H.E.R., Ella Mai, Brandy and More Bring the Sizzle to the 2020 Soul Train Awards
Written by Nyah Joe on December 1, 2020
R&B’s rich, dynamic legacy — past, present and future — pulsated throughout the 2020 Soul Train Awards. BET Networks’ two-hour virtual telecast (Nov. 30) also doubled as a reminder that the genre is very much a vital player in contemporary music that should not be ignored.
H.E.R. underscored just that while accepting her award for best R&B/soul female artist. “People say R&B is dead; R&B is not dead. R&B is in everything,” said H.E.R., who vied against Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Brandy, Summer Walker and Jhené Aiko in the category. “It’s rhythm and blues, and has a lot of champions. I said this last year, ‘When one of us wins, we all win.’ We are forever.”
H.E.R.’s acceptance speech was just one in a series of memorable show moments. Taking place at The Lot Studios in West Hollywood, Calif., the telecast mixed videos with live performances, the latter on a stage resembling an intimate club setting complete with a small band and a few socially distanced tables and sofas occupied by no more than two people — and all wearing masks.
Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell, former co-stars on the TV series Martin, returned for the third time as hosts. While keeping the show on pace with quick and easygoing banter, T and T also lit up the proceedings with their own brand of fireworks beginning with the opening sequence. In prefacing the opener, the pair proclaimed 2020 “the year of Black women” in the wake of the country being ravaged by racial injustice and COVID-19.
As dancers walked across the stage carrying black placards emblazoned with the words passionate, beautiful, resilient and blessed, the voice of Maya Angelou could be heard reciting verses from her poem “Still I Rise.” Then the two co-hosts launched into a vigorous song-and-dance medley of female empowerment songs including Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y,” Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine” (with the help of young female singer Saniya Antoinette Lane) and Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls).”
“This show is all about love and celebration of our culture,” said Arnold as the sequence ended. Before the rest of the proceedings got underway, Campbell noted that 2020 is “finally ending” and paid tribute once more to the “MVP’s of it all: Black women. We turned it out this year.”
That provided the perfect lead-in to the first award presentation and artist performance of the evening. In accepting the Soul Train Certified Award, R&B icon Brandy thanked BET for “supporting me ever since I stepped onstage in 1994.” After dedicating the award to her fans, Brandy, wearing a black jumpsuit. flowing floor-length coat and beret, conducted the backing band in a bold performance of “Say Something” and “Borderline” from her latest album B7.
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