Why Kanye and Miley Represent the Death of the Diva

Writing at CNN, L.Z. Granderson recalls a time when performers like opera great Leontyne Price commanded 25-minute ovations from adoring fans. True divas -- and divos -- do not need to self-promote, he says in a strong admonition of Kanye West and Miley Cyrus. 

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Leontyne Price (Wikimedia Commons)

Admonishing what he calls an era of shameless self-promotion by artists like Kanye West and Miley Cyrus, L.Z. Granderson writes at CNN that true divas, like former opera singer Leontyne Price, did not have to demand applause because their performances commanded it. He wishes artists would listen and learn from artists like Price.

In the third act of the opera "Aida," there is an aria, "O Patria Mia," that begins, "Oh, my country, I shall never see you again."

On January 3, 1985, after Leontyne Price sang those words, the audience at the Metropolitan Opera House stopped her with a four-minute ovation. Price first performed at the Met 24 years earlier, and this night, this performance would be her last on an opera stage.

During the curtain call, she was showered with flowers and confetti as the audience applauded her performance, and career, for 25 minutes. She stood there, beautiful, gracious, mouthing the words "thank you" to admirers who clearly did not want to see her go. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what a diva looks like.

I'm not sure when the meaning of the word went from someone with the talent and life journey of Price to the cast of "The Real Housewives of (insert city here)," but I know its erosion epitomizes all that is wrong with pop culture today: Oscar nominations surrendered to actors for carrying a tune, singing competitions judged by people who can't really sing, celebrities who are famous for being famous.

Kanye West is "a creative genius," but the fact that he repeatedly needs to tell people that makes him more of an anti-diva. True divas don't need to self-promote. That's what their loyal subjects are for.

Price didn't request a 25-minute ovation. Her moment commanded one.

Read L.Z. Granderson’s entire piece at CNN. 

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