Connect with us

Music & Concerts

Music makes us come together



D.C. is always home to more concerts than you could possibly write about. Here are some of the season’s highlights.

Barns at Wolf Trap
1645 Trap Rd.
Vienna, Va. 22182

Spring highlights:

Antares -March 19

Jeri Sager – March 20

HAPA -March 23-24

Bastianello & Lucrezia -March 26

John Eaton -March 27

Shemekia Copeland -March 28

Richard Marx and Matt Scannell -April 6

Ruthie Foster and John Hammond -April 7

Moya Brennan -April 8

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet -April 9

Julie Murphy Wells -April 10

The Bad Plus -April 13

Livingston Taylor -April 15-16

Luke Brindley -April 22

Lucy Kaplansky -April 23

Buskin & Batteau -April 24

The Bobs -April 28

John McCutcheon -April 29

Bonnie Rideout -April 30

For more information: 703-255-1900 or

Black Cat
1811 14th St. N.W.
Washington D.C. 20009

Spring highlights:

Black Lips, Box Elders, The Vermilions -March 19

Close to the Edge featuring DJ Dredd -March 19

Fruit Bats, Blue Giant, The Singleman Affair -March 20

Right Round featuring DJ lilíe -March 20

Magik Markers, Buildings -March 21

The Ruby Suns, Toro y Moi -March 24

Jukebox The Ghost, Tally Hall, Skybox -March 25

The Saturday Night Dance Party -March 27

The So So Glos, The Pharmacy -March 28

The Smith Westerns, So Cow, The Cheniers -April 1

Sorted with DJ Stereo Faith -April 2

HomoSonic -April 4

Tim Barry, Red Clay River -April 5

Exit Clov, Gringo Star -April 8

High on Fire, Priestess, Black Cobra, Bison B.C. -April 11

Freddie T & The People, Brandon Bulter -April 12

Shortstack, Birds of Avalon, Suns of Guns -April 16

Ugly Purple Sweater, La Strada, Lucia Lucia -April 20

Bitch -April 29

Echo & The Bunnymen -April 30

These United States, The Mother Hips -May 15

Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra -May 19

For more information: 202-667-4490 or

Blues Alley
1073 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington D.C. 20007

Spring highlights:

Earl Klugh -March 20

Swing Shift -March 21

Sherrie Maricle & The Diva Jazz Trio -March 22

Gregg Karukas -March 23

Nicole Henry -March 24

Stanley Jordan -March 28

The Outer Bridge Ensemble -March 29

Dan Leonard -April 6

Dani Cortaza -April 7

Bucky Pizzarelli -April 8-10

James Madison High School Band -April 11

Richard Montgomery High School -April 12

Columbia Jazz Band -April 12

The Dave Brubeck Quartet -April 16-18

The World Famous Count Basie Orchestra -April 20-25

Yellowjackets -May 6-8

Teri S -May 12

Larry Coryell Power Trio -May 13-16

Marcus Young -May 18

Spyro Gyra -May 20-23

John Eaton -May 25

For more information: 703-549-7500 or

DAR Constitution Hall
1776 D St., N.W.
Washington D.C. 20006

Spring highlights:

Fresh Fest with Salt-N-Pepa -March 20

The Moody Blues -March 26

Vampire Weekend -April 3

Phoenix -April 26

For more information: 202-628-1776 or

1940 Ninth St. N.W.
Washington D.C. 20009

Spring highlights:

Bonjour, Ganesh! -March 20

Barefoot Truth -March 21

My Disco -March 23

Miles Kurosky of Beulah -March 24

Natalia Clavier -March 27

A Sunny Day In Glasgow -March 28

today the moon, tomorrow the sun -March 29

The Appleseed Cast -April 13

The Mary Onettes -April 20

The Points -April 22

Nouveau Riche -April 24

Captured! By Robots -May 4

Eluvium -May 17

For more information: 202-483-5000 or

DC Center
1810 14th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009

Tom Goss Live: Launching his new Marriage Equality EP Politics of Love -April 1

For more information: 202-682-2245 or

Folger Elizabethan Theatre
201 East Capitol St., S.E.
Washington D.C. 20003

Spring highlights:

