With all the star power at the BET Awards -- Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few -- the most stirring moment came not from a superstar, but from the mother of one.
Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy, provided the emotional highlight of Sunday’s ceremony as she sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in tribute to her late daughter, leaving audience members like Beyonce and Soulja Boy in tears.
Mariah Carey opened the tribute, and her voice wavered as she told stories about Houston. She recalled the last time she saw Houston last year, and how the two laughed and gossiped together.
"I miss my friend," Carey said. "I miss hearing her voice and laughter."
R&B singer Monica was vocally top-notch as she sang "I Love the Lord," a gospel song once sang by Houston; Brandy sang two upbeat Houston hits, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "I’m Your Baby Tonight." Chaka Khan blazed the stage with "I’m Every Woman," which Houston remade. Gary Houston, Whitney’s brother, also performed; and Houston’s "Waiting to Exhale" castmates -- Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine -- also honored the singer.
But it was Cissy Houston’s soaring performance that brought the audience to their feet, and had many dabbing their eyes. The tribute came five months after Houston’s death: She died the night before the Grammy Awards of an accidental drowning complicated by heart disease and cocaine use.
Foul language and obscenities
As compelling as that moment was, the show was also defined by its low points: Entire segments of performances, from Nicki Minaj to Rick Ross, were muted out due to foul language and obscenities, though several vulgarities were heard on air.
Best gospel winner Yolanda Adams, who also performed, gently took some of her peers to task, urging them to act mature and use their fame wisely.
West, the most nominated act of the night with seven, and Jay-Z won the ceremony’s top prize, earning video of the year for "Otis." They also won best group.
Beyonce was the second most nominated act with six. She won video director of the year (along with Alan Ferguson) and best female R&B artist and thanked the genre and her female influences.
"I fell in love with music by listening to R&B. It’s the core of who I am," she said, giving special thanks to Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and "Whitney Houston, my angel."
Chris Brown was also a double winner, picking up his second consecutive win for best male R&B artist, and the "Fandemonium" award for a third time.
Brown also performed in his first televised appearance since the New York City nightclub brawl between his entourage and Drake’s.
Drake didn’t show, though he was named best male hip-hop artist.
The night also featured some tributes to deceased greats: Chante Moore performed a medley of Donna Summer’s hits and Valerie Simpson sang a song in honor of her husband and writing partner Nick Ashford. Don Cornelius, Dick Clark and Hal Jackson were remembered.
Presenters included Taraji P. Henson, Tyler Perry, Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx, who wore a T-shirt that had a picture of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
Frankie Beverly featuring Maze were honored with the lifetime achievement award. The Rev. Al Sharpton received the humanitarian award, and urged the crowd to vote this November.