Queens, an ABC Drama, Receives Rave Reviews

Queens' leading ladies have credibility when they discuss what it was like to be at the top of the music world in 1999 because three of them (Eve, Brandy, and Naturi Naughton) were actually in the spotlight at the time. And when these ladies start making music together, the excitement is enough to get Queens through any hiccups that might otherwise spoil the party.

The drama, created by Zahir McGee, follows the fictional all-female hip-hop group Nasty Bitches as they reunite 20 years after their initial explosion in the late '90s. Coincidentally, Peacock's Girls5eva follows a similar premise in that the inspiration for a comeback comes when the group's signature song is sampled in a song by a newer, more popular artist. Queens, on the other hand, takes a very different approach to the premise, making it much more serious and searching but also much soapier.

The first episode packs a lot of history into its 44 minutes, beginning with a music video that effectively summarizes who these women used to be. The video features a yacht, a mansion, a long line of shirtless hunks, an obviously CG explosion, and the Nasty Girls winking and sneering at the camera in front of it all—all hallmarks of an MTV hit from the era. However, scenes depicting the women as they are now are intercut throughout the video.

Once known as the self-assured "Professor Sex," Brianna (Eve) is now simply Brianna, a busy mother of five whose current theme song is "Baby Shark." Each member of the band is introduced in the same manner: "Da Thrill" becomes the prim and proper church lady Jill (Naughton), "Xplicit Lyrics" becomes the struggling singer-songwriter Naomi (Brandy), and "Butter Pecan" becomes Valeria (Nadine Velazquez). a morning show host and the only surviving member of the original boy band

The early promise of Queens rests on the shoulders of its lead actors. Whether it's Jill's stiff demeanor or Naomi's palpable sense of regret, all four characters feel fully realized right away. Each heroine faces unique obstacles, and every pairing of characters creates a different dynamic, some more sympathetic than others.

They have natural chemistry as a group, and their sharp, focused banter only helps it along. Queens doesn't expect you to take its word for it that these women were close in their youth; instead, it shows us one of the women opening up to her friends over mimosas about her issues with an unfaithful man, and her friends laughing it off and making jokes about his penis. Incredulous that he still has a penis at all, she says, "You have changed. The same scene then shifts into introspective pain about what makes leaving so difficult. In short, it's the kind of personal, open-ended chat a woman might have with lifelong friends, even if they haven't seen each other in a while.

And when these women are freestyling together in the studio, they are rarely better. With Swizz Beatz serving as executive music producer and the cast's combined musical experience, it should come as no surprise that the Queens soundtrack is full of bangers, featuring a lot of hip-hop greats like Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, and Remy Ma as well as more eclectic acts like Portishead. Considering the quality of the other songs featured in the episode, it's impressive that the Nasty Bitches' original music holds its own. The group's signature song, "Nasty Girl," is just as catchy as the other songs. Possibly not "Baby Shark," ”)

The cast and music in Queens are so good that the show would be interesting even if it only showed these women in the studio practicing or writing songs together. However, a domestic drama, a love triangle, and a coming-out story are all planted in the premiere and look to develop throughout the season.

The Nasty Bitches' friendship with Lil Muffin (a charming Pepi Sonuga), a promising young rapper, is the most encouraging development. In that plot, Queens is at its most honest about what the music industry can do for and to women, as well as the limits to which even a superstar is subject.

Some of the tonal shifts between these plots are less assured. Queens occasionally adopts the rhythms of a lively comedy, even in more serious storylines. At other times, it turns up the sexiness with neon lights and a sultry soundtrack. You could easily mistake it for a dishy soap opera or a melodramatic tragedy, especially when Velazquez's Valeria dominates the screen. Queens can feel like it's trying to spin a few too many plates at once, what with its plot jumping all over the country in the first episode and picking up new threads wherever it goes.

Alternatively, the show may simply have an overwhelming amount of potential from which to choose. How the rest of the season unfolds will indicate whether Queens will focus on heart-wrenching drama, scathing industry critique, hilarious hijinks, or explosive intrigue. Even if the Nasty Bitches never actually existed, the story begins with the premise that it is a pleasure to see these queens back in the spotlight.

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