Ballets and Brawls: French Music of Court and Countryside -March 19-March 21

A Musical Banquet: Songs for Lute, Voice and Viol -April 9-April 11

For more information: 202-544-7077 or

GMU Center For The Arts
4373 Mason Pond Dr.
Fairfax, VA 22030

Spring highlights:

Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra with Lang Lang -April 3

GMU Percussion Ensemble Concert -April 6

GMU Chamber Orchestra -April 13

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields -April 23-25

GMU Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band Spring Concert -April 27

Flutopia Flute Choir -May 4

For more information: 888-945-2468 or

Iota Restaurant & Bar
2832 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201

Spring highlights:

Tom McBride and the Whig Party -March 19

Dead Heart Bloom with Aaron Thompson -March 20

David Ford -March 21

Amy Sullivan and the Whiskey Darlings -March 22

Justin Trawick -April 2

The U-Liners -April 3

El Ten Eleven -April 6

Caravan of Thieves -April 8

The Walkaways -April 24

Red Elvises -May 1

For more information: 703-522-8340 or

Jammin’ Java
227 Maple Ave. E.
Vienna, VA 22180

Spring highlights:

Steve Forbert -March 19

Dreaming of Eden + The Chuck Shaffer Picture Show -March 19

Al Petteway and Amy White -March 21

Collective Change – Haiti Benefit Concert -March 23

Jim Weiderís Project Percolator -March 24

The Hint -March 26

Sara Borges and the Broken Singles -March 26

Bill Emerson and Sweet Dixie Band -March 28

Army of Me -March 28

Pierre Bensusan -March 31

Benjy Davis Project -April 1

DC101ís Last Band Standing -April 6, April 13, April 21, April 27

Sara Watkins -April 20

Adrian Belew -April 22

Faze Electro Dance Party with Menya and Ypset and Santi -April 24

Graham Parker and the Figgs -May 1

Michelle Shocked -May 7

Boys Will Be Boys -May 8

Aqualung -May 9

Dan Navarro -May 14

Crash Test Dummies -May 16

For more information: 703-255-1566 or

Kennedy Center
2700 F St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20566

Spring highlights:

The Washington Chorus performs Mozartís Requiem -March 26, Concert Hall

Vocal Arts Society: America Sings Festival Showcase -April 10, Concert Hall

Marietta Simpson -April 21, Concert Hall

Gospel Across America Special -April 24, Concert Hall

Escher Quartet -April 26, Concert Hall

Barbara Cookís Broadway Spotlight: Laura Benanti -April 30, Terrace

Vocal Arts Society: Christine Brewer and Craig Rutenberg -May 7, Concert Hall

Jennifer Koh and Reiko Uchida -May 9, Concert Hall

Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival -May 20-May 22, Terrace

For more information: 202-467-4600 or

Lisner Auditorium
730 21st St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20052

Spring highlights:

Grease: The Gay Men’s Chourus of Washington presents a fully staged, all-male production of thie Broadway musical -March 19 thru March 21

Angelique Kidjo -March 27

Caetano Veloso -April 10

Rokia Traore -April 11

Time Machine -Mashina Vremeni -April 13

Music from the Crooked Road: Mountain Music of Virginia -April 16

Joe Bonamassa -April 23

Baaba Maal -April 29

The Fab Faux -May 22

For more information: 202-994-6800 or

The Library of Congress-Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First St. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003

Spring highlights:

Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexandre Tharaud -March 12

Curtis Contemporary Music Ensemble -March 15

Voces Intimae -March 26

Juilliard String Quartet -April 9

Henschel Quartet -April 14

Alexander String Quartet, Afiara String Quartet -April 16

Jack Quartet -April 30

Woodley Ensemble -May 14

Ensemble Caprice -May 28

Mahan Esfahani -May 29

For more information: 202-707-8000 or

Lyric Opera House
140 West Mount Royal Ave.
Baltimore, Md. 21201

Spring highlights:

