By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Madonna.From Detroit, like Ross, the Material Woman is a driven, hard-working, controversial figure assailed for her ambition and her sexuality — the latter via speculation on where the twain meet. Both women also inspire blind devotion in their hardcore (homo-base) fans. But where Ross basks old-pro style in the crowd’s adulation, Madonna sneeringly hoists ?herself above her audience while paying lip service to spiritual growth and counterculture consciousness. An even more crucial distinction: Ross can actually sing.
Whitney Houston.Houston has (or had) a stronger, arguably “better” voice — more conventionally black, soulful, church, etc. — but early in her career she, too, suffered the charge of being a black whitegirl. Where Ross is clocking in on a 50-year career, though, Houston cracked before reaching even half that mark and seems unlikely to get back on path.
Mariah Carey.An insecure mulatta teetering on high heels, stuffed with silicone and afflicted with ditsy-diva syndrome, Carey has zilch stage presence after all these years; Ross is still absolutely magnetic.
Beyoncé.The former Destiny’s Child sibling is a gorgeous, voluptuous void, as predictable and comforting as a Big Mac, if a tad less nutritious. Steely careerism is all that resonates in a voice that (a handful of great singles aside) is the sound of cash registers jingling.
Michael Jackson.In a 1967 film clip of the Supremes at the Hollywood Palace (available for viewing on YouTube), the closing “The Lady Is a Tramp” is sublime. At one point, Ross takes a talon-tipped finger and playfully windshield-wipes a lock of hair across her forehead; she vamps and mugs, shimmying down to her knees while throatily belting the final notes live, no lip-synching. It’s a hilarious, sexy, campy, confident, enthralling performance, full of she’s-brilliant-she’s-insane moments. The kind of shit Michael used to do before he became a creepy ?old white woman. It’s well known that Mike studied James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sammy Davis Jr. and a host of other captivating male singers in order to perfect his showmanship. His idol-worship of Diana Ross has been ?reduced to snickering speculation on ?his sexuality and sanity. In truth, ?Jackson simply spotted in Ross a kindred spirit — someone born to the stage, someone who is without peer when ?inspiration strikes.
Erykah Badu.Out of all the best-known Ross spawn, the only one who can be theatrical and larger than life without being robotic, canned and bloodlessly choreographed.
So why is so little credit afforded the avant-haired Ross? A lot of the slight is her own doing. Though her early-’70s solo records are hugely underrated (as are 1977’s sleek Baby, It’s Me, produced by Richard Perry, and the 1979 disco classic The Boss, written and produced by Ashford & Simpson), she’s had lackluster taste in album material thereafter, largely coasting on image and legend. Excepting, of course, 1980’s funky Chic-produced diana. An O.G. diva whose mercurial temper, outlandish backstage demands and straight-up bitchiness are the stuff of legend, she has let persona overwhelm art. For the endless parade of self-proclaimed divas now cluttering the landscape, Diana Ross is the ultimate cautionary tale. The thing is, few of them will ever amass the kind of legacy that she has let slip through her jeweled fingers.
DIANA ROSS | Blue | Motown