Show aims for the hip, but oldies make it hop

Rock
Rock
Posted: July 01, 2014

THE BET Awards are the most casual of the awards shows (anything but black tie goes), the most self-promotional (rare was the presenter who didn't a push a TV show, movie or album) and the most sponsored. It seemed as if not a minute went by without seeing a logo or hearing a product placement.

Strong on music (auto-tuning and backing tracks allowed) and spectacle, the BET Awards suffer from some of the same problem as the Grammys: In attempting to lure younger viewers, the show makes it seem as if there are no black entertainers over 40 - no singers who don't come out of rap and hip-hop.

There are countless great black jazz, blues, rock and world-music artists, classical musicians and opera singers. And Audra McDonald won her sixth Tony this year portraying Billie Holiday. Open it up a little. (Host Chris Rock made a similar point two-and-a-half hours in when he commented that if his mother had to sit through all those rappers, she wants to hear Lionel Richie sing "Zoom.")

As for the show itself, it opened with Pharrell Williams, notable because his hat had shrunk and he wasn't singing "Happy." He was joined by red-and-white clad sorority girls, double-dutchers and Missy Elliott.

Rock followed, calling the BET Awards "the black world cup" and said that the show was rare on TV because it showed "black artists getting awards for things that they created."

He later commented that "the BET Awards is the only awards show in which, when you go, your family says 'be careful.' "

Rock cracked wise about Dr. Dre's massive sale of Beats to Apple for $3 billion.

"Three billion?" Rock screamed. "It looks like the West Coast won. Sorry, Puff."

Another favorite target was heavyset Rick Ross.

"If Dre has Beats," Rock said, "Rick Ross has diaBeats. They're the headphones you put on your feet before they chop 'em off."

Other Rock observations involved the hit TV drama "Scandal," civil-rights movies and Los Angeles Clippers' "owner" Donald Sterling.

* "The real reason 'Scandal' is a hit is because every Thursday for an hour there's a white president - white people get to feel good. Things are back to normal."

* "If you make a civil-rights movie and white people like it, it's not a good movie."

* "[Sterling said] I don't want my woman around black basketball players. Me neither!"

Since Ellen DeGeneres gave out pizza at the Oscars, Rock couldn't go that route, so he gave members of his audience Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

Two community bright lights that the BET Awards shone a light on included local food purveyor Denzel Thompson, of Philadelphia Urban Creators, and Tim King, founder of Chicago's Urban Prep Academy.

The Lifetime Achievement Tribute to Lionel Richie brought some old-school songs to the fore and big vocal performances from John Legend, Ledisi and Yolanda Adams, who belted out "Jesus Is Love" and took BET to church. Richie loved every second. After his speech, Richie sang "All Night Long" and "Easy," and made it look just that.

Other performers included Lil Wayne, Jhene Aiko, Chris Brown (Rock: "He just signed a new deal. Too bad it was a plea deal.") Travis Barker, Usher (wearing a Davy Crockett hat), Jennifer Hudson, Nicki Minaj, August Alsina, Trey Songz (who sang into the crotch of a white ballet dancer), T.I., Iggy Azalea . . .

Oddest touch of the evening: A few of the commercial breaks featured some of the whitest ads ever produced for Coca-Cola, Burger King, Mountain Dew Kickstart and "Dating Naked," coming to VH1.

The BET winners

Awards given out on the air last night at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

Best New Artist: August Alsina.

Best Gospel Artist: Tamela Mann.

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong'O. (not there)

Best Male Hip Hop Artist: Drake. (not there)

Video of the Year: Pharrell Williams, "Happy."

Subway Sportsman of the Year: Kevin Durant.

Subway Sportswoman of the Year: Serena Williams.

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist: Pharrell Williams.

Best Group: Young Money.

Viewers Choice Award: August Alsina, "I Luv This," featuring Trinidad James.

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