Was That Supposed To Make Them Proud? 15 Musical Tributes That Fell Flat In More Ways Than One

January 15, 2013  |  

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Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but unfortunately some truly talented individuals fell victim to some really subpar musical tributes to their favorite artists. Whether it was age, nerves or just a mismatch between honorers and honorees, these performances fell pretty short in their aim to salute the works of music’s greatest talents. Though many of the musicians being saluted took their lackluster tributes in stride, we can definitely say one woman who may just happen to be the Queen of Soul certainly didn’t look amused. So without further adieu we bring you 15 of the worst musical tributes to ever hit the stage. OK, that was dramatic.

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Trey Songz Takes On Prince

In theory this could have been a great match. Here you have incredible hot, wonderfully talented Trey Songz tapped to salute the one and only Prince at the 2010 BET Awards. Though a cliché choice, you can’t go wrong with “Purple Rain.” Well, that was until Trey Trey got a hold of it. Doing this weird fusion of “Yo Side of the Bed” and “Purple Rain” – not to mention the atrocious American Idol-esque, amateur oversinging — not only made Prince give the stank eye, but everyone watching had an undeniable look of the WTF variety. Come on, man. You don’t mess with a classic and you certainly don’t mess with Prince.

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Ashanti Sings Whitney Houston?

Did this one even have a shot at not being a disaster? Look Ashanti can carry a tune (most days), but we can all agree that Whitney Houston might be a little bit of a stretch for her. From the ridiculous outfit she decided to wear on GMA that fateful morning to the performance’s pitchiness and lack of true emotion, Ashanti’s musical tribute simply fell flat in more ways than one. Good job, good effort, but far from sealing the deal.

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Alicia Key’s Tearful Tribute

Now we’ll preface this with we give Alicia Keys all the credit in the world for even making it through such an emotionally-charged performance at Whitney Houston’s funeral. But we are judging these tributes largely on the vocal and musical prowess of the performances, so we have to admit that it was far from Ms. Keys best. When she hit the notes, they soared to incredible heights. But when they didn’t quite make it there, it was a bit on the rough side. That being said, all the props in the world to Keys finishing the performance and contributing to celebrating the memory of Houston.

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Christina Aguilera’s Wardrobe Malfunction?

Maybe to call this a wardrobe malfunction is relatively inaccurate, but Christina Aguilera’s “At Last” tribute to Etta James was marred by some unfortunate self-tanner that seemed to be dripping down the songstress’ legs. Aguilera’s performance may have been solid, but it definitely got an added thumbs down when she opted not to take the more conservative approach to her ensemble for the day. We could have certainly done without the boobs being in our faces and the rosary being trapped in between the breasteses. Just for one day, Christina, keep em’ under wraps.

Adriana M. Barraza/ WENN.com

Keri Hilson and Kelly Rowland Struggle With Summer

Though we always have to give credit to any singer who pays tribute to influential musicians of the past, we just can’t help but pick apart Keri Hilson and Kelly Rowland’s questionable salute to Disco icon Donna Summer. While we’re sure their hearts were in the right place, their approach unfortunately wasn’t. We’ll give them that many of the creative decisions were probably out of their control, but neither Kelly nor Keri really had the flavor, soul or attitude that made Summer so special. The entire performance felt too forced, too pop-infused and not nearly as sassy as it should have been. That’s a bad sign when Adam Lambert is putting ya’ll to shame.

Adriana M. Barraza / WENN.com

Jessica Simpson Has A Blonde Moment

Forgetting the words to a song is never OK, but when you forget the words of a Dolly Parton song in front of Dolly Parton … yeah, that’s kind of bad. And that’s exactly what happened to proverbially ditzy Jessica Simpson during the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors concert. Declaring “Dolly you make me so nervous” Simpson looked visibly mortified by what had just happened (or didn’t happen for that matter), but Parton just flashed her trademark smile and didn’t seem to mind. Kudos to Miss Parton for not kicking a fellow blonde bombshell when she’s down.

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Erykah Badu Takes On Diana Ross

Erykah Badu is very, very talented and so incredibly cool, but we have to admit that her rendition of “Love Hangover” left a lot to be desired when she belted it out at the 2007 BET Awards. It started off OK. Sure the wig and retro threads might have been a little over the top, but for Diana Ross we can look past that. But as the number continued, Badu seemed to stray way too far into her own stylization of the song and it lost a bit of its magic. But all the while Ross looked thrilled by everything going on. Guess we long as D. Ross was happy, that’s all that matters.

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Why, Ciara, Why?

Speaking of Diana Ross tributes going south, none probably were as lackluster and just downright unimpressive as Ciara tackling “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” at the Kennedy Center Honors. She looked stunning and definitely embodied that Ross flavor, but lord those vocals. Diana Ross surely isn’t known for Aretha Franklin-esque power vocals, but Ciara’s soft, un-enthused rendition was boring and definitely did some great songs a massive disservice.

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Keri Hilson Strikes Again

We’re going to let you absorb the ridiculousness of this entire situation for yourselves, but essentially Keri Hilson teams up with Ne-Yo for a Michael Jackson jam session at O2 in 2009 and it’s certainly not the highlight of either of their careers. Homegirl kicks off her part by silently dancing around the stage and then when she finally does pick up the mic, it’s a hotmess. Just stop with the tributes Keri, please, please, just stop.

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Rihanna, Tierra Marie and Amerie

This is sure a blast from the past, but back in 2005 three up and coming stars Rihanna, Tierra Marie and Amerie, took the stage for a Destiny’s Child tribute performance. Now we’re going to chalk any rough edges to age, but looking back their performance was a certifiable mess. From the outfits to the dance moves to the vocals themselves, these young ladies were very, very green at the time and it showed. But nonetheless, the glee on Beyonce and then-beau’s Jay-Z faces definitely made it seem like they didn’t mind.

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Ladies Love Nelly?

While we’ve been harpooning the ladies for the most part, it’s time we circle back with the fellas who have destroyed some perfectly good tribute performances. One of the worst offenders: St. Louis’ own Nelly. During his 2005 performance at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors, Nelly had LL Cool J’s style down to the very last detail. But the rap abilities? Yeah, that was where the problems started. Not knocking Nelly’s flow, but he just lacked the silky, smooth tone that made LL such a star. Without that the performance was doomed. Sorry, Nelly. We love you anyway.

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Blue-Eyed Soul

We begrudgingly added this performance to the list not because Joss Stone didn’t knock her salute to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin out of the park. But given the look on Ms. Franklin’s face during it and Stone’s casual, I’m-not-going-to-wear-shoes style we have to knock off some points on this. Check it out for yourself.

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Rob Thomas, Who?

He tried, he definitely tried, but when it came down to replicating the Who’s unique sound, Rob Thomas fell a wee bit short. That’s not to say his voice didn’t sound great while performing at the Kennedy Center Honors event, but if the goal was to pay tribute to The Who and give fans a fresh version of “Baba O Reilly”, while still being true to the original song … yeah, that didn’t work out so well. Better luck next time.

Adriana M. Barraza / WENN

No Thanks, Fantasia

American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino has a very distinctive voice. That gravel, that raw soul, it’s undeniably awesome. But even Fantasia can take something wonderfully unique and go a little bit overboard. Case in point: Her tribute to Chaka Khan. All the screaming, hollering and bouncing around during her rendition of the classic “Tell Me Something Good” was annoying and, honestly, ruined what could have been a great performance. Girl, you gotta rein it in a bit sometimes.

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Doing Too Much

Plenty of talent on stage, too big of egos and a strange male version of “Lady Marmelade.” Yeah, we’re going to say that didn’t work out so well. But we’ll leave final judgment up to you.

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  • shay lanay

    I thought neyo and keri did a pretty good job but sorry, idc what anybody says, Chris Brown always does a fantastic job with the MJ tributes

  • I didnt thought Joss Stone did that bad and Nelly was awesome!