Norah Jones -March 30

David Gray -March 31

Angie Stone and Leela James -April 17

For more information: 410-685-5086 or

Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044

Spring highlights:

My Morning Jacket -May 1

Sugarland -May 16

The Bamboozle Roadshow featuring All Time Low and Boys Like Girls -May 21

For more information: 800-551-SEAT or

Music Center at Strathmore
5301 Tuckerman Lane
North Bethesda, MD 20852

Spring highlights:

The Celtic Tenors -March 12

Ari Allal -March 24

Naomi Kudo -March 25

US Royalty with DJ Will Eastman -March 26

Tom Wopat -March 28

David Garrett -March 31

E.M. Spencer -April 2

Sezen Aksu -April 4

Gato & the Palenke Music Co. -April 9

George Winston, A Solo Piano Concert -April 9

Romeo and Julia Koren -April 13

Songs of the Earth: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day -April 23

Patti LuPone presents ìThe Gypsy in my Soulî for Strathmoreís 2010 Spring Gala -April 24

Nancy Wilson -May 7

An Evening with Rosanne Cash and Mark OíConnor -May 8

For more information: 301-581-5100 or

National Philharmonic-Music Center at Strathmore
5301 Tuckerman Lane
North Bethesda, MD 20852

Spring highlights:

All Brahms -March 20, March 21

Brahms Requiem -March 27

From Mozart to Mahler -April 17, April 18

Vivaldiís Gloria -May 1

The Polish Masters and Schumann -May 22

For more information: 301-493-9283 or

Ram’s Head Live
20 Market Place
Baltimore, MD 21202

Spring highlights:

Charm City Devils -March 19

Mat Kearney & Ingrid Michaelson -March 20

Ben Folds -March 24

Mr. Greengenes -March 26

Julian Casablancas -March 28

The Fabulous Thunderbirds -March 31

The Big Pink with A Place To Bury Strangers -April 1

Artic Monkeys -April 7

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony -April 8

Steel Panther -April 9

Hotspur -April 10

2U: U2 tribute band -April 17

Mastodon -April 20

Jakob Dylan and Three Legs -April 22

Josh Gracin -April 23

Gogol Bordello -April 29-30

Who ís Bad: A Michael Jackson Tribute Band -May 1

Charlie Mars -May 12

Get the Led Out -May 15

For more information: 410-244-1131 or

Ram’s Head on Stage
33 West St.
Annapolis, MD 21401

Spring highlights:

Eddie from Ohio -March 19-20

The Machine Unplugged -March 20

Amos Lee -March 20

Celtic Crossroads -March 21

HAPA -March 22

Ledisi -March 27

Tower of Power -March 28

Alice Smith -March 31

Pat McGee -April 1

Rhett Miller -April 3

Keith Emerson & Greg Lake -April 5

Christopher Cross -April 10

Joan Osborne -April 11

Gary Wright -April 15

Sonny Landreth -April 16

Lalah Hathaway -April 18

Swing Out Sister -April 20

Ambrosia -April 21

Colin Hay -April 25

The Church -April 27

Mick Taylor -May 6

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings -May 7

Sia -May 8

Chris Botti -May 10-11

Vonda Shepard -May 12

Phil Vassar -May 14-15

Beth Nielsen Chapman -May 24

Toad the Wet Sprocket -May 29

For more information: 410-268-4545 or

Rock & Roll Hotel
1353 H St. N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002

Spring highlights:

