June 28th, 2010
10:40 AM ET
Between Prince's Lifetime achievement award and Queen Latifah running the show, there was plenty of royalty at last night's 10th anniversary of the BET Awards. But in the midst of the performances of accolades, the stage was also set for a few big names to make their comebacks.
Jermaine Jackson announced the first return of the evening when he introduced the tribute to his late brother, thanking everyone for their love and support over the past year. He added, “There is one tribute performance we have yet to see…here he is.”
Chris Brown was poised behind the curtain, looking like the silhouette of Michael Jackson himself. Once he came out, there was a palpable moment of tension so strong, it could almost be felt through the TV.
Brown crotch-grabbed and moon-walked his way like a pro through the Michael Jackson songs as a supportive audience cheered him on.
But then the opening bars from “Man in the Mirror” began to play, and we all braced for the irony of the words. Brown got through about one line of the song before his voice started to quiver with tears. After a few heartfelt efforts to regain composure, Brown fell to his knees sobbing and completely gave up trying to sing as the backup track took over.
Whether the tears were over shame for his legal issues involving ex-girlfriend Rihanna - who was absent from the awards show - or something else, we don’t know.
But Brown wasn't the only one returning to the stage: Kanye West opened the show on top of a mountain - literally - as he performed his latest single, "Power." T.I gave an upbeat performance that had the whole crowd moving, and El DeBarge was also a surprising treat as he performed a new song from his upcoming album and a medley of his R&B hits.
Queen Latifah kept the show flowing as she changed outfits about 500 times, and Alicia Keys also had a good night. She won Best Female R&B artist, Best Collaboration for her work with Jay-Z in “Empire State of Mind,” and also fit in two performances: a medley set of her own songs early on in the program, and then she joined in the Prince tribute.
But probably the best Prince performance of the night came from the one and only Patti LaBelle, who sang “Purple Rain” like we've never heard it before. LaBelle flicked her shoes off into the audience where Prince picked one of them up and gestured in respect to the diva.
LaBelle came back and joined Chaka Khan on stage to formally present Prince with his Lifetime Achievement Award.
Overwhelmed by the amount of praise coming from the audience, Prince asked everyone to sit down and said he was “speechless.” He started by thanking Jehovah, and then remarked on the future of music. “I do believe the future is in good hands, there is so much talent here,” he said.
Then Prince offered some words of wisdom to the young talent in the room. “I was pretty wild in my younger days and you don’t have to do what I did and you don’t have to make the mistakes I made,” he said. “Thank you for a wonderful night tonight, I’ll never forget it as long I live.”
Trey Songz took home Best Male R&B Artist and Drake won Best Male Hip Hop Artist. Nicki Minaj received the award for Best Female Hip Hop Artist and thanked the female rappers who paved the way for her.
Rihanna received the coveted Viewer’s Choice Award for “Hard,” but was not there to accept it. Also not there to accept Awards were Beyonce and Lady Gaga, who won Video of the Year for their collaboration in “Video Phone," and Jay-Z was absent from the show as well.
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