BET Awards follow-up: Two Jennifers are better than one


Yesterday I saw a lot of headlines about the BET Awards. I skimmed a few stories, noted the winners and glanced at a few blog posts, but I refused to really absorb any of it. I wanted to wait and see it for myself. I finally watched the show last night, and I’m glad I saw it without any preconceived notions. I was able to let the Jennifer Holliday-Jennifer Hudson duet of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” wash over me and give me goosebumps. And did it ever! I think I had an aural orgasm. (An aurgasm?)

The Best. Week. Ever. blog missed the point entirely with this comment:

“Holliday (who looks absolutely amaaaazing after some serious weight loss) does such an incredible job over-singing and over-acting each line (her “Ha-HA!” are especially notable), desperation and attention are spilling out of every pore of the woman’s body.”

First, I don’t quite follow: Attention is spilling out of her pores? I know, blogging is tough when you’re tired. Second, well, yes. Holliday does crazy-cool things with her mouth when she sings, and she uses her voice in some phenomenal (and sometimes phenomenally weird) ways. And occasionally it all seems to spin out of control. But here’s how I see it: When you’re that talented, that much of a legend in your own time, you get to milk it. Maybe Holliday’s fame is based on one song; maybe her star rose from one spectacular, perfected performance, but who cares? She owns it. She can claim it and revisit it as often and as outrageously as she wants.

That’s not to say Jennifer Hudson doesn’t own it too, because she absolutely does. I can’t say I prefer one Jennifer H. over the other, and that’s another reason I enjoyed their duet. They made room for each other, truly shared the spotlight and sang to each other. When they clasped hands at the end, the focus turned to the song’s deeper, more enduring meaning: What starts out as a desperate keening for a man becomes a singing-herself-into-being anthem for Effie. She’s not going because she’s found her voice, and it’s big enough to contain her pain and her loneliness and whatever else she needs to sing out of herself into the world.

OK, I’m overdoing it. (It’s that blogging-when-you’re-tired thing again.) But their performance was so, so great. And so was the whole show: Mo’Nique was hilarious, Beyoncé was unbelievable (and unbelievably bootylicious — did you see that?!) and I enjoyed the Diana Ross medley. I wish Latifah had been a little more Queenly and a little less Cover Girl-y, but you can’t have everything. (Almost, though: From Patti LaBelle to Stevie Wonder to Ciara to Jordin Sparks to a shoe-unsnapping LL Cool J, everybody was there!)

I know one thing for sure: I’ll be tuning in next year. As my girlfriend said, “The BET Awards show is seriously some of the best E on T.” Visit the official BET website for a list of winners and more clips.