Performing midway through Sunday’s BET Awards, the R&B singer and reality-television star tore into her song “My Man” – about how you should “Never trust a lonely woman with the one you love” – as though her life depended on it.
She whipped her long blond hair; she doubled over to better dig into the song’s low notes.
The BET Awards – until that point a surprisingly sluggish affair – might have.
In the past few years, the cable network’s flagship awards show has been the liveliest and most relevant on TV, with electrifying performances from top hip-hop and R&B stars and a focus on progressive values that has often made the Grammys and the American Music Awards look trivial.
Lamar hadn’t been announced in advance as a performer but showed up to do “Mask Off” with Future – a last-minute cameo that made you wonder if someone at BET called the Compton rapper Sunday evening around 6:30.
Chance the Rapper, accepting BET’s Humanitarian Award for good deeds including a $1-million contribution to Chicago’s public school system, gave an appealingly unscripted speech in which he criticized a bank he said was betting against the schools’ success.
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington and singer El DeBarge – the latter dressed in a dazzling red suit – paid tribute to the late George Michael with a warm and loving rendition of “Careless Whisper.” And the members of New Edition, whose lives were dramatized this year in a painstaking BET biopic, brought a rowdy thrill to the show as they crowded the stage to accept a lifetime achievement award.
A lengthy stretch of dead air took place – long enough that the wheels appeared to be coming off the BET Awards again.
If your answer was yes, the BET Awards had something for you.