7:58: Preshow! The Shop Boyz are outside the venue doing “Party Like a Rockstar” and sounding like complete ass. A girl with a mohawk pretends to play guitar behind them. The one guy doesn’t jump in the crowd after saying “I’m jumping into the crowd just to see if they could carry me,” lame. That line is at the end of his verse and everything; there’s no reason for him not to do it. Step your award-show preshow game up, Shop Boyz! You’re almost certainly not going to get another chance to do something like this; you need to make it count!
8:00: Jennifer Hudson, singing that one song she sings, gets the big superstar entrance. She introduces Jennifer Holliday, a nice, classy little coup for this show. Hudson and Holliday don’t duet on “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” so much as madly and theatrically attempt to outsing each other. There’s a really weird disconnect in seeing a middle-aged woman all primped up in an award-show ball-gown looking like she’s about to bite your head off and gargle your blood. Bridget on Holliday: “She sounds like a haunted-house sound-effect.”
8:09: Michael Buffer is here; apparently, it’s time to rumble. I wonder how Buffer feels about the Chris Benoit thing. Buffer unfortunately does not introduce T.I. and Chaka Zulu; instead, he parodies his boxing/wrestling introductions to give a ridiculously unfunny opening to host Monique: “Let’s get rrready to jiggllllle!” Monique gets a huge and ridiculous entrance, doing a halfassed Beyonce dance routine with a bunch of backing dancers. Beyonce thinks it’s funny, anyway. Monique also makes LL Cool J take her shoe off, which is the only thing LL Cool J will do tonight.
8:17: Queen Latifah, it seems, is always happy to hand out awards. Instead of reading off the nominees for Video of the Year, though, she introduces a shitty cell-phone video of some girl who won a contest or something, and that girl introduces the nominees. Beyonce wins the award, and her terrifying father walks her to the stage.
8:26: T.I. and T.I.P. have another one of those dumbass taped arguments. Does T.I. ever win those things? One of them, doesn’t matter which, comes out in a pilot’s uniform for some reason to do “Big Things Poppin’,” which is still not a very good song. T.I., as ever, is a lot of fun to watch. Chris Brown, in the crowd, tries to mean-mug the camera, which is cute. At one point, T.I. wades out into the crowd and gives pounds to various dignitaries. Tony Yayo holds his hand out and gets snubbed. I don’t know whether that was intentional or not, but it was pretty funny either way.
8:31: Corbin Bleu looks terrified that copresenter Nick Cannon is going to make fun of him. They’re really going to keep going with this cell-phone camera thing, huh? Gnarls Barkley win Best Group and don’t show up to accept it.
8:38: A big screen above the stage flashes product-placement billboards, which serves to make the whole show look crazy cheap. I can’t really adequately explain this, but Ne-Yo’s stage-set really reminds me of Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before” video. Ne-Yo dances a lot; he’s like Chris Brown for slightly older people. He does “Because of You” for a couple of minutes, and then he brings out Fabolous for “You Make Me Better,” which I’m beginning to suspect might be a really, really good song; it definitely gets better every time I hear it. I also like how Ne-Yo changes hats (like, literally) when he goes from one song to another. Baseball caps, it seems are way more appropriate that porkpies when there’s a rapper onstage.
8:44: Was Monique ever funny? Is she like the Kings of Comedy guys where she used to be fucking hilarious but now barely resembles her former self? Or was she just always like this? I’d honestly like to know.
8:45: Jordin Sparks is presenting an award with Michael Clarke Duncan? Huh? Why? Jordin looks like she might be able to handle Duncan in a fight. Forrest Whitaker beats Stringer Bell for Best Actor and doesn’t show up to accept it.
8:54: Diddy’s stage set can only be called Timberlake-esque. I love how he says he’s “sitting here with this blank expression” on “Last Nite” like it means he’s heartbroken or something. Diddy always has a blank expression! He must just be heartbroken all the time. Keyshia Cole looks really good. Lil Kim shows up for a quick surprise guest-verse and sounds like complete dogshit. Diddy also has an entire choir bathed in white light even though the song doesn’t really demand it at all. That guy is always good for spectacle.
8:58: Chris Brown is wearing Revenge of the Nerds glasses; I wonder if they’re prescription. He’s out to present an award with Rihanna, and the lack of chemistry the two of them display is just fascinating. This segment’s obligatory shitty cell-phone bit comes from some terrifying old junkie lady from Baltimore; I cannot imagine why they’re giving camera-time to these nutjobs. Jennifer Hudson wins Best Actress. I guess they’re going to keep re-awarding Oscar winners; Helen Mirren better have her speech ready.
9:00: Hey, it’s Big Tigger, making his triumphant BET return and telling us how to vote for the Viewer’s Choice Award! Rap City needs you, Tigger! Save us from Q45!
9:05: Beyonce is dressed like the robot from Metropolis; what the fuck. She comes out of her robot costume and sings “Get Me Bodied,” and it’s pretty awesome, even if her male backing dancers are wearing white suits with no shirts on underneath. Her backing track shouts out the names of dances like it was Elephant Man. Oh wow, and she introduces Kelly Rowland, classy! Kelly’s “Like This,” it bears mentioning, is better than any solo Beyonce song we’ve heard in a while. Kelly, however, doesn’t appear to realize that she’s supposed to sing into the mic. I am extremely happy that Eve is now dressing like she stepped out of an American Apparel ad. At the end of the song, all three Destiny’s Child members pose next to each other on elevated columns, and for some reason Solange Knowles joins all of them. This is all some pretty great spectacle, but Beyonce can’t just retroactively make Solange a member of Destiny’s Child, can she? Can she?
