Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson Deserved Better

Michael Jackson deserved better.

I had high hopes that the BET Awards that aired Sunday evening would live up to the hype and do some justice in honoring the untimely passing of Michael Jackson. I had hoped that I would not once have to invoke the "c-word" (coonery!) But, alas, those of us who stuck it out were delivered a flat, awkward, poorly paced and, frankly, puzzling show that devolved into shucking-and-jiving and did little to actually honor the King of Pop himself.

I'll say on the outset that I don't watch BET often. I mentally checked out and off of BET right after undergrad (in the 90s!) Oddly, my remote control broke sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning (probably wore it out flipping around checking out all the MJ coverage) and the last channel it was on was BET. Since my cable box is digital and I couldn't manually change the channel, I was (and still am) "stuck" with BET until I get a new remote. I wasn't happy about that but took it as a good omen for BET Awards viewing.

Now I know it was simply a cruel joke and not an omen of any kind. I was one of many who live-tweeted the show and started out praising New Edition opening of classic Jackson 5ive songs (swole up, whiskey-voiced Bobby Brown notwithstanding...) And when Jamie Foxx came out came out dressed like the Beat It video, I was stirring and tweeted that I thought his combination of talents made him the perfect host.

I genuinely expected a celebration. I wanted to sing, laugh, cry and be dancing around my living room talking about "Mama-se, mama-sah, mama coo sah!" -- Michael wouldn't have wanted anything less. Instead, we got a stiff, stilted evening that looked like it had been put together by amateurs. Where were the creative minds that had put together the entertaining BET Awards of years past? The ones who put together Mo'Nique and the big girls dancing to "Crazy in Love"? The ones who had Michael Jackson come out and put the cape on James Brown in 2003?

I shudder to think what they were going to do before Michael Jackson passed.

Where was Diana Ross? Where was Prince? Where was Berry Gordy? Where was Usher? Why was Ciara singing and not dancing? Why was Beyonce singing...a mashed up Ave Maria/Sarah McLaughlin combo in a panty girdle and bustier with wings that looked like they were made by my middle school nephew? Why was Chaka Khan there but didn't sing at all?

True enough, BET had little time to revamp its already-planned show. But this is show business. You expect the unexpected and you rise to the occasion and act accordingly. You think legendary Oscars producer Gil Cates would have put on a show like this?

How about a little dignity? Put together a heartfelt video and photo montage. Dance a little, sing a little. Say a prayer. Fade to black. We all go to bed feeling proud and with our grief assuaged a little bit. But it was not to be.

The O'Jays tribute, Maxwell and Ne-Yo's 50-'leven performances were strong spots. But between Jamie Foxx plugging his tour, Weezy's incoherent, bleeped out performance with underage girls on stage dancing inappropriately to a sexually suggestive song and Ving Rhames with the Kool-Aid pitcher reliving the bad memory that is the movie "Baby Boy" I was done. I think my soul died a little each time I watched commercials promoting Tiny & Toya and Frankie & Neffe.

When Janet Jackson finally took the stage after 3+ hours to give an emotional tribute on behalf of the Jackson family, she looked weary and pissed. I have to believe that's partly out of raw grief and partly because she had to sit through all that steaming hot ghetto madness that failed to ever approximate a true and fitting "tribute" to her big brother.

This was BET's chance, while the whole world was watching, to get it right. And they failed miserably. Again.

I thought back on all those BET Awards performances and instantly thought of the Jacksons and Michael performing at Motown 25 -- truly a send-up to their fans and a clinic on showmanship for everybody else in the game.

BET should have done better. Michael Jackson deserved better. And so did the people who love and mourn him.

Still praying for the Jackson Family,


  1. Someone pointed out that this carnival of nonsense only highlighted what a rare talent Michael Jackson was. I could be wrong, but I think Diana, Prince, etc. stayed away because they knew BET would drop the ball. Poor Janet. I can't imagine having to sit through that mess while grieving for my sibling. Unbelievable.

  2. I think we must keep in mind the time frames BET had to work with. Also, I think their intentions were heartfelt. I am sure that MJs celebrity family will have their turn to give the real tribute. Let us remain positive and patient, as we continue to celebrate Michael's life.


  3. @EDP -- You're probably absolutely right about Diana, Prince, etc.

    @Veronica D. -- As another friend pointed out to me, look at how well the Grammy's regrouped on a moment's notice when Chris Brown/Rihanna dropped out after all their drama. Bottom line: The folks who pull these shows together are supposed to be experienced and professional. All things considered, they could have and should have done much better than they did even with the considerable time constraint. We need to do better.

    Thanks for reading and leaving your comments!