Last night, the BET Awards marked its 20th year—and went virtual for the first time ever. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, artists didn’t perform onstage to a crowded venue, but brought their A-game (and significant production quality) to remotely filmed performances.
Rappers dominated the spotlight on Sunday, but R&B artists were no slouches either. Alicia Keys sang her new single “Perfect Way to Die” live for the first time, playing a piano on an empty street inscribed with the names of African Americans who have been killed by police. Jennifer Hudson—who will play Aretha Franklin in the soul legend’s upcoming biopic, Respect—belted out “Young, Gifted & Black” (a song originally by Nina Simone, but covered by Franklin in 1972). John Legend also opted to uplift by playing the soaring “Never Break,” the closing track of his new record Bigger Love, accompanied by a chorus of backing singers.
Sensual performances were also aplenty, from Chloe x Halle’s two-song showcase of their new album Ungodly Hour to Summer Walker’s medley of “Session 32” and her Usher collaboration “Come Thru,” and Masego’s starry-eyed rendition of “Queen Tings” in a studio filled with flowers and greenery.
As for winners, Lizzo—who stole last year’s show with a Rihanna-approved performance of “Truth Hurts”—was named Best Female R&B/Pop Artist. Chris Brown won Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, and also nabbed Best Collaboration for “No Guidance” featuring Drake.
Watch R&B artists performances’ at the BET Awards 2020 below.
“Perfect Way to Die” by Alicia Keys:
“Young, Gifted and Black” by Jennifer Hudson (and Respect official teaser):
“Never Break” by John Legend:
“Forgive Me,” “Do it” by Chloe x Halle:
“Session 32,” “Come Thru” by Summer Walker, Usher:
“Queen Tings” by Masego: