Every year, BET brings an excited fan on stage to present the viewer's choice award. At the 2011 awards, Tiffany Green's dream turned into a nightmare when she announced Chris Brown's name, then quickly backtracked and gave the award to Rihanna. As it turned out, Brown was the actual winner. Oops!
It was exciting enough to have James Brown perform, but when Michael Jackson surprised him onstage and treated the audience to some dance moves, it became a moment that will go down in awards-show history. The Godfather of Soul sharing the stage with the King of Pop? Priceless.
Captions by Lauren Williams
Be sure to check back at The Root for our recap after the 2011 show Sunday night!
At the very first BET Awards, a fresh-faced Christina Aguilera honored the night's lifetime achievement award winner, Whitney Houston, with her version of "Run to You." She might not have been part of BET's core demographic, but she brought the house down with her outsize vocals.
Always a proponent of plus-size pride, host Mo'Nique opened the fourth annual BET Awards with a curvy-girls rendition of Beyoncé's famous "Crazy in Love" routine. No one cheered louder than Miss Knowles, who dedicated her award to the comedian later in the show. Mo'Nique reprised the concept in 2007 with her take on Beyoncé's "Déjà Vu."
Murder was the case that they gave Snoop Dogg in 1996, but Johnnie Cochran was the lawyer who got him off. Although he was somewhat out of his element, the late defense attorney reunited with Snoop — to great applause — to present an award in 2002.
During a 2008 performance, Alicia Keys gave the audience exactly what they wanted when she brought SWV, En Vogue and TLC — her favorite girl groups, she said — onstage to perform their hits. Check out Kanye West singing along to "Waterfalls" in the audience.
The best part of the BET Awards is often the annual lifetime achievement tribute, which is always star-studded and never disappoints. In 2009 Al Green got the big prize, and Maxwell had the ladies swooning (and the night's honoree laughing with delight) over his smooth cover of "Simply Beautiful."
Michael Jackson died just days before the 2009 BET Awards aired; many people complained about the hasty tribute that the network put together (host Jamie Foxx did the moonwalk, New Edition performed some Jackson 5 hits, etc.). So in 2010, BET made the controversial choice to have Chris Brown perform a spot-on tribute to his idol. Brown, who was seeking redemption after assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna, broke down in sobs as he sang "Man in the Mirror."
If folks were mad about some less-than-thrilling Michael Jackson tributes at the 2009 awards, they were furious after rappers Drake and Lil Wayne performed the hit "Every Girl in the World" — a song about, well, having sex with every girl in the world — as Wayne's 9-year-old daughter and her friends danced innocently onstage. What were they thinking?
Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding and Alicia Keys performed some of Prince's most recognizable hits for a tribute at the 2010 awards, but none of them beat Patti LaBelle's rendition of "Purple Rain." So moved by the music that she kicked off her stilettos, LaBelle had the usually stoic Prince on his feet. And did we detect a (barely there) smile on His Purple Highness' face? Indeed, we did. High praise for Miss Patti.
After disbanding and pursuing solo work (and, in Lauryn Hill's case, dropping out from public view), the Fugees reunited to perform some beloved hits at the 2005 show. We'd love to say they sang and rapped just like we remembered, but they were a little rusty. Can we get a redo, Wyclef, Pras and Lauryn?
Martin Lawrence is no longer starring in Martin; Jamie Foxx graduated from In Living Color to win an Oscar. But some folks will always remember them for the goofy (some might say offensive) female characters they used to play for laughs: Sheneneh and Wanda. For those folks, BET aired a trailer at the 2009 awards for a fake film starring the pair. It's called Skank Robbers, and it's not coming soon to a theater near you.
Destiny's Child brought Magic Johnson, Nelly and actor Terrence Howard onstage to act as human props during a very suggestive rendition of their song "Cater 2 U." Howard really got into Beyoncé's performance. Dude, she was just pretending!
Sadly, both Teena Marie and Rick James have died since performing on the BET stage in 2004, but the duo tore the house down when they came together to sing "Fire and Desire." Based on the reaction of the packed house, the song and the singers were crowd favorites.
A performance we'd like to see: Nicki Minaj, a relative newcomer to hip-hop, is music veteran Lil' Kim's rap nemesis. Why? We're not exactly clear on that, but how great would it be if the youngin' and the OG got together onstage and made up in front of millions of people? C'mon, they both wear colored contacts and favor preposterous wigs. How are they not friends already?
A performance we'd like to see: Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan and Mariah Carey have all graced the BET Awards stage at one point or another, but if they all sang together (joined, of course, by Aretha Franklin) to really blow the roof off the place, the BET Awards would never be the same.
A performance we'd like to see: A recent documentary about the celebrated rap group exposed some deep rifts among the talented bandmates. We think it would be a nice, healing moment for them to play their music for an audience of fans.
A performance we'd like to see: If you got Prince, alternative darling Santigold and Lenny Kravitz onstage together, the magic would be undeniable and the chemistry would be electric. The notoriously persnickety Prince might not be down for it, but we think it would be a winner.
A performance we'd like to see: There's a special place in the hearts of R&B fans for the smooth crooner, and every generation has a favorite. Smokey Robinson, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and newcomer Bruno Mars make up our dream trio.