Junior League Band -March 19

Epic Dance Party with DJ Doc Rok -March 19

Garutachi with DJ Austin and DJ Ca$$idy -March 20

Bio Ritmo -March 20

Solar Powered Sun Destroyer -March 25

Shearwater, Wye Oak and Hospital Ships -March 26

Woods, Real Estate, Surf City -March 27

Japandroids, Love Is All, Tennis System -March 29

Gang Gang Dance, Highlife -March 30

Rattler -April 3

100 Monkeys -April 7

Pants Velour, Fuzzy G, The Canon Logic -April 10

ThíLegendary Shack*Shakers -April 13

Liars, Fol Chen -April 14

Trams Am, Nice Nice, Jonas Reinhardt -April 15

Mixtape -April 17

The Apples In Stereo -April 18

The Blue Line, Poor But Sexy, Drunk Tigers -April 23

Amanda Blank -April 24

Free Lobster Buffet -April 30

The Album Leaf, Sea Wolf -May 4

Imperial China -May 7

Patrick Wilson, Dovemen -May 8

Caribou, Toro Y Moi -May 10

Greg Laswell -May 24

Cobra Collective, Death by Sexy, Dead Heart Bloom -May 28

Black Dog Prowl -May 29

For more information: 202-388-ROCK or

The Birchmere
3701 Mt. Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22305

Spring highlights:

Average White Band -March 19-20

David Wilcox & Patty Larkin -March 21

Jonathan Butler -March 23

Carrie Newcomer & Peter Mayer -March 25

Jonatha Brooke & Lori McKenna -March 26

Ashford & Simpson -March 27

Anuhea & The Green -March 29

Bob Schneider -March 30

Robert Earl Keen -March 31

Keller Williams -April 2

Vivian Green -April 5

Keith Emerson & Greg Lake -April 6

Lizz Wright -April 7

Joan Osborne -April 8

Christopher Cross -April 9

Fourplay -April 12

Todd Rundgrenís Johnson -April 13

Michael McDonald -April 15

Guy Clark -April 17

Angie Stone -April 18

Swing Out Sister -April 19

The Wailiní Jennys -April 20

Colin Hay -April 23-24

Gentlemen of the Night -April 25

America: 40th Anniversary Tour -April 30, May 1

The English Beat -May 3

Kathy Mattea -May 6

Shawn Colvin -May 7

Shelby Lynne -May 11

Iris Dement -May 13

Chatham County Line -May 14

Virginia Coalition -May 15

Sweet Honey in the Rock -May 21-22

Toad the Wet Sprocket -May 27-28

Sonny Landreth & Tom Principato -May 29

Alex Bugnon -May 30

For more information: 703-549-7500 or

The Red & The Black
1212 H St. N.E.
Washington D.C., 20002

Spring highlights:

The Pubcrawlers -March 15

Rest Assured -March 17

Bellmer Dolls -March 19

One for the Team, The Prisms -March 21

YARN, Sgt Dunbar The Hobo Banned, Andrew Karnavas -March 25

Ravenous, FOX Japan, Caustic Casanova -March 26

Benyaro, Chris Merritt -March 28

Andalusian Dog -April 1

Shapiro, The Winter Sounds, Achtung Panda -April 4

East Coast Caravan -April 9

The Honeyguns -April 10

Lake Street Dive -April 13

Jounce -April 15

Horsehead -April 16

Deleon -April 17

For more information: 202-399-3201 or

The State Theatre
220 N. Washington St.
Falls Church, VA 22046

Spring highlights:

The Legwarmers -March 19-20

Tower of Power -March 26

Divas of Pop Dance Party -March 27

Rebirth Brass Band -March 31

The Soft Parade: The most authentic tribute to the Doors-April 2

The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue -April 3

Easy Star All-Stars -April 4

Anonymous -April 8

Cherry Poppin Daddies -April 15

Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers -April 18

Cowboy Junkies -April 23

The Machine -April 24

The Church -April 25, April 27

Taj Mahal Trio -May 1

Sematic and Charm City Devils -May 7

Donna The Buffalo -May 14

For more information: 703-237-0300 or

Verizon Center
601 F St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Spring highlights:

Alicia Keys -March 25

Bon Jovi with Dashboard Confessional -March 29

Nickelback -April 13

For more information: 202-628-3200 or

Warner Theatre
513 13th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Spring Lineup:

Norah Jones -April 2

Trans-Siberian Orchestra -April 11

Widespread Panic -April 20-21

Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes -April 22

Mark Knopfler -May 2

For more information: 202-397-SEAT or

9:30 Club
815 V St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

Spring highlights:

