Patti Labelle, Amber Riley, Lil Kim Shut It Down with 'Lady Marmalade'


Dancing with the Stars is a television phenomenon I cannot really get into—former dance teacher here, thinking the choreo is trife—but you know what I can get into? R&B POWERHOUSES ON DUELING VOCAL INTERCHANGE. That is exactly what happened when none other than your god and spiritual mother Patti Labelle showed up to do “Lady Marmalade” with Amber Riley—so much belting—with a leggy assist from Lil Kim, doing her verse from the 2001 version: I’ma keep playing these cats out like Atari. (Related: was there ever a more 2001 occurrence than Christina Aguilera collaborating with Mya and Pink?!)

Check out the cam cut to the dudes in the audience; do they even know what they are witnessing? They are not worthy—that much is indisputable—but are they so not worthy that they do not even know they are not worthy? I shall now posit that the answer is a hard No, and also that the talented Amber Riley’s already-charmed life is kind of made at 1:27, when she goes particularly hoard and Ms. Labelle, unrestrained in her pleasure, lets out an “Awright, girl!”

That “Awright, girl!” is a statement she has no doubt practiced as a consummate entertainer with half a century in the game, but it also came from the heart, which came from the diaphragm, which is the locus of the soul. The diaphragm is the closest parts of our bodies to godliness, the diaphragm is the point from which Riley and Labelle are taking us to church, the diaphragm is the anatomical definition of swag. These ladies have it all. Even Kim dressed up for Sundays, covering herself in the presence of such beatitude. Who would have thought anyone could make a song about getting dirty in a New Orleans brothel sound so sanctified? But that’s what my mamá always told me: life is nothing but confidence and beatitude, beatitude, beatitude. Bow down.

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