The 2011 BET Awards are in the books. With events like this, the music is unfortunately secondary. However, the show provided some standout performances that shouldn’t be overlooked in light of the fashion gaffes and other head-shaking moments that have come to characterize any BET live event. Let’s get right into it.
Ms. Keys doesn’t have any new music to promote, so she went with performing some of her old hits, starting off with a Bruno Mars duet version of “A Woman’s Worth.” Bruno Mars vocals were better than Alicia’s, but he didn’t blow her off the stage. Rick Ross popped in randomly for a quick medley of “Maybach Music 2″ before Keys went into “Fallin’.” Maybe she didn’t have much time to prepare, but the overall feel of the performance was very ho-hum and mailed in.
Breezy also took to the medley format for his catalogue. For all his embarrassing personal moments, Brown’s a natural performer, so the dancing and showmanship was there. Busta’s a natural on stage and got the crowd going with his frenetic verse on “Look At Me Now.” Aside from some of the vocals being garbled because of breath control, not too much to complain about here.
AFTER 7 & THE FIVE HEARTBEATS
I bet you a lot of people there thought the Five Heartbeats were a real group. This was a nice nod to the 90s and After 7 always comes correct with their vocals. Being that it was BET, I was half-expecting them to be funny and have Michael Wright’s unstable character Eddie Keane do something crazy.
JILL SCOTT “ROLLING HILLS”
I thank the music gods for Jill Scott. Her talent would excel in any era, as evidenced by this period performance of “Rolling Hills,” off her new album The Light of the Sun. Jill looked radiant and her voice was vibrant and clear. Appreciate her talent while she’s here.
GRADE – A
MARY J. BLIGE
When the image of her magnum opus My Life flashed in the background, I knew I wouldn’t have many complaints. The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul kicked off her set with a nice rendition of her Mary Jane Girls-inspired “All Night Long.” Hearing this, “Joy,” and “Real Love” again was a reminder of how far a lot of R&B has fallen these days. But the best moment was Mary bringing out Anita Baker for a duet of “Caught Up in the Rapture.” Who would’ve thought their vocals would compliment each other so well? Having Khaled come on after Baker was a mood killer, but it’s minor complaint.
BET MEMORIAL TRIBUTE
BET has taken a lot of hits over the last few years for messing up tributes at award shows. This time, they got it right. Everyone got covered from the recently deceased M-Bone of Cali Swag District, to Teena Marie and Gil Scott Heron. Every one was paid tribute by one of their peers. The censors ruined Warren G and Snoop Dogg’s “Regulate,” but made up for it when Queen Latifah delivered a flawless rendition of Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” That poem is one that requires precise phrasing and delivery. Latifah didn’t miss a beat, and the classic work had a whole new power and perspective coming from the voice of a woman. Ledisi was absolutely phenomenal performing Teena Marie’s “Out On a Limb.” If you weren’t watching the screen, you’d swear it was Marie singing that track in the beginning. Well done.
TREY SONGZ AND KELLY ROWLAND
With a new hit song under her belt, Kelly Ro has her best chance to truly step into a spotlight of her own. Not sure what she was thinking with the church hat, as the audience needed to see more of her face. The raunchiness here was for the most part PG-13.
CHERRELLE AND ALEXANDER O’NEAL
Don’t know if Alexander O’Neal was tipsy, but he was pretty much out of it for this entire song. Cherrelle looked great and held things down vocally. Classic song and a surprise moment. I’m sure a lot of households were grooving when this hit.
BIG SEAN & CHRIS BROWN
Not great, but not horrible either. This was just an overall average set with nothing to distinguish it from the evening’s other proceedings.
PATTI LABELLE TRIBUTE
This fool Ceelo had Patti’s mannerism’s down! What a way to kick off a tribute. Only Ceelo… Looking like a young Angela Bofill, Marsha Ambrosius did an excellent job performing “If Only You Knew,” causing Ms. LaBelle to later state that Marsha was a “bad heffa.” Shirley Ceasar amazingly one-upped Ceelo’s outfit, showing that secular folks have nothing on the anointed when it comes to fashion. Those who are familiar with Patti and Shirley’s music know they’re kindred spirits when it comes to singing spasms. With that said, I’m surprised Fantasia did get an invite.
When you talk about live performing and singing, Beyonce remains unrivaled. You never hear her vocals sound winded even after dance routines. That lets you know she’s in real shape, not just comestically. Bey wasn’t even in the country, having her Glastonbury performance streamed over for BET. C’mon Beyonce, you could have at least let little sister Kelly Rowland have the BET Awards.
DJ KHALED FT. DRAKE, RICK ROSS & LIL WAYNE
No clue why this ended the telecast. After Beyonce, the show’s over.
THE POWER OF THE BOOTY
Despite the good performances, the talk of the show on Twitter was former 106 & Park host Free’s stunning backside. In my own household, even my woman was in awe. Those of us who kept track of Hip-Hop in the early 2000s were well acquainted with Free’s assets, but natural age and weight has made her even more voluptuous. The thickness appreciation talk even extended to gospel singers Mary Mary and actress Tracee Ellis Ross. It got so bad that while handling post-show interviews, BET made sure that Free was seated for most of the segments. Who’d have thought an ass discussion in Hip-Hop would happen with Nicki Minaj being an afterthought? The lesson? Never underestimate the power of the booty.