Sunday, June 28, 2009

B.E.T (Butts Every Time) (c) Boondocks

The Confusion that was the BET Awards and the Michael Jackson tribute

Dear Debra Lee,

Thanks for coming off of your high horse and showing your face at the BET Awards. It was the icing on the cake of a terrible show. I could thank you for single-handly ruining (and continuously not helping to save) the BET Network... but you already know those feelings.

- Disgruntled viewer

I have taken a little while to write this review, because I come from a confused, and complex place. While I absolutely abhor BET for its lack of diverse programming and the buffoonery that goes on now (Frankie & Neffie... Tiny & Toya???), I admire the BET Awards (from a distance) for what it is. The BET Awards are the Grammy's for the urban music listener. And, every year, anticipation builds for this one single night, where all questions will be answered (What is Beyonce performing? Who will take home video of the year? Who will be the break-out performance? Who looks terrible...), and this year was NO exception because #1) one of my best friends was in attendance, and, more importantly, with the untimely passing of Michael Jackson, BET had proclaimed that it was going to revamp its show, complete with an extra hour, and additional performances.

Jamie Foxx opened the show with a tribute to 'Beat it", complete with the Billy Jean garb and moonwalk spoof. It was entertaining. A reunited New Edition performed a medly of Jackson 5 songs, which was good as well. Because of the length of the show (running an additional 38 minutes after the added 3rd hour), I won't go through every millisecond (which, like a lot of the show, wasn't entertaining), but I will try and hit on the highs and the lows of the night:

The Highs: There were a few good performances of the night. Maxwell made a big return with his performance of "Pretty Wings" off his just released BLACKsummers'night album. It was a beautiful performance, and Maxwell showed that he is still the King of Neo-Soul, with his melodic voice. Jay-Z, in simple Jay-Z fashion, delivered a stellar performance of D.O.A. (Death of Autotune). The O'Jays were, by far, the best performance of the night, outshining the tribute performance (performed by Tevin Campbell, Tyrese, Johnny Gill, and Trey Songz), and proving that true talent only gets better with age. Janet Jackson gave an emotional performance and spoke briefly for the Jackson family ("To you... He was an icon... but to us... he was family" - Janet Jackson). The 90s new jack swing performance of Keith Sweat (+ not so good vocals), Guy, and BBD was entertaining (minus the vocal/sound problems?). There were also a few funny bits; the Baby Boy skit at the end had me screaming and hollering (until Ving Rhames came out and it got... weird.)

The Lows: There were... many. Jamie Foxx was a good, funny host, but I thought it was very inappropriate that he kept promoting his tour (Note to Jamie: it was the BET Awards, not the promo date in your tour). And there was also too much of Jamie performing; I would've enjoyed seeing other artists in the place of his "filler" performances. Keri Hilson was the breakout star of the night; with her 1st televised performance and winning the Best New Artist award. Her performance = Not breakout.. Her dancing was... interesting. The ending was weird, and I didn't get it. And the rest of the performance was okay at best (more lackluster than okay). Beyonce as the showstopper... well... didn't stop the show. Her weird performance "Aye Maria/Angel" (which she recycled from her tour) was not good. It was very weak, given Beyonce's past performances. I was left confused and upset. Drake's breakout performance was also weird and not good (he was sitting, due to his sprained ACL), and included Lil' Wayne and Baby, which filled the performance with so much profanity that they might as well had been mute. Ne-yo was alright, but there was just way too much of him. Like Jamie Foxx, I was starting to feel like it was Ne-yo show. Ciara sang 'Heal the World' and it was God awful! I was very shocked and disappointed (disturbed and perplexed?) that she sang a ballad as opposed to dancing for her tribute to Michael Jackson. Her voice sounded like crying cats. I honestly had a *blank stare* through a lot of the performances. And, outside of the performances, the presenting of the awards seemed a little unorganized; sometimes they would say the nominees, and sometimes they wouldn't. Also, the absence of confirmed performers (The-Dream... Chris Brown... etc.) certainly hurt the show. The tributes, although seemingly heartfelt, were all slow, and no one paid tribute to Michael Jackson's catalog of up-tempo songs, which shaped the way 99% of singers dance and perform now (Keri Hilson attempted at the end of her set, and failed miserably).

After the awards finished, I thought it was awful, awful, awful. Facebook, Twitter; all social networks were messaging, and it wasn't good. There was a lot of negative feedback about the show, the performances, etc. And, I've had to sit back, and re-evaluate the show.

As a show, it was alright. What made the show terrible was because of the emphasis and hype put on the re-vamping of the show into the tribute show. A video montage of Michael Jackson, with a tribute show at a later date, would've been a better option, instead of the rushed product that was produced. I just wasn't moved or impressed with the show as a tribute show.. I feel like the artist's tribute were lackluster (partly because it was last minute, and partly because they were just too damn lazy to get it together). As the biggest showcase for urban music, movies, and sports, the BET Awards has to step it up. With the music video (on television) slowly dying out, the BET Awards are the only avenue to showcase the biggest and brightest stars in urban sports and entertainment. It cannot continue on with these lackluster shows that they pass off as entertainment. They have to do better. This past BET Awards show was not a tribute to Michael Jackson moreso than a testament of BET's commitment to mediocre programming, putting their artist to low standards, and not setting the building blocks for the future of urban music and entertainment. (Nice try), but shame on you, BET. You have a whole year to do better (although we're gonna need a better Michael Jackson much sooner).


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