The 2010 BET Awards featured Kanye West’s first award show performance since his VMAs controversy, an all-star tribute to Prince, new music from El DeBarge, and performances by Eminem, T.I., Drake and more of hip-hop’s biggest stars. But Chris Brown’s emotional meltdown during his tribute to Michael Jackson had artists and fans buzzing when the show wrapped in Los Angeles last night.
After dancing his way through a medley of Jackson hits and replicating the King of Pop’s trademark moves, Brown attempted to sing Jackson’s emotional self-improvement anthem “Man in the Mirror.” But with tears in his eyes and his voice choked with emotion, Brown couldn’t get out a word, squeaking a few notes before eventually dropping to his knees.
At last year’s BET Awards ceremony, Brown was left out of a similar Jackson tribute because it came just five months after he was arrested for assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna at a pre-Grammy party. For many, last night’s Jackson tribute represented a redemptive moment for the “Forever” singer. “Chris Brown made me cry. We all must start with the man in the mirror. He did an Awesome job on the tribute. God is merciful,” Mary J. Blige tweeted, speculating that Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” made Brown confront his own struggles of the past year. Trey Songz later told MTV, “Chris killed that. He left his heart on the stage. He gave genuine emotion. I was proud of him and I was happy for him for having that moment. He did that justice. Everybody’s been waiting for that.”
The Roots’ ?uestlove, who missed the BET Awards because he was performing in Calgary, wondered whether the public will now be willing to forgive Brown for his transgressions. Still, for every person who was moved by Brown’s tribute, another questioned whether the moment was genuine — if Brown just used the Jackson tribute to help turn the page on the last year of his life. Despite the controversy surrounding him since the Rihanna incident, Brown also managed to win the popular-vote-based AOL Fandemonium award last night, beating out Internet darlings Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. “I let y’all down before, but I won’t do it again. I promise,” Brown said during his acceptance speech.
Earlier in the night, Kanye West opened the show with his new single “Power.” Eminem twice took the stage, first to deliver his verse from B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” remix and later, backed by a gospel choir, to perform his Recovery single “Not Afraid.” Prince’s lifetime achievement award brought out some of the night’s biggest stars: Following a video montage looking back at his career (Prince was watching from the front row), Janelle Monae (“Let’s Go Crazy”), a pregnant Alicia Keys (“Adore”) and Patti LaBelle (“Purple Rain”) all paid tribute to the legend. Prince, wearing a shirt with a caricature of himself next to the words “20Ten,” the rumored title of his next album, told the crowd after receiving his award, “I do believe the future is in good hands, I’ve seen so much talent here tonight.”