SWV, Xscape celebrate ’90s R&B on latest ‘Verzuz’

Verzuz, now owned by Triller, managed to garner over 460,000 concurrent views on Instagram

Last night’s “Mother’s Day special” edition of Verzuz featured R&B stalwarts SWV and Xscape. The popular online music “battle” series had the two groups trading hit for hit for their virtual audience.

Each group showed up elegantly dressed, ready to celebrate their beloved respective catalogs that were pacesetters for R&B music in the 1990s. Like most Verzuz episodes before it, the night was warmed up by the DJs. Representing Xscape, the hit-making quartet from Atlanta, was DJ Aone, while SWV, the trio from New York, was represented by former Salt-N-Pepa DJ Spinderella.

READ MORE: Xscape’s LaTocha confirms Verzuz battle with SWV

The two went back and forth before the ladies came up, warming up the watching crowd with songs from Lil Jon, Keyshia Cole and Keith Sweat for about 40 minutes. Once each group got into their seats, the night commenced with a mixture of hit singles, fan favorites, popular remixes and hip-hop features.

Some of the most formidable song pairings of the night came in the fifth of 20 rounds with Xscape’s top 10 pop ballad “The Arms of the One Who Loves You” against SWV’s sexy Billboard R&B number one slow jam “Downtown.”

A couple of unique choices of the event came from Xscape, who played Destiny Child‘s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and TLC‘s “No Scrubs.” Each of those Billboard 100 chart toppers was written by Xscape members Kandi Burress and Tiny Harris, showing that they had hands in hits for other girl groups.

A memorable moment from SWV was their cover of Patti LaBelle’s classic ballad, “If Only You Knew,” which the trio sang live with their notorious harmonies.

Tamara Taj Johnson-George, Cheryl Coko’ Clemons, and Leanne ‘Lelee’ Lyons of SWV accept the Lady of Soul Award onstage at the 2017 Soul Train Awards, presented by BET, at the Orleans Arena on November 5, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for BET)

After over three hours of music and banter, the event ended on a high note with each group singing their signature songs back-to-back in the last two rounds. Forging the usual format of playing the original tracks, SWV kicked off round 19 singing live over an updated instrumental track of “Anything (Wu-Tang Remix).” Xscape followed with performing their smash cover of the Jones Girls‘ “Who Can I Run To.”

On the following, and final round, SWV introduced their number one single “Weak” with a slower arrangement, accompanied by a lone acoustic guitarist, before transitioning into a more traditional version of the song. Xscape followed with their best-known ballad, “Understanding.”

READ MORE: Timbaland, Swizz Beatz on future of Verzuz: ‘Expect more greatness’

The production value of Verzuz has increased tremendously since founders Timbaland and Swizz Beatz sold the property to Triller, who has also been co-hosting the online battle since the beginning of the year. Like the most recent Verzuz installments of Earth, Wind & Fire and Isley Brothers, and Method Man and Redman, last night’s event was filmed on a grand stage with multiple camera angles and pristine audio quality.

Kandi Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, LaTocha Scott and Tamika Scott of Xscape onstage during 2019 Black Music Honors at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on September 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Black Music Honors)

The night was preceded with some controversy.

As previously reported by theGrio, there was some concern about SWV playing the smash single “Right Here” remix, which features a prominent sample of Michael Jackson‘s “Human Nature,” given the backlash the late King of Pop has received from the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. However, SWV members Tamara “Taj” Johnson and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons told TMZ they have no plans of removing the song from their setlist.

“That song has done great things for us, you will hear it,” Johnson said. “As a matter of a fact you may hear it three times.”

Also, there was the presence of Xscape member Harris, who along with husband, rapper Clifford T.I. Harris, has been saddled by sexual abuse accusations from several women since last year. Despite the controversy, Verzuz still managed to garner over 460,000 concurrent views on Instagram.

The next installment is scheduled for this Memorial Day weekend. While no date or artists have been announced, the Verzuz IG page confirms it will be the series’ first ever rematch.

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