At the 2012 BET Awards Sunday in Los Angeles, anticipation reigned thanks to a long-awaited comeback by soul singer D’Angelo, the potential of Whitney Houston‘s mom Cissy paying tribute to her late daughter in song, and a performance by Chris Brown.
The BET stage is the first high-profile appearance the often-embattled Brown has made following a highly publicized bar melee reportedly involving him, Drake and buzzy rapper Meek Mill.
No sign of Drake, but Meek performed with his Maybach Music Group and Brown hit the stage more than midway through the telecast.
Earlier this weekend a diss track from Brown toward Drake surfaced online, but Sunday’s performance wasn’t about fueling that particular mounting beef.
Shirtless, with half his chest painted like an Aztec warrior, Brown emerged in a sea of strobe lights and tore through a medley of “Don’t Wake Me Up” and “Turn Up the Music” without any nods toward the ongoing drama.
Brown captivated the audience with his frenetic footwork, although the singer struggled with a number of flat notes that drove the chatter of some audience members. But Brown preferred to leave the drama off the stage and on the Internet.
The return of D’Angelo was also one of the many anticipated moments of the evening. The soul singer hasn’t made an album in 12 years, and his live appearances have been rare. But there he was Sunday night blowing away audience members like Kanye West with a voice that seems to have only gotten better with age.
D’Angelo is one of the more enigmatic figures to have risen out of the ’90s music scene. He was associated with the neo soul movement (think Lauryn Hill and Maxwell) but it was his album “Voodoo” in 2000 and the steamy video for its “(Untitled) How Does It Feel” that made him a star beyond any subgenre.
Since then, fans have been waiting for a follow-up to “Voodoo” (his second record) but to no avail. An album tentatively titled “James River” has reportedly been in the works for years, but no release date has been set.
Cissy Houston performed “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in front of a large graphic of her and her daughter singing together. She, like the crowd, shed tears. She is a Grammy Award–winning soul and gospel singer, and gave an incredibly emotional and moving reminder of her daughter’s legacy.
Other performers included Usher and Nicki Minaj. Winners included Kanye West & Jay-Z for best group for The Throne. Chris Brown won best male R&B artist while the Rev. Al Sharpton won the BET Humanitarian Award.