Spoiler alert: Stop reading if you don’t want to know the outcome of the 2011 Soul Train Music Awards.
Stop, too, if you’re into mean jokes swiped from current headlines, crass skits or stupid rapper tricks. There were none to be seen at the show’s live taping at the Fox Theater on Thursday, Nov. 17. It was all about actual music and Soul Train history with a few awards thrown in for good measure.
Everything started nearly 25 minutes after the 7 p.m. curtain time. Of course, detouring traffic from Peachtree to 3rd St. and Ponce De Leon during the work week is never a great idea, though having the show at the Fox instead of the Civic Center, home of the annual BET Hip Hop Awards, was pretty cool.
Once in progress, outside of minimal technical gaffes and a few minor slips courtesy of Cee Lo Green, the show moved along smoothly. Morris Day and the Original 7ven (formerly the Time) opened with their classics “Jungle Love” and “Cool” under a backdrop of contrived Tweets like, “Remember when music was real.”
Host Cedric the Entertainer strutted out to a comedic version of T.I.’s “Big Thangs Poppin’.” (The King himself was not in attendance.) Producer Just Blaze and rapper arm candy Amber Rose were on hand to promote their Smirnoff Masters of the Mix series (airing on BET's sister station Centric) and present the first tribute of the night to Atlanta treasure Gladys Knight. Rose was dressed in what was likely her most conservative outfit ever — a high-necked blouse and knee-length pencil skirt.
A fully clothed and contained Amber Rose was kind of a precursor to what followed — a family-friendly set of solid performances and sincere tributes. Tamar Braxton, Chrisette Michele, and Mary Mary did justice to Knight’s hits. A vocally strong Knight herself received a standing O before and after a duet with BeBe Winans. Later Eric Benet wowed the crowd as the only singer who could hit the high notes in Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Reasons.”
The homage to Heavy D in the wake of his untimely death was the only time hip-hop took front and center. Cee Lo Green and Goodie Mob, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini and Kurtis Blow joined in for “We Got Our Own Thang.” When it came time for Cee Lo’s lines, it wasn't clear if the Lady Killer pulled a Lupe Fiasco of sorts or if the mic malfunctioned. His own performance of “Fool For You” with Melanie Fiona, however, was flawless.
All in all, the show had sort of a scaled-back but not too sparse feel. BET’s producers, perhaps sensing a void in family-oriented programming aside from “Dancing With the Stars” or “American Idol,” decided to keep the show totally PG. Old-school folks took a hip trip down memory lane and kids who don’t know Gladys Knight, Earth Wind and Fire, or Heavy D, could stay tuned in for Miguel, Lloyd and teen quartet, Mindless Behavior.
As a host, Cedric was never laugh-out-loud funny but proved effective in bringing a few laughs while remaining inoffensive and not entirely corny. His edgiest pieces of humor came in the form of oblique references to the economy and a silly cell-phone text from Republican front-runner Herman Cain about so many “things swirling in my head.” The closest the show came to vulgarity was a cleanly edited clip of Snoop Dogg’s 1994 Soul Train series performance of “Gin and Juice.”
Toned down and tame, it was still a stone gas, honey.
Oh, and by the way, here are the winners who received awards during taping:
Best New Artist: Miguel
Best R&B Female: Jill Scott
Best R&B Male: Cee Lo Green
Record of the Year: Marsha Ambrosius “Far Away”
The 2011 Soul Train Awards air on BET and CENTRIC at 9 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27
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Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
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