Hollywood Reporter review of VH1's Men Strike Back
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'Men Strike Back' (4/13/00)
Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York Tuesday, April 11
By Frank Scheck
Whether it was because the producers had cleaned up their act or male singers don't feel the need for a costume and hairstyle change between every verse of a song, the "Men Strike Back" concert taped for next week's VH1 broadcast was a significant improvement on the "Divas 2000" show a couple of nights earlier. Well-paced and thoroughly enjoyable, it bodes well for the prospect of an annual male response to the hugely successful female concert series benefiting VH1's Save the Music Foundation for the preservation of school music programs.
Starring Sting, Backstreet Boys, D'Angelo, Tom Jones and Enrique Iglesias, the evening prominently featured what makes these shows so much fun, namely surprising cover versions and delightful collaborations among disparate artists. How could one not thoroughly enjoy the spectacle of Sting becoming the sixth Backstreet Boy, cooing harmonies on "I Want It That Way," or Tom Jones and D'Angelo engaging in a hip-swiveling contest on a raucous version of "Sex Machine"?
Naturally, some performers took the opportunity to plug their latest singles: Iglesias with "Be With You," the Boys with "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," D'Angelo with "Send It On," etc. Christina Aguilera, the sole female on the bill, worked in two of hers ("What a Girl Wants," "I Turn to You"). But the real fun come from the left-field surprises: Iglesias and Tom Jones smoldering together on "Fire" and the Backstreeters singing backup on Sting's "Don't Stand So Close to Me." Of course, not all of the surprises were as felicitous. Aguilera, singing with a jazz trio, mangled the torch song "At Last" with such wild oversinging that a new rule should be instituted: Standards should not be sung by artists under 30, and certainly by none who expose their navels.
There were fun moments galore. D'Angelo worked the crowd into a sweat with an extended funk workout. Tom Jones, who has somehow managed to enter such a black hole of cheesiness that he has emerged from the other side as the hippest artist in the room, had everyone on their feet with his cover of "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" and his immortal "It's Not Unusual." And special guest Sisqo brought a bevy of thong-clad beauties for his raucous "Thong Song." The effective finale had everyone onstage singing that catchiest of songs about stalking, "Every Breath You Take," which had to be performed twice when, ironically, Sting missed a cue.
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