Sunday night’s BET Awards were, more than anything else, a musical tribute to Prince, who died two months ago at the age of 57 from an apparent opioid overdose. One likes to think that the maestro of funk would have wanted a celebration over a show of grief, and a celebration he got: a number of artists came out to cover his hits with fabulous gusto.
There was Stevie Wonder in a purple suit and Jennifer Hudson in a white-hooded coat — a nod to a classically Prince outfit — who together with singer Tori Kelly performed a medley of Prince’s songs that culminated in a soulful rendition of “Purple Rain.”
The Roots were there, alongside the singers Bilal and Erykah Badu, who delivered the funkiest bit of the night. Janelle Monae’s medley finished with an ecstatic cover of “I Would Die 4 U” — at one point, the singer came down into the audience, and finished on her knees onstage, visibly moved. “I love you, Prince!” she shouted.
Perhaps the most talked-about performance of the night came from the drummer Sheila E., not just for the music — she covered “Let’s Work,” ”A Love Bizarre,” ”The Glamorous Life,” and ”America”— but for the emotion she displayed in her finale, when she stood before the audience, seemingly crying, holding her guitar to the sky.
Watch the performances here.