The first episode of the new ABC primetime soap Queens did exactly what a pilot was supposed to do in drawing the audience into the vivid world of the group formerly known as The Nasty Bitches. Starring Eve, Naturi Naughton, Nadine Velazquez and Brandy, Queens follows four women in their 40s who reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had in the ‘90s when they were legends in the hip-hop world.
Introducing the women in their past forms and making sure to give a sample of the various roles they played within the group was a good call. I enjoyed seeing where they were back then and flashing to what their lives are now. While the members of the group are diverse, their sound is profoundly cohesive and explosive. We have Professor Sex/Brianna (Eve), a married woman with five kids and a wayward cheating husband that is revealed to have cancer directly after being caught cheating; Da Thrill/ Jill (Naturi Naughton), a repressed church-going Catholic that is revealed to be married but having an affair with a woman; Butter Pecan/Valeria (Nadine), the only member of the group to go on and find fame who is also a bit of a narcissist and eventually loses her job in daytime television, and last but not least, Xplicit Lyrics/Naomi (Brandy), an indie musician who is seemingly on her own to find a sound that suits her as far as her music. She also has an estranged teenage daughter (played by former Days of our Lives star Precious Way)
Upon hearing their song on the radio twenty years after splitting, the members come together at the request of an up-and-coming new artist, Lil Muffin (Pepi Sonuga) to perform for an award show. It is quickly revealed that Jill, Brianna, and Naomi are close, but Valeria believes all the girls are beneath her. It is also revealed that Naomi and Valeria have a rivalry over the attention of their former manager, Eric. Naomi also feels as if Valeria benefited from her talent, Jill and Brianna seem to be stuck in the middle of their two egos. I’m sure their dynamics will get very interesting in the coming episodes, especially because from the looks of it, Eric still has a thing for Naomi and Valeria is harboring feelings for him.
While everything appears to have fallen apart with the performance, after an altercation between Naomi and Valeria, surprisingly, Valeria comes back with her tail between her legs after being fired from her job for spiking her coworker’s drink. Diving into rehearsals with Lil Muffin, the women quickly show that they can still come together to produce incredible tracks. The energy, the flow, the intensity, the reflection of who they are now propelled the rehearsal into an amazing scene that only whetted the appetite for the performances to come.
While there is an immense number of comedic moments, I loved that there were also hints of female empowerment and support underneath the competitive layers. Most pointedly, there is a scene where Jill is confronted with her own past as a drug abuser when she sees the signs in Lil Muffin that she’s struggling and losing herself in the world of fame. Jill is also very supportive when Lil Muffin has an accidental drug overdose and gets her to help and a hospital. Lil Muffin’s Manager is not pleased and kicks The Nasty Bitches off the card for the performance and tensions run high when Valeria and Naomi confront Jill about her protective nature of Lil Muffin. This leads to Jill’s confession that she is attracted to women and is in love with one. The revelation brings the women closer, and Lil Muffin arrives, letting them know that she refuses to do the show without them. She is grateful for their help and admits to the world onstage that she would not be there without them and ends up giving The Nasty Bitches a feature alone in her time slot at the awards show.
To say they blew it out would be an understatement. With updated lyrics and a mature feel, the women each spit lyrics that would be worthy of any stage. I think I was most pleasantly surprised with the explosiveness of Xplicit Lyrics. Her verses and the way she delivered was amazing, and Jill outing herself in her lyrics was both shocking and exciting at the same time. And after an amazing performance, it was revealed that The Nasty Bitches would be going on tour with Lil Muffin, and I assume the rest of the season will center around their journey.
I am completely drawn in, due to the pilot and am anxiously awaiting the next episode. Bravo, the ladies did an incredible job, and I’m ready to take this ride with Queens.
Queens stars Eve as Brianna aka Professor Sex, Naturi Naughton as Jill aka Da Thrill, Nadine Velazquez as Valeria aka Butter Pecan, Taylor Sele as Eric Jones, Pepi Sonuga as Lil Muffin and Brandy as Naomi aka Xplicit Lyrics.
Queens is produced by ABC Signature, a part of Disney Television Studios. The pilot episode was written by Zahir McGhee and directed by Tim Story. Zahir McGhee, Sabrina Wind and Tim Story are executive producers. Swizz Beatz is executive music producer.