After Madonna’s highly criticized Prince tribute at the 2016 Billboard Awards, BET set out to deliver the tribute that they felt Prince truly deserved. Soon after, the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles morphed into Paisley Park with not one, but multiple memorable performances in honor of the Purple One.
Kicking things off was Neo soul songstress Erykah Badu. Joined by the Roots, and clad in a black ensemble accented with a black hat, white fur coat, and purple lipstick, Badu’s sassy yet seductive rendition of Prince’s “The Ballad Dorothy Parker” got everyone in the mood. The song was from his 1987 hit double album Sign O the Times.
The soulful Bilal was up next. Covering Prince’s smash hit “The Beautiful Ones” from his 1984 album Purple Rain which was the soundtrack to his blockbuster film of the same name, Bilal became almost a carbon copy of Prince with his sultry falsetto belting out every note with Prince’s perfect pitch. Hardcore Prince fans were taken back to First Avenue for that brief moment as the Philly native channeled the Purple One’s stage presence in an amazing fashion.
Grammy Award winner Maxwell produced a few tears from the crowd with his authentic version of “Nothing Compares To U”. Creating the perfect mash up, the singer started off singing his own song “Lake By The Ocean,” before heading into the emotional Prince’s classic, by singing, “It’s been 66 days and 7 hours since you took your music away,” which was a reference to Prince’s sudden passing on April 21, 2016. After slaying in true Maxwell fashion, The Brooklyn New York native received a standing ovation sealing one of the evening’s best performances.
The iconic Stevie Wonder, along with rising star Tori Kelly, performed their rendition of Prince and Apollonia’s “Take Me With U”, also from the Purple Rain album. Shortly after, the pristine piped Jennifer Hudson joined them onstage in a short white hooded coat dress to perform her soulful rendition of the Purple One’s timeless classic“Purple Rain”.
In one of the evening’s most anticipated performances, Janelle Monae ignited the stage clad in a white ruffled outfit complete with Prince inspired caboose-less chaps. With her rousing renditions of the Purple One’s classics, “Delirious” “Kiss”, “Pop Life”, and “I Would Die 4 U’, the Electric Lady not only gave the crowd what they wanted, but also did the her legendary friend justice.
The finale was also one of the most anticipated and delivered by none other than Prince’s protegee’ and close friend, Sheila E. Complete was Sheila’s musical prowess, an impromptu dance featuring Prince’s ex-wife and former backup dancer Mayte Garcia, and an appearance the Time’s Jerome Benton during “Baby I’m a Star”, the finale was sealed as the iconic ensemble posed onstage with Sheila holding Prince’s purple guitar. If only the Revolution, Morris Day and the Time had shown up.
Nevertheless, this Prince tribute was one to remember, and fit to have the Purple One smiling from above.