Only at the Soul Train Awards could you have a tribute to R&B icons such as Anita Baker and Ronald Isley alongside a segment in which rap legend Doug E. Fresh attempts to teach CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer how to do the Dougie.
It was that kind of night at the 2010 Soul Train Awards, as rookies, veterans and legends came together in Atlanta for the second annual event — which was taped November 10 and aired Sunday night on BET. The show, hosted once again by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, featured a night of performances from some of the biggest names in soul and R&B.
Host Howard told MTV News that the show is meant to be an extension of the long-running and legendary '70s TV series that brought soul, disco, R&B and rap stars into viewers' living rooms. "It reminds me of the advancement black people have made over the years because 'Soul Train' really was the beginning of that Black Power movement when we could actually see ourselves — and to have an awards show based upon that 'Soul Train' — it's headed somewhere," Howard said. "We have a black president now. The country seems to be more tolerant towards the diversity inside of it so it seems like the train is moving well down the tracks."
The awards show marked the 40th anniversary of the classic music showcase hosted by Don Cornelius, and celebrated the careers of Baker and Isley, while handing out trophies to such contemporary stars as B.o.B (Song of the Year for "Nothing on You"), Melanie Fiona (Best New Artist), Eminem and Rihanna (Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year for "Love the Way You Lie"), Usher (Album of the Year for Raymond vs. Raymond) and Alicia Keys (Record of the Year for "Unthinkable [I'm Ready]" and Best Female R&B Soul Artist).
Though top winners such as Trey Songz, Usher, Ciara, Eminem and Rihanna were not in the house, Blitzer graciously agreed to accept Slim Shady's award for him, joking, "Who better to accept this award on behalf of Eminem ... I know he's thrilled."
Weaving through a series of skits involving magic tricks and jovial bickering by the hosts, the performance-heavy program delivered on talent. R. Kelly opened by teasing the crowd with his classic "Bump n' Grind," then diving into his new single "When a Woman Loves" — transforming the song from a slow jam into an all-out '50s rock-and-roll epic. Ne-Yo kept the show moving with a showcase of his singles from this year, including "Champagne Life" and "One in a Million."
The tribute to Baker featured an all-star cast, with artists like Chrisette Michele, Goapele, Lalah Hathaway, Dionne Farris, Kem, Tamia, Faith Evans and El DeBarge covering a medley of the singer's greatest hits. Baker told the crowd that the biggest honor of the night for her was that real musicians were performing live with an actual band. "It's amazing because you've got children behind you singing 'Rapture' — it's lovely," she said, adding, "Let's do it again!"
Ronald Isley, co-founder and lead singer of the Isley Brothers, also received a special homage that featured Jeffrey Osborne, Freddy Jackson, DeBarge, Tank, Eric Benet, Bilal and Peabo Bryson. Isley also came out to perform his own medley of hits and was joined onstage by Chanté Moore and R. Kelly for a rendition of "Contagious," their 2002 single that featured the Isleys. In addition, Cee Lo Green closed the show with a duet on the Isleys' classic 1959 hit, "Shout."
Among the event's other highlights was Cee Lo's performance of his smash "Forget You," which took place on a golden stage that resembled a cross between Kanye's Egyptian fusion and an OK Go video, and found the singer gliding down conveyor belts while belting his number.
Erykah Badu delivered a stripped-down version of her 2010 breakout "Window Seat" that featured the singer perched on the floor over a web of lights while appearing to orchestrate the vibrations of light flickers with her hands.
Soul singer Eric Benet performed "Sometimes a Cry" — a song that Lil Wayne cited as one of his favorites while in prison — bringing down the house with a soaring falsetto that bested his studio rendition of the track.
The evening's other performers included Bruno Mars, who sang his new hit "Grenade," and Jazmine Sullivan, who did a medley of "10 Seconds" and "Holding You Down (Goin' in Circles)."
Did you watch the 2010 Soul Train Awards? Tell us about your favorite highlights in the comments.