DVD Review: 'Essence Music Festival Vol. 3'

February 2, 2011
3 out 5 Stars

The Bottom Line

The Essence Music Festival is one of the largest and well-attended R&B music concert series in the U.S., and on Feb. 1, 2011, a two-disc compilation of the best of 2010 show was released. The first disc is a DVD of performances by Janet Jackson, Raphael Saadiq, Mary J. Blige and others; the second's a bonus CD with seven songs from the July 4 weekend show, which took place at the Lousiana Superdome. If you've never had a chance to attend the festival -- or even if you have and want to relive some of the memories -- this DVD is a well-produced, although very bare basics, look at the three-day event.


  • High production values.


  • Only scratches the surface of the event.


  • DVD Tracklisting: Janet Jackson - "Miss You Much"
  • Mary J. Blige - "No More Drama"
  • Trey Songz - "Say Aah"
  • LL Cool J - "Doin' It"
  • Janet Jackson - "Love Will Never Do (Without You)"
  • Monica - "Everything To Me"
  • Keri Hilson - "Knock You Down"
  • Raphael Saadiq - "Love That Girl"
  • Gladys Knight - "If I Were Your Woman"
  • Charlie Wilson - "Party Train"

Guide Review - DVD Review: 'Essence Music Festival Vol. 3'

When it comes to live concerts, artists usually fit into one of two categories: singers or performers. Singers, exemplified by Mary J. Blige, place more of an emphasis on words and vocals during a show, while performers like Janet Jackson are more about the sizzle than the substance. And on the third volume of the Essence Music Festival's live DVD, both types of artists are on full display, both Janet and Mary give convincing arguments through their shows as to which style is better suited for concertgoers. The DVD kicks off with Janet performing one of her biggest hits, "Miss You Much." Even in the recording studio, Janet's never been the strongest vocalist, but in concert she usually makes up for it with intricate choreography and highly entertaining dance numbers. And that's exactly what you get on "Miss You;" unfortunately this comes at the expense of live singing, of which Janet does very little of, even though she tries to disguise this by using pre-recorded backing tracks. On the other side of the coin is the singer of the DVD's second track, Mary J. Blige, who absolutely blows the Louisiana Superdome crowd away with a gut-wrenchingly heartfelt version of "No More Drama." But unlike Janet, Mary's stage performance is almost too simple; if she didn't have the voice of a goddess and such personal magnetism, then her stage show here might have been a little disappointing.
Among the other great performances on the 10-song DVD are the only hip-hop artist included, LL Cool J, who gives about 30 women at the show their 15 minutes of fame by inviting them on the stage for a rendition of "Doin' It;" and Keri Hilson, who shows that she's not just a pretty face with a solid performance of "Knock You Down." Unfortunately though, some talented vocalists didn't have their best moments here, particularly Raphael Saadiq, whose airy voice almost seems to get swallowed up by the massiveness of the Superdome stage during a performance of "Love That Girl." Another disappointment is that the other two artists who performed on the main stage over the course of the three-day event -- Alicia Keys and Jill Scott -- weren't included on the DVD. Of the 11 main stage performers, nine are included on the DVD, with Janet Jackson being the only one represented with two different songs. But rather than having the second disc of this two-disc set be a CD of seven audio performances from the concert, it might have made more sense for it to have been a second DVD with more video, that way, two songs from each artist could have been included. As an overall package, the discs are slightly disappointing; the 11 four-to-five minute performance snippets are all well-produced but only scratch the surface of the festival's full three days of entertainment.

Poor Alicia Keys & Jill Scott not having anything worth remembering to be featured on a best selling DVD. Poor Janet Jackson, they couldn't find a classy picture of her sex selling image to put on the cover, so she was omitted...How tragic.

As always we can count on Mary's epic vocal delivery to capture critics peace of mind. The performance was a spectacular religious experience. Mary's vocals are so powerful, I don't understand how a human can make thousands of people cry & feel their pain. It's truly an eventful moment.


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