Anvil w/Misstallica -March 20

The Dan Band -March 27

Wiz Khalifa -March 28

Nada Surf -April 2

Wale & KíNaan -April 4

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club -April 5

The Temper Tramp and Florence & The Machine -April 6

King Sunny Ade -April 7

Mayhem -April 7

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists -April 8

NEEDTOBREATHE w/Will Hoge & Matt Hires -April 9

US Air Guitar -April 10

Pick Up The Phone Tour featuring Blue October -April 11

George Clinton and PFunk -April 12

Badfish -April 14

Martin Sexon -April 16

Jedi Mind Tricks -April 17

Kidz In The Hall -April 18

The Disco Biscuits -April 20

Rock Bottom Remainders -April 21

Jovanotti -April 22

Jakob Dylan -April 23

AP Tour: Never Shout Never, Hey Monday, The Cab, Every Avenue, The Summer Set -April 25

Ozomatli -April 28

Motion City Soundtrack -April 28

Kaki King -April 29

Citizen Cope -April 30, May 1

Shout Out Louds -May 2

Sia -May 4

Corinne Bailey Rae -May 13

Dr. Dog w/ Deer Tick -May 14

For more information: 202-265-0930 or

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Music & Concerts

Forget streaming, the holiday classics return to area stages

Bring your proof of vaccination and check out a local production this season



A scene from a previous Gay Men's Chorus of Washington Holiday Show. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year ago, the holiday season was streamed. But now, thanks to various protocols including masks and proof of vaccination, DMV theatergoers can come together and experience – live and in-person — both beloved classics and some promising new works. Here’s a smattering of what’s out there.

At Olney Theatre, Paul Morello is thrilled to bring back “A Christmas Carol 2021” (through Dec. 26), his solo adaptation of Dickens’ ghost story. Concerning returning to a live audience, Morello says, “While this is technically a one-person show, it’s really about the connection and collaboration with an audience, being in the same room, breathing in unison. I can’t do this without an audience and for a story that thrives on redemption, mortality, isolation, the need for community and connection, and the things that matter most, the timing couldn’t be better.”

Olney also presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” through Jan. 2. This musical “tale as old as time” stars out actor Jade Jones as Belle and Evan Ruggiero plays the Beast.

For the holidays, Synetic Theater at Crystal City is reworking “Cinderella” (Nov. 27-Dec. 26). Led by an all-female team of creators, this festive take on the classic fairytale is inspired by Afro-Latino music and dance. Directed and adapted by Maria Simpkins who also plays the title role.

Last year, because of COVID-19, Ford’s Theatre presented “A Christmas Carol” as a radio broadcast, but now the fully produced play returns to the venue’s historic stage through Dec. 27. A popular Washington tradition for more than 30 years, the thoroughly enjoyable and topnotch take on the Dickens’ classic features Craig Wallace reprising the part of Scrooge, the miser who after a night of ghostly visits, rediscovers Christmas joy.

Another D.C. tradition guaranteed to put audiences in a holiday mood is the Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” playing at the Warner Theatre through Dec. 26. Set to Tchaikovsky’s enchanted score, this charming and superbly executed offering takes place in Georgetown circa 1882 and features a retinue of historic figures along with children, rats, fairies and a mysterious godfather. Choreography is by Septime Webre.

The Folger Consort, the superb early music ensemble in residence at the Folger, will be performing seven concerts of “A Medieval Christmas” (Dec. 10-18) at St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill. A streaming version of the concert will also be available to view on-demand.

At Lincoln Theatre, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. presents “The Holiday Show” (Dec. 4, 11, and 12) replete with tap-dancing elves, a dancing Christmas tree, snow, and a lot more. The fun and festive program’s song list includes “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “The 12 Rockin’ Days of Christmas,” and “Boogie Woogie Frosty.” Featured performances range from the full Chorus, soloists, all GMCW ensembles, and the GenOUT Youth Chorus.

Arena Stage is marking the season with August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” (through Dec. 26), a drama about a small group of friends who gather following the untimely death of their friend, a blues guitarist on the edge of stardom. Directed by Tazewell Thompson, the production features an exciting cast that includes local actors Dane Figueroa Edidi and Roz White.

