to oranges. The fact is there is no equivalent male counterpart to a diva…not even Elton John. He may be a bitch but he ain’t no Diva. Maybe Elvis came close. Pop male acts just don’t survive in the same way. We allow our female divas a multitude of comebacks, it's partly what being a diva is all about. Divas require a lot of adoration. Wearing sequins in a Vegas act just doesn't cut if for a diva.

Men Strike Back began with girls squealing over the Backstreet Boys. Lots of testosterone there and hey, what’s wrong with that? At this point, you would have been hard pressed to get a bad review outta me. Although I don’t like that Opie BS Boy. He looks too much like the eldest, soccer-playing kid on Home Improvement (Nick). Then there’s the Carlos Santana looking kid (Kevin), the Sting-look-a-like (Brian), the mock Marc Anthony (AJ) and the Red Hot Chili Pepper-wannabie (Howie). Ten years from now, the divas will still be divas and these boy bands will be Where Are They Nows….nothing wrong with that.

Enrique Iglesias came next. Big yawn! This one bores me straight to The Learning Channel. Spawn of crooners: it's now a phenomenon. Remember the child of Sinatra whose boots were made for walking? Her story should be the PowerPoint career trajectory for what’s going to happen to Enrique. Because those boots are made for pop star idols. The girls love ‘em, Then the girls pack ‘em up in basement boxes and go to college. In the meantime, I flip over to another channel, flip back…he’s still there thinking he’s oh so sexy and he’s so, so NOT. In fact, he has a really bad 'do…a major diva don’t!

Christina Aguilera is next. Again I am bored with her pseudo-soul teen-jinx and I start channel flipping once again. When I turn back, the BS Boys are on once more, only this time Sting has joined them! Hey now! The bands already got a Sting!

Did anyone catch this hereto stated appalling fact? Sting was singing with the Backstreet Boys! Singing some BS Boy song like "I Want It That Way," reading it right off the prompter, LIKE A REAL BS BOY! It was almost too painful to watch. I’d like to believe Sting was doing it for his teenaged BSBoy-obsessed kid. Pressured as only a parent can be pressured into the incredibly undignifying act of sacrificing your bad-ass-Police-turned-easy-listening-with-a-conscience career into One Who Runs with Boybands. All I’m saying is that this better have been his reason! Because I just can't accept the alternative. And while we're at this crucial Sting-intervention: can we call a moratorium on Sting in turtle-neck sweaters, too?

Then coolness returns. What am I saying? Coolness arrives. D’Angelo sings with Tom Jones. They do the only sexy number of the night: "Sex Bomb." And it was H.O.T. Let’s have these guys finish the show! What do ya say? Tom Jones sweats like Whitney Houston through two of hits and then Enrique pisses on the fire in a duet with Tom on Bruce Springsteen’s "Fire." They had no chemistry, Tom and Enrique, almost a homophobic, anti-chemistry, it appears.

At the end of the show, every man who struck back (not very p.c., if you ask me) convened for a rendition of "Every Breath You Take," which restored, thank God, some dignity to Sting. After some final, awkward male hugging (which sums up this evening of Deadbeat Divos), I began to think these concerts are becoming a construct even pop stars are starting to phone in. And I need more from my man than that.

Share your feelings on Men Strike Back and VH1's Divas here.

Read reviews of other Diva-laden specials.



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