3 out of 5
Created by: Zahir McGhee
covers season 1
Carried by strong lead performances and surprisingly solid music, Queens makes stands slightly taller amidst its soap opera-y dramatic peers to make for watchable evening’s entertainment, at least in its episodic chunks.
The title of the show is the same given to Naomi (Brandy Norwood), Brianna (Eve Cooper), Jill (Naturi Naughton), and Valeria (Nadine Velazquez) when they re-team for a reunion tour of their once-christened “Nasty Bitches” – a hip-hop group that self-imploded in the 90s. Times have changed the ladies from their once fiery personas into moms, singer-songwriters, churchgoers, and models, and past grievances are still strong; a remix from current starlet “Lil Muffin” (Pepi Sonuga) brings them back into the spotlight and gives them a chance to overcome their squabbles… if they so desire.
The draw of artistic expression, or new opportunities, or money does encourage that desire, and Queens sketches out some entertaining character drama as the women bicker and bond, while also dropping full-on music videos / songs from both the Nasty Bitches and Queens, which do the TV thing of plopping in plot-centric lyrics, but not at the expense of actually catchy choruses and legit choreography as well.
While the ins and outs of the interrelations tend to get pretty showy – I mean, that’s TV, but, like, every character gets their own spotlight-grabbing insane antics, and then there’s some pretty tired flash-forward / flash-back cliffhanger nonsense to try to string us along, just in case – all of the leads carry them well, and there’s the sense that, since most of them have lived this actual life to a degree (Eve, Brandy, and Naturi all having had full-on music careers in addition to acting), they’re able to bring a legitimacy to the human / artist balance that grounds the soap opera stuff.
Pepi Sonuga’s bit as representation of the new school of Tik Tok artists is also fairly balanced; the series veers away from being about 90s music version modern music, and mostly tries to embrace how ridiculous and potentially punishing to its performers the scene has always been, but it does also lean in to “Lil Muffin” ‘s ridiculousness for some laughs.
But Queens ultimately succeeds. It’s easy to look at it and assume the show will just cash in on star power and try to milk some singles out of things (the music has been separately released for sale…), but there’s a pretty well-rounded drama in there, in addition to that star power and music.