Last month, Madonna delivered what might best be described as a passable tribute to the late Prince at the Billboard Music Awards. With social media less-than-impressed with her performance, BET responded with a since-deleted tweet promoting this Sunday’s award show. “Yeah, we saw that. Don’t worry. We Got You,” the text read, over a purple image of Prince.
Well, tonight was the night and they more than delivered on that promise.
Following a surprise performance by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to open the show, the BET Awards presented not one, not two, not three, but four separate Prince tributes, each with multiple performers who were undeniably capable of carrying on his legacy.
First up, Dave Chappelle introduced his “old friends” The Roots and Erykah Badu, who took on “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” from Sign o’ the Times. They were then joined by Bilal, who took the reins on Purple Rain’s “The Beautiful Ones.”
Next, Stevie Wonder, who previously helped rescue Madonna’s problematic performance last month, joined Tori Kelly for the upbeat “Take Me With U.” During that performance, Jennifer Hudson emerged to reprise the version of “Purple Rain” with which she brought down the Broadway house of The Color Purple the same week Prince had passed. But this time, she had The Roots’ Captain Kirk Douglas to shred the legendary guitar solo. Seems as though there are no hard feelings after Prince tossed Douglas’s guitar into the air and broke it during a 2013 performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Following that, Janelle Monae appeared in an elaborate, all-white lace and fur outfit to sing a medley of “Delirious,” “Kiss,” “Pop Life” and “I Would Die 4 U.” But that wasn’t all. Despite numerous announcements leading up the show, D’Angelo, who performed a gorgeous rendition of “Sometimes It Snows in April” two months earlier, was a no-show. The Roots’ Questlove admitted as much on Twitter midway through the show.
Instead, Prince’s former drummer Sheila E. had the honor of closing out the show with one last tribute, working pieces of “Let’s Work,” “U Got the Look,” “America the Beautiful” and “Baby I’m a Star” into one big “Purple Medley.”
Even without D’Angelo, it was a night to remember.