9:14: Charlie Murphy becomes the billionth person to make fun of George W. Bush’s African dancing, which does not bode well for the potential of his new BET comedy show. He and Vivica Fox give the Best Hip-Hop Artist award to T.I., thus correcting the Grammy voters’ massive mistake. T.I. vaguely apologizes for slapping Chaka Zulu without actually naming Chaka or Ludacris, and he actually manages to plug his album in the process. He also says this: “There’s a fine line between greatness and insanity.” Wise!
9:21: “Lost Without You” is kind of a weird song. Instead of singing about how badly he wants you, Robin Thicke is singing about how badly he wants you to tell him how badly you want him. Thicke’s race and lineage already make him a pretty unlikely R&B heartthrob, and on top of everything else he’s risen to fame on the strength of a profoundly insecure song. The whole thing is just weird. Tonight, his voice sounds like the air squeaking out of a balloon, but his goofy dancing sort of makes up for it.
9:25: Screech would never allow himself to be seen in public in the clothes that T-Pain is onstage wearing right now. This is a joke, right? OK, yes it is. Whew. Never can tell with that guy. In any case, he presents Ludacris and Mary J. Blige with Best Collaboration for their well-intentioned power-ballad. Luda: “This song is proof that there is content in hip-hop.” I guess.
9:35: Patti LaBelle has some nice things to say about Gerald Levert, and then she joins Eddie Levert, Jennifer Holliday, Yolanda Adams, and Gladys Knight for a big and churchy tribute rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” It’s a nice moment, but it’s also sort of disingenuous the way BET trots out all these older stars for their award show when they know full well that Yung Joc will get more airtime in the next year than all of them combined.
9:48: Monique tries to shout out Gerald Levert’s daughter in the crowd, but the camera can’t find her. In a weird moment, though, the camera first lights on Snoop Dogg and then on Snoop from The Wire. Maybe they would’ve been able to find Levert’s daughter if she’d just been named Snoop.
9:50: According to Monique, “over 100,000” people voted on which song 50 Cent should perform tonight. That’s not actually a particularly impressive number. In any case, “Amusement Park” wins. A bunch of girls dangle upside-down on streamers at the back of the stage. For some reason, 50 declines to rap the first verse of the song, lip-syncing the chorus and then wandering around in the crowd muttering to himself instead. It’s a really weird moment; even Yayo seems confused. 50’s parting words: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Vitamin Water. It doesn’t even matter anymore.” Someone needs to tell 50 that there’s a fine line between greatness and insanity.
9:53: Ne-Yo wins Best Male R&B Artist. If he wasn’t dead, Gerald Levert would be pissed.
9:57: Tocarra’s tits come maddeningly close to popping out of her dress. The audience actually buzzes audibly.
10:02: Monique isn’t even making fun of the people in the audience; she’s just kissing their asses. Apparently she didn’t get the menu that it’s always OK for award-show hosts to make fun of people.
10:03: Alicia Keys introduces the Diana Ross lifetime achievement segment. I guess it would’ve made too much sense to get Beyonce to do it.
10:08: Erykah Badu’s version of “Love Hangover” was making me really nervous until she got to the disco part, which she totally murdered. Chaka Khan actually doesn’t sound quite as good on “I’m Coming Out,” but maybe I just think that because I’ve heard “Mo Money Mo Problems” too many times to ever enjoy “I’m Coming Out” again. Stevie Wonder’s “Upside Down,” meanwhile, is a total trainwreck. Not every song requires a harmonica solo, seriously. The whole time, Diana Ross has an enormous Skeletor smile plastered all over her face.
10:17: Ross’s kids present her with her award, and she appears to have some trouble remembering all of their names. She also wants to let us know that “We do not have to say the F-word, we do not have to bump and grind.” Diana Ross is an inspiration to prom chaperones everywhere.
10:29: BET CEO Debra Lee gives a humanitarian award to Don Cheadle. I somehow had no idea that he’d been making a lot of noise on behalf of Darfur. Well done, Don Cheadle! He comes across as being totally cool and humble during his acceptance speech. It’s really not his fault that I get bored and start playing around on the internet during this segment.
10:38: Jennifer Hudson wins Best New Artist even though she hasn’t made an album or anything.
10:45: Ciara is way better at doing award-show appearances than she is at performing on non-televised stages. “Like a Boy,” it should be noted, is probably the first Ciara single yet that isn’t actually any good, though her Matrix dance does sort of remind me of the Michael Jackson “Smooth Criminal” leaning-way-down move. Lil Jon suddenly appears on an elevator coming out of the crowd and starts screaming over big guitars. Crunk&B ain’t dead!
10:53: Hey, it’s BET’s Ultimate Fan contest winner! Why am I still watching this show again? Lil Wayne wins the Viewer’s Choice Award, which makes me very happy. Wayne also looks really happy. He and Birdman bring their kids onstage. So is Wayne’s daughter Birdman’s granddaughter? Is that how that works?
10:58: Al Sharpton comes out to say nice things about James Brown and to introduce Public Enemy. PE, with a live band, do a big extended medley of songs, both James Brown’s and their own. Bootsy Collins shows up wearing some shit that Brown never would’ve let him get away with. This probably should be a massive mess, but everyone involved totally hits their marks, and it makes for a more exciting moment than we’ve seen at any of the previous award-show James Brown tributes. It’s nice to see Flav doing something non-humiliating for a change.
11:08: This show is still on, huh? Lil Wayne, Nelly, and Akon all bring a bunch of kids onstage. They say that we should raise our own kids and not let rap raise them for us, which is sort of a weak catchall defense. In retrospect, the spectre of Imus has really been hanging over this whole show. They also give Best Female R&B Artist to Beyonce, who doesn’t look remotely surprised to be winning. And finally this thing is ending.