Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thoughts On The 2006 BET Awards

Every year, the BET Awards is by far the single best program that airs on BET. With a mixture of great performances, unbelievable surprises, and other memorable moments, it has consistently outshined older awards shows like the MTV Video Music Awards since its inception back in 2001.

This year's show saw some big changes. It's the first BET Awards officially under the regime of BET Networks Chairwoman/CEO Debra Lee, the first person to run the network after founder Robert Johnson. In addition, the show moved from the Kodak Theatre to the Shrine Auditorium. Actor/comedian Damon Wayans hosted this year's show and follows the very successful job Will and Jada Pinkett Smith did in 2005.

While I sincerely hoped that this year's show would be able to keep up the quality of previous years, I also knew that it's hard for events like this to be great every single year. Quite simply, the 2006 BET Awards wasn't as good as it has been in the past. While there were still great moments and great performances, the overall show was not up to snuff.

Here are my thoughts and observations on the 2006 BET Awards:

-Damon Wayans was not very good as a host. His opening monologue was terribly unfunny. I heard not a single laugh when he began his monologue with a dated joke about Africans and hip-hop. It went downhill from there. Even after his monologue bombed, he was never that funny. His frequent appearances to introduce presenters and artists almost stopped the show in its tracks. The only thing that was funny was a short pre-taped skit where he brought back his infamous “Men On Film” character to talk about current hip-hop songs. The last portion of it was nearly as funny and edgy as his In Living Color stuff. Unlike Steve Harvey, Cedric The Entertainer, and Mo'Nique, Damon probably won't be asked back to host again.

-Beyonce's opening performance was pretty good. She probably will never top her famous performance of “Crazy In Love” on the BET Awards a couple of years ago, but she sounded good and her dancing wasn't bad. However, the most memorable part of the performance had to be Jay-Z literally tapping Beyonce's booty. I wonder if that was Jay-Z's little way of putting all the rumors about Beyonce and Cam'ron to rest.

-Another memorable performance (for all the wrong reasons) was T.I.'s performance. It illustrated the major issue that plagued the awards show...technical difficulties. Everything started okay but then you noticed that you couldn't hear the backing music for T.I.'s song “What You Know.” He was forced to do most of the song a capella. He kept going like there wasn't anything wrong and kept the crowd into it until the music finally came back towards the end of the song. Other performers might not have been able to wing it the way T.I. did. I think that (and the rumors that Ludacris's new song “War With God” is about him) probably lead T.I. to shout at the end of the performance. Various other technical glitches like bad camera angles, sound problems, and seeing things we weren't supposed to see happened throughout the show. It really helped to make the show seem less polished and professional.

-The ads that I hated from last year's show returned this year. This time, you could only see them on the marquee at the top of the stage either when the show went to commercial or returned from commercial. They really reminded me of a TV version of contextual internet ads like those from Google. An ad for T.I.'s album King appeared before his performance. An ad for Jamie Foxx's next film, Miami Vice, appeared before his performance. Some of the ads were expected (ads for new album releases and new movies). Some were not as expected (Jacob the Jeweler's company). Others just confounded me (Red Lobster?).

-Jamie Foxx's performance was the worst performance of the night. His singing was not very good. The arrangements were terrible. Even though it was a medley, it was still hard to figure out what song was actually being sung at any given time. I normally like Fantasia but her talents were sorely wasted. The “shocking” kiss between her and Jamie didn't help things either. This may have very well been the black version of the Michael Jackson/Lisa Marie Presley kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards. Jamie is not a good enough musical performer to be able to do something half-assed and expect people to automatically love it.

-However, Chris Brown's performance might have made Usher shiver in his boots just a little bit. He sang for most of the performance. He also danced, gyrated, and flipped like crazy. I remember how amazed everyone was when Usher once did a backflip while performing. Chris Brown risked life and limb and actually flipped his way off the stage. By the time he got to the part where he took a platform up to the balcony and back again, the sweat was evident. He may not be the best singer or even the future of R & B, but Chris Brown proved that he is one heck of a performer.

-After pulling off a Fugees reunion for last year's awards, I think BET knew that they couldn't pull off a surprise bigger than that. This year's surprises were a little more understated. It was nice to see Janet Jackson make a public appearance and with her Good Times co-stars no less. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see Eminem show up during Busta Rhymes' performance. I'm not sure but I think that the performance was Emimem's first public performance since all those bad things went down (rehab, marriage/divorce, Proof's death).

-Didn't Diddy make you think of Randy Watson (Eddie Murphy) from Coming To America when he repeatedly told the audience to applaud?

-How nice was it to see OutKast together in the same place at the same time, looking like friends? I wish all the damn breakup rumors would stop.

-The only award winner that was truly a surprise was Prince. Even though people young and old love Prince (and his last album was actually pretty good), you'd think that whoever votes for the BET Awards would have voted for a younger performer. Prince looked genuinely surprised when he won for Best Male R & B Artist. What's even funnier is that even though everyone knew Prince would be closing the show, the audience was really surprised to see him come out to accept his award.

-Ultimately, when it came to performances, the “old folks” really showed up the younger people. My favorite performance of the night was the tribute to Chaka Khan. Even though it had “younger” people like Yolanda Adams and India.Arie (who were very good, mind you), the best things about the tribute were Prince, Stevie Wonder (the new hardest working man in show business), and Chaka herself. Then, Prince went on to give a great performance himself although I was kind of surprised to see him perform “3121” instead of “Black Sweat” or “Fury.” Even Will.I.Am's seemingly impromptu rap with Prince at the very end of the show didn't mess things up. I'd take these performances over those of Keyshia Cole, Ne-Yo, or Yung Joc any day.

While the 2006 BET Awards wasn't as good as last year's (or the year before or...), it was still relatively good entertainment. It was great to see Harry Belafonte and Chaka Khan honored at this year's show. However, even if this year's awards were disappointing, they were nowhere near as bad as last year's Video Music Awards. That poor awards show has gone from fun to generic in the past few years (especially the shows from Miami). The BET Awards has a long way to go before it sinks to that level. I hope that it doesn't continue to slope downward next year.

1 comment:

  1. Was it me, or was Keyshia Cole painfully flat AND sharp during her whole performance? And, I'm sorry, but you're a SINGER, okay--do NOT run out of breath during one song. Mary J was singing her ass off and rapping and running all over the place and didn't miss a beat, but Keyshia can't walk down an aisle and sing without getting winded? What the hell ever.

    Oh--and the trailer for "Snakes on a Plane"? Best part of the show. Aside from Prince and Chaka (biggest booty EVER), of course.