  • LilScrappy_w/his_irrelevant_az

    Nelly was pure entertainment! Alicia did really good IMO, considering the circumstances. And Joss Stone? Really? Homegirl shouldn’t have even been on this list because she KILLED it! Her voice gives me goosebumps every single time

  • LilScrappy_w/his_irrelevant_az

    Nelly was pure entertainment! Alicia did really good IMO, considering the circumstances. And Joss Stone? Really? Homegirl shouldn’t have even been on this list because she KILLED it! Her voice gives me goosebumps every single time

  • LilScrappy_w/his_irrelevant_az

    Nelly was pure entertainment! Alicia did really good IMO, considering the circumstances. And Joss Stone? Really? Homegirl shouldn’t have even been on this list because she KILLED it! Her voice gives me goosebumps every single time

  • LilScrappy_w/his_irrelevant_az

    Nelly was pure entertainment! Alicia did really good IMO, considering the circumstances. And Joss Stone? Really? Homegirl shouldn’t have even been on this list because she KILLED it! Her voice gives me goosebumps every single time

  • Giovonni

    I’m sorry Trey, you my boy, but that Purple Rain tribute (which BTW only included about 30% of the actual song) was horrendous! You don’t mess with a classic like that, mixing it up with some other crap, especially when you’re performing it as a tribute to the artist that made it the hit that it is. Jeez, Trey, I’m disappointed.

  • Elijah Wade

    Ashanti was much better than I EXPECTED but, yeah….*shudders*

  • Selena (God rest her soul) did a WAY better tribute to Donna Summer when she last performed at the Houston Rodeo in 94.

  • laila

    Trey hurt my hurt

  • NONEYA

    Why is Christina on this list?? Her performance at Etta James funeral was flawless, her singing never disappoints!!

  • You forgot about Trey’s tribute to Bob Marley singing “Turn your Lights Down Low”

  • Youngin

    Trey Songz isn’t a great singer. He’s good, maybe even alright, but not great so I don’t know why they got him to do the Prince tribute. Him and Neyo couldn’t even pull off Freekin You by Jodeci so that really means he isn’t qualified to do tributes/cover songs by artists who can actually sing. Smh how do they find these “artists” these days.

  • mdeborah827

    Need a dedication to the art form of singing and musicianship once again. Too much non singing singers trying to shine like a diamond when back in the day we had singing groups, a blend of voices with real musicians playing alongside them and whose voices were strong enough to hear OVER THE REAL LIVE MUSIC.

    Also, a diva was a true artist that sounded like no one else. Put side by side Dinah Washington (my girl!!!), Nina Simone (hands OFF Zoe!) , Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Billy Holiday (Lady Day), Sarah Vaughan (Sassy) and you hear an entirely different sound and some real vocal chops.

    This is difficult to do which is why Florence Ballard who could SING was put in the background and blander voice Diana Ross was put up in front. The voice is easier to imitate and more people can sing along. With the other ladies, you are forced to LISTEN and if you can’t sing it’s INTIMIDATING. That’s because a DIVA is UNIQUE and SPECIAL.

    So, in closing, Zoe you should know better and yeeessss, I will beat it like a dead horse but you just know better but you still gonna do wrong, and Bey and Riri would be in the back of the choir and THEY KNOW THIS.

    Time to search for real singers with something worth singing about with real musicians doing their thing alongside. Keep in mind, Ella and Nina had a lot of trouble because business people didn’t think they looked good enough but their TALENT won out and we are the better for it.

  • AJ389

    I thought Nelly killed it (and y’all know he did too) when he did the tribute to LL. He does not deserve to be on this list. Anyone w/ good sense knows these are tributes to the artists in a show of appreciation by honoring the best. Its dumb to think they would sound EXACTLY like the artist. If they are going to sound identical to the artist, then what’s the use of a tribute?

    • Giovonni

      So true…. Nelly’s tribute was great! Not sure what more M A wants. Nelly sounds more believable as a rapper doing L.L.’s material than his own.