I found no flaw in this year's 2020 BET Soul Train Music Awards. Let me say that again. I found no flaws, not one, during this year's 2020 BET Soul Train Music Awards ceremony.
First, I want to congratulate all the winners and nominees. I am not sure how to put my finger on it, but this award show was strategically perfect from the pre-show to the main show, to the after party. I am aware that with events like these, as soon as they are done, planning for next year has already begun. It is evident from the final broadcast that there are people in the background that are fully on one accord and know to the fullest extent what they are doing. They have maintained what works and in the midst of COVID made adjustments for the benefit of the artists as well as everyone else in attendance, including not making the TV audience feel cheated of a transcending and energetic musical experience.
The intentional display of black love by Soul-Coming Pre-Show hosts, husband and wife team, Flex and Shanice, carries a strong message of faith, family, and tradition, upheld by the black community for generations. The "I love Your Smile" powerhouse singer and sexy Black actor became a hit with audiences many years ago with their first hosting of the BET Honors ceremony around 2012 and have since become a staple in hosting many BET events. The pre-show also exhibited up and coming and established artists like Infinity Song and Skip Marley, in super vibey performances with beautiful backdrops that paid homage to the style of Soul Train from years past, Infinity Song, a family group of siblings wearing afros and 70's style clothing. The beautiful tiered performance system, from the pre-show artists to the amplified artists on the US Army stage, which are given about half the time of the main artists, and then to the main artists themselves, served its purpose in making sure that a plethora of artists could be seen, heard, and exposed to a wide television audience. Sponsorship placement and announcements were far from overbearing and cleverly incorporated into the show with comical punch lines instead of numerous commercial breaks. I don't eat Cheez Its because I am vegan, but it was all so memorable and very cute.
Location, location, location. You know the mantra. And shall I say vibes, vibes, brick wall jazz lounge vibes? Google showed that the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California would be the location in which the 2020 BET Soul Train Music Awards would be held. However, unless this was a side lounge within the facilit it appeared that the ceremony was held in a different "historic" location according to R&B Princess Brandy. This award show came with an elegant black dress code for a physically distanced mini audience as well as the entertainers. Cocktail tables and lounge booths were perfectly placed for the masked attendees, with centerpieces and, what my eyes may have caught, candles. What I was most proud of was that the performers were given much needed physical onlookers and cheerleaders besides just TV viewers. Unlike parts of the American Music Awards and other virtual awards shows (not going to lie, the BET Awards Show earlier this year was moving and powerful as one long variety show music video), there was never a feeling that you were sitting in a dress rehearsal. The AMA's had a socially distanced audience, but way up high in the balcony when they could have been distanced on the orchestra level for the artists to feed off of more. Believe me, I get it. I know these organizations have five to ten years contracts where these venues are paid for well in advance, but I loved the fact that the Soul Train Awards were held at a smaller venue with the perfect aesthetics to showcase complete essence of Black culture and music. Another plus was the house band accented with two background singers, one male, one female, who also wore classy black and black face masks. One band to play for all. Easy, smart, perfect.
Listen, I loved every single performance and every single speech. They were well written, well read, thoughtful, and vulnerable. There seemed to be a fairness amongst the artists who were nominated and who won. No popularity contest here, but later we will talk about Summer Walker and her Album of Year win. The performances showcased a variety of music styles from Ella Mai's sultry mood to CeeLo Greens wild and funky dance tune. Brandy gave me whimsical wizardly conducting and opened that vocal bible which had me moaning and groaning with a scrunched up face, while the Atlanta diva herself, Monica, killed it, performing past hits that made me feel nostalgic, then had me up cutting a rug to her new single "Trenches". Moses Sumney. Do I need to say more? Um, yes I do. Look, I've been following him on Instagram for a very long time and he is one of the few humans on the planet that make my mouth salivate. I was so proud to see him on the Amplified artist stage showcasing his beauty, style, and voice. And, I can never fall out of love with the smooth vocal stylings of Smokey, Babyface, and uncle Charlie. I tell you, by the time the final award of the night for Album of the Year was presented I didn't want the ceremony to end.
Last but never least, are the triple threats themselves, childhood to adulthood friends who met at an audition as little girls, Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell. From the theater stage to television and more these ladies have yet to receive their flowers in my opinion. For three years now they have been hosting the BET Soul Train music awards and it has been a win win for all. I love seeing them together in comedic fashion while displaying all of their talent. They are the epitome of black performance of the past, present and hopefully the future if we can continue to bring powerhouse singers to the light.
Most of all, there was a no political propaganda and I was there for it! No Biden, no Trump, no BLM fest, an organization that does not represent majority of the Black community anyway. Most commercials were geared toward uplifting the beauty of the little black girl and blackness in general. Themes throughout the estimated three hours, from the Soul-Coming pre-show to the Pass the Mic post show highlight included using your voice to be heard, being who you are, family, hope, love, and great music. There was no one-sidedness, no negativity, nor the putting up or down of particular people. It was unapologetically high-end, decadent, first-rate, and superior! By the time the Pass the Mic highlight ended, which I just learned about Sunday evening and thoroughly enjoyed, I was smiling and full of buzzing energy. I also thought about how thankful I was to the sponsors and advertisers who took part in making the BET Soul Train Music Awards what they were. I thought about decades of yore, even before I was born, when the black community received no mainstream marketing and advertising, event sponsorships or promotions, when black communities were ignored because they were not seen as relevant to the consumer market. I mean, how long did it take for cosmetic companies to actually make color foundations for ALL black women skin tones. I was in high school myself when I remember Lancôme having two shades only for black women. It was one of my favorite cosmetic brands and the department store representative looked at me and tested the darkness color on my skin. I ended up buying the next color up because it was my only choice, just to get home and have my brother tell me my face looked green. The next day I returned the foundation. You get my drift right? Many of us who are old enough have had many experiences like this, trying to shop in places that underserve us. Somewhere, somehow, and with data as proof, white American corporations realized the value of the black dollar, the black vote, and black prosperity and success. Somewhere along the way our spending was realized and became very important and it is an honor to be seen as valuable. I see this as a plus and if we as a community can strategize on how to leverage our spending even more than we can experience even more return on our output. We will talk more on this later, in another journal entry perhaps?
So, if you have not seen the BET Soul Train Awards head over to BET.com for all the latest highlights and performances. I will see there.
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