It may have been an awards ceremony celebrating the best in urban music today, but if you didn’t know better you would’ve thought it was a special event strictly remembering fallen pop star Michael Jackson.
That’s what it felt like if you tuned into the 2009 BET Awards, broadcast live from Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium on Sunday night (June 28). Nearly the entire evening was dedicated to the late, great, legendary Michael Jackson, just days after his passing.
Right off the bat, host Jamie Foxx kicked off the BET Awards with a re-enactment of the choreography from Jackson’s “Beat It” video in front of the star-studded crowd, who stayed on their feet, even from the start of the show.
“No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man,” said Foxx.
One of the night’s biggest moments came when Michael’s sister Janet took the stage to speak on her older sibling, vowing to keep his memory alive while she fought to keep tears from flowing.
“To you Michael is an icon,” said Jackson. “To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts. On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love, thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much, thank you so much.”
During red carpet arrivals, Michael’s father Joe Jackson had a few words about his son as well: “I wish the world had recognized him when he were living. Right now he’s bigger than ever. But I wish he was here to see all this, to hear all this.”
Janet’s appearance was followed by a tribute by singers Ne-Yo and host Jamie Foxx, who performed a somber version of the Jackson 5 classic “I’ll Be There,” as photos of Jackson flashed across the screen to close out the show.
The performance was an emotional highlight for the event, which was completely revamped to recognize the legacy of Jackson, who died Thursday at age 50.
Most of the other performances during the evening also paid tribute to Michael. While some artists did perform their own hits, most made sure to incorporate some of the late entertainer in their performances. A chant of “Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson” was heard while Keri Hilson performed, and Foxx’s “Blame It” incorporated some of the Jacksons’ dance hit “Blame It On the Boogie.”
New Edition performed several of the Jackson 5’s greatest hits, from “I Want You Back” to “ABC,” mirroring their idols right down to the group’s original choreography. And Ne-Yo sang one of Jackson’s most sensual songs, “Lady in my Life.”
Throughout the night, Foxx also appeared on screen with some of Jackson’s signature looks, like the wide-collar black leather outfit from “Billie Jean,” as well as the red leather jacket and white glove that he made so popular during the 80s.
Overall, the event’s focus on Michael just proved how much of an impact Michael Jackson had, especially to the music community. If the BET Awards last minute revamp isn’t a testament to his influence, what is?
Aside from Michael tribute, awards were given out. Beyonce’s took home two awards, one for Video of the Year for “Single Ladies” and another for Best Female R&B Artist.
A full list of BET Award winners is as follows:
Video of the Year: Beyonce Knowles – “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”
Best Male R&B Artist: Ne-Yo
Best Female R&B Artist: Beyonce Knowles
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: Lil Wayne
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist: M.I.A.
Best Group: DAY26
Best New Artist: Keri Hilson
Viewer’s Choice: T.I. feat. Rihanna – “Live Your Life”
Best Collaboration: Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain – “Blame It”
Video Director of the Year: Benny Boom
Centric Award: Jazmine Sullivan
Best Gospel Artist: Mary Mary
Best Actor: Will Smith
Best Actress: Taraji P. Henson
Best Male Athlete: LeBron James
Best Female Athlete: Serena Williams
Humanitarian Award: Alicia Keys and Wyclef Jean
Lifetime Achievement Award: The O’Jays