REVIEW: Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Four former members of a one-time, world-dominating girl band are given the chance to relive past glories when a young artist homages one of their tracks.
However, much has changed since the quartet were top of the charts, and they’ll have to get over long-held grudges and deep divisions if it isn’t to all end in disaster.
Yes, hot on the heels of the Spice Girls-parody Girls5eva, comes this near identical premise. But Queens (which begins streaming on Disney+ tomorrow, November 24) has a very different perspective, sensibility and tone. In truth, it has more in common with its long-running stablemate Empire, or the much-loved Nashville, although there are still some laughs to be had amongst the drama.
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With hits like Nasty Girl, Girls Gonna Run That and Heart of Queens, Professor Sex, Butter Pecan, Da Thrill and Xplicit Lyrics, collectively known as Nasty Bitches, were a hip hop and pop-culture phenomenon at the turn of the century.
Banned from Saturday Night Live and known as much for their eye-popping outfits and fierceness, as their ability to rhyme almost anything with Ducati, for “one hot minute” they were the shiz, until increasing tensions within the band culminated in an onstage implosion.
All four have since carved out new, separate lives, but find their fates potentially intertwined once more when up-and-coming rapper Lil Muffin (Pepi Sonuga) samples one of their songs. With the organisers of the upcoming Black Entertainment Television Awards ceremony desperate for an onstage colab, Naomi (Brandy Norwood), Brianna (Eve J.Cooper), Jill (Naturi Naughton) and Valeria (Nadine Velazquez) will have to quickly decide if they can work together once more.
While a cool $50,000 each provides plenty of reasons to say yes, they all have issues in the private lives that might not withstand the glare of public scrutiny. Will a mother-of-five with a philandering husband, a church lady leading a double life, a washed-up musician with a disgruntled daughter and a recently disgraced TV host, be able to put their personal problems aside to perform at the biggest Black awards show on the planet? As one of them so eruditely puts it, “Tell me how this is not going to be a disaster?”
What makes Queens a success, apart from the spot-on pastiches of hip hop music videos of the late ‘90s and early noughties, is the casting. Having former successful musicians Brandy, Eve and Naturi in key roles lends an air of authenticity to the project, and they’ve no doubt drawn on their own experiences in fleshing out their characters.
Showrunner Zahir McGhee has clearly picked up some tips from the Shondaland-school-of-dramatic-television from his previous role as a writer and executive producer on Scandal, so viewers can expect plenty of tears, tantrums and near-tragedies, regrets and recriminations, before the end credits roll each episode.
Forget Waiting to Exhale, this is fast-moving, sometimes breathless melodrama.
Queens will be available to stream on Disney+ from November 24.