Creative Cauldron is serving up some holiday magic with “The Christmas Angel” (Dec. 9-19). Based on a little-known 1910 novel by Abbey Farwell Brown, it’s the story of a lonely and bitter spinster who returns to happiness through a box of old toys. The commissioned new holiday musical is a collaboration of longtime musical collaborators and married couple Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith (lyrics and book).

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, the National Theatre presents two feel-good national tour musicals. First, it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (through Dec. 5), a musical take on Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas.”

Next up is “Tootsie” (Dec. 7-12), the hit musical based on the 1982 gender-bending film starring Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a woman to land a role on a popular soap opera. The show boasts a Tony-winning book by Robert Horn and a score by Tony winner David Yazbek (The Band’s Visit).

Keegan Theatre presents its annual holiday offering, “An Irish Carol” (Dec. 10-31). Set in a modern Dublin pub, the funny yet poignant original work (a nod to Dickens) tracks the changes in the life of a rich but miserable publican over the course of one Christmas Eve.

At Theater J, it’s the Kinsey Sicks’ “Oy Vey in a Manger” (Dec. 17-25). Blending drag, four-part harmony, and political humor, the “dragapella beautyshop quartet” brings its own hilariously irreverent view on the holidays.

And through Jan. 2, Signature Theatre continues to brighten the season with its production of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” directed by the company’s out artistic director Matthew Gardiner and featuring out actor David Merino as Angel, a preternaturally energetic drag queen and percussionist.

The Music Center at Strathmore, also in Bethesda, is presenting a wide range of musical holiday offerings including “Manheim Steamroller Christmas” (Dec. 3 and 4), a multimedia holiday tradition; Sarah Brightman in “A Christmas Symphony” (Dec. 6 and 7); “A Celtic Christmas with Séan Heely Celtic Band” (Dec. 11); Washington Bach Consort’s “Bach’s Epic Christmas Oratorio” (Dec. 11); the beloved “The Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas” (Dec. 16 and 17); and last but not least “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” (Dec. 20), Tchaikovsky’s classic reimagined with MC Kurtis Blow (“White Lines”).

And finally, something strictly for the kids: Imagination Stage presents “Corduroy” (Dec. 11-Jan. 24). Based on the beloved children’s books by Don Freeman, it’s the heartwarming story of a girl and her perfectly imperfect Teddy Bear. Best for ages 3-9.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

BETTY returns to DC

Queer band to perform at City Winery Dec. 5



BETTY (Photo by Gene Reed, 2021)

Pop-rock band BETTY is returning to their District homeland for a holiday show at City Winery on Dec. 5.  

Fronted by Alyson Palmer and sisters Elizabeth and Amy Ziff, the band who are “rule breakers” and “equality rockers” have been touring, writing, and advocating for social change through their music since 1986. The band has been featured in shows like “The L Word” and “Encyclopedia,” and created their own off-Broadway show “BETTY RULES.”

The D.C. show will kick off a tour that will bring the band to New York City, Cincinnati, and New Hope, Pa. Elizabeth, who identifies as lesbian, said it’s been “incredible” to be in rehearsals for shows again after the pandemic put a hold on live music.  

“We’ve been together for so long. We are a family and we hang out and we’re friends and we play music together,” she said. “It’s our life.”

Amy, who is queer, said she’s excited to perform in the District where the band originally formed. 

“It’s so emotional because it’s where we grew up,” she said. “Not just musically, but it’s where we came out.”

Proof of vaccination is required at all shows. To purchase tickets, visit

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

We waited eons for this? New Diana album is colossal disappointment

Saccharine sentiments sink largely self-penned effort from diva supreme



Diana Ross’s new project ‘Thank You,’ while hopeful and optimistic, is too musically weak to catch fire after the one-two punch of its opening cuts. (Image courtesy Decca)

Diana Ross’s solo albums are almost always inconsistent.

This isn’t unusual among R&B/pop divas; start wading past the hits and the same could be said for the album tracks of Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, et. al.

The few times she’s made a start-to-finish solid effort, like 1991’s “The Force Behind the Power,” 1995’s “Take Me Higher” or even 1985’s “Eaten Alive,” which works even with its campy title cut, they’ve never been huge sellers or featured any of her trademark hits.

