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About Last Week: Recap of Essence Festival Primetime Performances

Photo by Stephen Niemeier on

One week ago, the world had the opportunity to explore and experience the Essence Music Festival in a way that had not happened before. Fresh off of two full years of hosting a virtual festival, Essence held its first in-person festival and came back with a bang! 

One of the biggest attractions for this year’s event was Essence Primetime’s inclusive experience, which showcased highlights from the day’s workshops, sessions, live workshops, and musical performances. With the purchase or prior subscription service of Hulu, viewers got a rare view experience of most of the top musical performances, and multiple stage acts via live streaming during the primetime hours of 7 pm-2 am (Central standard time).

Read more: About Last Week: Recap of Essence Festival Primetime Performances

This new venture also announced a decade-long partnership with the streaming service, which, I believe, after fixing a few kinks with the experience, will set the tone for how other conferences and festivals continue to incorporate virtual audiences and attendees. I mainly mentioned it because Friday night took an abrupt turn during the live streaming experience. The headlining act, raptress Nicki Minaj, was the only known performance cut from streaming.

 A few generous fans at her concert became impromptu streamers by streaming the live performance via their social media accounts. Obviously, the streams kept getting cut due to copyrights, and eventually, they wanted to view the concert without interruptions. Considering the unexpected last-minute change, I’d say it was a very generous gesture. 

I, like many of the fans and viewers via Twitter, presumably thought it was a possibility that the viewers had been tricked into watching the Essence Festival stream for viewership purposes. After all, just a few days prior, Hulu began highlighting that this experience would be available for the first time. But after Saturday and Sunday night performances, it was clear that a contractual disagreement must have occurred because all of the acts slated to be seen were aired. And it was a treat! 

Saturday’s line-up had powerful hitters of the music industry with Jazmine Sullivan, Patti LaBelle, and the closing headlining act, Janet Jackson. For about a two and half hour stretch, viewers at home were absolutely “fed,” as Gen Z commonly refers to historical and monumental experiences. 

Being one of the highly anticipated performances of the festival, Ms. Janet showed the world why she’s the reigning Queen of Pop! (I will not argue this point with anyone because the receipts were there before our eyes) Saturday’s performance marked the third time in Essence Festival history that she performed as a headlining act, and let’s just say that I loved every minute of her show! 

Donning in what appeared to be #BlackDiamond-inspired outfits, she graced the screen giving us non-stop energy and some of her greatest hits. My night was complete when she included a deep cut and fan-favorite of Lonely from her Rhythm Nation project for the first time in any live performance. (If you don’t believe me when I say it’s a fan favorite, I’d like to add that I made Lonely one of the Flashback Friday songs on this site earlier in the year! 

Without any question, I can honestly say that Ms. Janet is ready to take on a new era in her career. After her amazing and awe-inspiring performance, it was confirmed on social media that Janet had the highest-earning concert in the 27-year history of the festival. With that stated, I’m not sure what this new era will look like. Still, I have no doubt that this era will show a different side of Janet due to her life experiences since becoming a mother and just from becoming the timeless and flawlessly ageless Queen she is. 

On Sunday night, music fans got a chance to relive the hits from The Isley Brothers and the ’80s and ’90s original Bad Boys, New Edition. The most memorable moment about NE performing was that all 6 members were present and singing (or not singing, lol) their hits. If you didn’t catch the stream, you missed out on some funny moments with the group. There were sections where the group recognized apparent music shifts throughout their career when certain members went their separate ways. 

But aside from the banter, the men put on a timeless performance and adequately wrapped up the weekend event! Before I check out this post, I can’t leave without mentioning the notable performances of the weekend. One surprise to everyone was Lauryn Hill, who joined Wyclef Jean on stage and gave us a classic Fugees moment. And while everyone was patiently waiting for Queen Patti, the world was given a treat from the music lounges that featured Louisana native Pokey Bear. Pokey’s energetic and unexpected performance quickly lit up social media; I have to say, he’s got some hits on his hands. If you haven’t checked out his socials, stream his music now! 

Although I loved watching the Essence Primetime Show streams, I want to experience it in person. I feel next year will be bigger and better, especially with all the new releases coming out this year. I guess I better save my coins now to prepare for next summer! 

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