By Alexander Allen

May 6, 2023 – Las Vegas, Nevada, the second annual Lovers & Friends Festival.  I’m not a big festival attendee, but this is one festival that I make sure to attend.  The inaugural festival caught my attention as it had every major artist on the bill from the 90s and 00s.  Ms. Lauryn Hill, TLC, Usher, Ludacris, Trey Songz, The-Dream, Ciara, Ginuwine, Tweet, Cassie, etc..  A first.  I had a blast at the festival last year.  For this year’s festival, some of the same acts from last year were present, in addition to, some heavy hitters who don’t typically perform at festivals.  Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott, and Mariah Carey made this year’s Lovers & Friends Festival a momentous one. I don’t recall ever seeing Christina Aguilera perform a set, apart from an award show performance.  Christina’s set was short, sweet, and powerful.  She opened with a fan favorite, “Dirrty,” featuring Redman.  Also, included in her set, “Lady Marmalade,” with a surprise reunion with rapper Lil’ Kim, and the gorgeous ballad, “Beautiful.” Unequivocally, Christina still has the pipes.  An amazing set filled with guest appearances, strong vocals, pyros, and an appreciative crowd. As a longtime Mariah Carey fan, I’ve seen her perform live countless times, but never in a festival setting.  I was very much looking forward to her set and Mariah didn’t disappoint.  Mariah opened with a condensed version of her debut single, “Vision of Love,” that morphed into the remix of “Fantasy,” featuring O.D.B.  MC’s set was choreographed by her good friend, the legendary Debbie Allen.  Mariah, who looked svelte in a custom black Schiaparelli mini dress with gold trimming, included songs that we’ve haven’t heard her perform, in years.  E.g. “One Sweet Day,” with surprise guests, Boys II Men, and “Beautiful, with her second surprise guest, Miguel.  To further keep us on our toes, Mariah’s set included a couple of her dance remixes from her extensive catalogue with cool matching  choreo, courtesy of Ms. Debbie Allen.  Most importantly, Mariah was in good voice with crisp vocals and those iconic whistle notes.  The headliner of the festival was Missy Elliott.  Initially, I was surprised that she received top billing.  Especially, over Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera.  I hadn’t realized that apart from award show performances, I’ve never seen Missy perform live.  At the beginning of her show, a futuristic Missy appeared on the video screen and warned us that we would dance non-stop and “Lose Control” during her set.  She was absolutely right.  Back-to-back up-tempo hits from the 90s to present day.  Missy’s catalogue is impressively extensive.  Her own and the countless hits that she has written and/produced for others, in addition to, her guest features.  Missy opened up with her 2019 hit, “Throw It Back,” clad in a red rhinestone flight suit.  Missy has been looking slim and trim recently and that was further showcased in her exclusive white Marc Jacobs x Fendi sweatsuit with a baguette pocket book, center front of her sweatshirt and FF hardware on her cargo pants pockets.  Super cool costumes and set.  I’m anxiously awaiting next year’s festival to see who will be on the bill.

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