However — and it pains me to say this — you have to go all the way back to 1983’s “Ross” to find an album as bad as her new release “Thank You” (★½ out of four), her first album in 15 years and her first of new material in 22 years. Pre-COVID, she was highly active with touring (and played the D.C. region many times), but her studio work had ground to a total halt.

A few things trickled out from the vault, like 2006’s delightful jazz album “Blue” (recorded in the early ’70s), but there was nothing new. And while it was always great to see her on stage — she looks fabulous at 77 (although you’d never know it from the vintage photo used on the “Thank You” cover) — her show varied little from year to year and her vocals were occasionally pitchy.

So while it’s great to finally have something new from the Motown legend — a studio workhorse all through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s — this extremely uneven new album is a musical Hallmark turd that never met a feel-good lyrical cliche too saccharine or an easy listening musical bed too insipid.

It’s hard to place too much of the blame on Troy Miller (a veteran of Amy Winehouse’s band), who produced the bulk of the tracks here, as Ross’s fingerprints are all over it — she’s billed as executive producer and, in a career first, she co-wrote nine of the 13 cuts. Though she took a few songwriting credits here and there over the years (she co-wrote four songs on her 1982 album “Silk Electric”), on most of her albums, her songwriting contributions are zero. And although two of those — the bouncy title cut and second single “If the World Just Danced” — are unequivocally the project’s best tracks, Joni Mitchell she is not.

Here’s the good news — she sounds amazing. There’s a lustrous quality to her vocal work here, her range is truly impressive and the pitch never wavers. Some scoff, but I have always felt Ross is a great pop singer with considerable range and impressive interpretive abilities in a wide gulf of genres. She was never a Whitney or Celine, but she could coo (“Baby Love”), yearn (“Cryin’ My Heart Out for You”), burn (“Muscles”) and growl (“Swept Away”) as well as anyone. This album’s “Time to Call,” though weak, gives her a chance to unfurl several melismas in her highest register and she kills it.

Stylistically, while varied, the album as a whole is numbingly mellow. Three cuts (the solid “If the World Just Danced,” retro shuffle “I Still Believe” and horn-laden abomination “Tomorrow”) are dance tracks and almost all the rest could legitimately be dubbed easy listening. There’s cascading string work, decent (if hardly impressive) production and stylistic variation, but the flame dies out after the first two songs and, with such banal lyrics and painfully unimaginative melodies, never comes close to reigniting despite Ross’s conviction. It’s like seeing a truly good actress in a turkey of a play knowing she co-wrote it. You’re rooting for her, but you’ve spent most of the outing wincing.

One might argue saccharine and Ross have gone hand in hand back to the days of “Reach Out and Touch” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” — true — but it’s taken to a new low here. Of course, nobody expected Deepak Chopra-caliber insight, but with clunkers like “what is isn’t/what isn’t is” (on the Ross co-penned “All is Well”), “I’ll be the pillow where your head will lay,” (on daughter Rhonda’s “Count on Me”) or “the first time I saw your face …” (on mother’s ode “Beautiful Love”) — ripping off a lyric that blatantly should be illegal — this album’s scaffolding is so weak, one positively groans at the amateurishness of the songcraft. This is the chorus of “Count on Me”: “count on me/count on me/count on me/count on me.”

Siedah Garrett, a respected songwriter who might have momentarily elevated the proceedings, delivers one of the album’s worst cuts with the nauseatingly treacly “The Answer’s Always Love.”
I could go on, but you get the idea.

One might also argue, hey, couldn’t we use a little positivity today? Cut Miss Ross some slack and just be glad she’s back. True perhaps, but with material this weak and the thought of what this album could have been in more daring, imaginative hands, it’s downright frustrating.

With little chance of making any kind of dent on U.S. (or U.K. for that matter) pop radio and in her late 70s, I’d hoped Miss Ross, with no fucks left to give, might have done something brash and daring, but this is called playing it safe folks and sadly it’s a yawnfest.

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts