At this point you may be wondering, “Damn, is she only going to write about Prince now?” My response: “Maybe. Deal. *blankstare*”
In some ways I’m still reeling, in other ways I’m adjusting, in all ways it’s still surreal that Our Purple One is gone, but que sera, sera and all that jazz…
True to form (and my official Kennethology photo) in general I’m ready, willing, and likely to serve up a side eye when I even think someone may be acting out of pocket. For things and people that I truly care about that likelihood intensifies by about 100%. Such is the case with Prince which is why aside from my initial outrage, I have given little thought to that shameful “tribute” that un-named award show had planned. Listen, I’m over-sensitive – I will admit that, but so what? There were so many red flags that it escapes me how anyone other than a white feminist and 3 well-meaning white guys thought this would be a good idea…. But then again… look at the show. Aside from the fact that being a “peer” (in terms of age and career peak only) means nothing, OR the fact that Prince beefed with that performer for over a decade and only recently became “cool” again, OR the fact that the same “called to request” leading the “tribute” (“Hello, publicity thirst trap, party of one please.”), aside from all of that – that person’s vocals are shotty at best and they play zero instruments. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when we don’t stay in our respective lanes, tragedy strikes. Was Lady Gaga David Bowie’s “peer”? No, but she was the person who could get the job done RIGHT and that’s all that matters, Wendy Williams. If you think a ruffled blouse and a glittery staff is all you need to tribute a genius like Prince, you don’t even deserve to be in the audience. You can try to defend it all you want, but this is not about meeting an impossible standard. It is the simple fact that it’s impossible to tribute someone by ignoring everything they stood for. That wack attempt reflects everything Prince disliked about the music industry. But look at me… going off on tangents. That’s not e’em what I’m here for…
June is near and all eyes (and prayers) have shifted to the BET Awards. We are in need of a proper Prince tribute. We don’t just deserve it – it is now owed to us. We all knew the above mentioned “tribute” would be trash (that’s probably why BET had their Prince-level shade cued up and ready to go), but if you cast shade – YOU HAD BEST COME CORRECT. I have a tortured relationship with BET, but in this case, I’m rooting for you and I need you to be great. I’m here to help and I’m sure I’ve left some things out, but as one who’s been borderline obsessed with Prince for a majority of my adult life (I can neither confirm nor deny that if I lived within driving distance of Minneapolis that I wouldn’t have been a regular at Paisley Park), I want to share 3 quick points of encouragement and notes that may help you get on the right path.
- BET, you have all that you need to be great at this. This is the year of 2016, so far on track to be the one of the Blackest years ever. You have “Black” in your name. June is Black Music Month. It’s also Prince’s birth month. You have a ton of folks who want to right the grave injustice that other awards show has done to our people. You’ve been able to pull out our big names before – Prince and Stevie Wonder came to tribute Chaka Khan, MJ came to tribute James Brown, Whitney showed up for the first broadcast, the list goes on. You’ve even done a Prince tribute before meaning YOU HAVE HIS BLUEPRINT (instrumentalists, black women vocalists, etc.). He applauded you for it now all you have to do is choose to stick to it.
1-a. [For once] We’re all rooting for you. – Again, I have been pretty vocal about my issues with BET, but I’ll admit that you’ve also given me juuuust enough to be cautiously optimistic. Lest we forget that bomb reggae medley in 2013 that I’m still adjusting my wig from…. you executed that perfectly… do yall see Nikki getting her entire life in the audience… what other awards show would that happen??? Then that Bad Boy reunion last year and now we’re being blessed with a whole damned tour. You have showed up right on time before and we need you to do it again.
1-b. You’ve pulled this off before with less notice. Listen, I’m still applauding the MJ tribute you all managed to pull off with just 2 DAYS NOTICE in 2010. (It should be noted 2010 was the same year you did your first Prince tribute.) Granted, it may be a little easier because you can pull off an MJ tribute by only featuring choreography, BUT you made a good call in bringing in Chris Brown. And I care not that he spent all of “Man In The Mirror” in tears. It was moving and we all know the words to that song anyway. Plus a light instrumental to one of MJ’s deepest, most meaningful songs, was moving on its own because it gave us room to reflect NOT JUST ON HIS ARTISTRY, but who he was as a humanitarian. It wasn’t just enough, it was great.
- “At the heart of the matter is the music. I am a musician.”–Prince, BET Tonight interview
This is likely where many tributes will fail. The focus should be on artistry and musicianship. Yes, Prince was an amazing performer. Yes, he had some great outfits, but what he was the most proud of and what he wanted to be remembered for is his music. THAT should be the focus which means that solid vocals, artists, and true musicians shouldn’t be sacrificed for dancers and performers in flashy outfits (I’m looking at you, Beyonce). We’ve seen many of these names before. Don’t be afraid to call in a few ringers and ol’ heads. If folks don’t know their names, they’ll learn ‘em. (in no particular order)
─ Esperanza Spalding
─ Janell Monae
─ Patti Labelle
─ Chaka Khan
─ Sheila E.
─ Larry Graham
─ Morris Day & The Time (don’t forget Jerome and The Bodyguards, please and thanks)
─ The Revolution (not just Lisa and Wendy, we need Brown Mark and Dr. Fink too)
─ 3rd Eye Girl
─ Judith Hill
─ New Power Generation
─ Rosie Gaines (featured in Cream and Diamond and Pearls)
─ Alicia Keys (I have my own feelings about her rendition of Adore the last time, but Prince gave her props, so who am I to judge?? Imma judge tho…)
─ Maxwell (pending song choice – Most Beautiful Girl In The World??)
─ Lenny Kravitz
─ Erykah Badu
─ Bruno Mars (pending song choice – Cream??)
─ Stevie Wonder (I think he should sit this one out, but that’s just me)
I mean I could go on, but you get the point, you have so many options. If in doubt, just stick with artists Prince has worked with, mentored, and/or performed with in the past.
2-a. THERE SHOULD BE NO LESS THAN 2 BLACK WOMEN IN THIS TRIBUTE. PERIOD.
2-b. Don’t rely on “big names”, you won’t need them. (See: reggae medley above) We don’t need fancy names, we need people who CAN DO THIS RIGHT.
2-c. Again, LEAVE BEYONCE OUT OF THIS. I know she will ask and I know there will be temptation, but no. No shade, just tea (see comment above re: staying in lanes). This is not the space for her and she rarely cares enough to show up to your show in person anyway. Let her give yall another YouTube stream of some track off of Lemonade, because THIS ain’t about her and her “I think I can vocals”.
2-d. NO NEW FRIENDS. Ordinarily, I’d be fine with giving a new artist some shine, but don’t set them up. This is too much pressure and if they slip we will destroy them. We’ve taken all of the hits we will accept from that trash “tribute”, we won’t take any more.
To be on the safe side, even if they don’t perform, get Sheila E., Morris, and ‘em to sign off on whatever yall end up with.
3) 3. Don’t be lazy with the Track List. Please don’t rely on the Purple Rain soundtrack – it’s a cop-out and it’s lazy. We will accept I Would Die 4 U, When Doves Cry or maybe Purple Rain can be a musical instrumental with no vocals (see: Chris Brown’s MJ tribute notes above). He had so much more to pull from before and after that album: Controversy, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Kiss, Diamonds and Pearls, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, Musicology, Nothing Compares 2 U, My Name Is Prince, Black Sweat, Emancipation, I Wish You Heaven, Raspberry Beret, Adore, Housequake, etc. Don’t be stingy, we’re open to songs he wrote but maybe didn’t perform; I really don’t think he’d mind – The Vanguard Jam (NAACP Image Awards).
Personally, I’d love to hear Cream and Partyman, but this ain’t about me – what would he want? The man released over 40 albums meaning you have more than the standard 8 songs to choose from. Suggestion: Closing with “The Beautiful Ones” would be ideal, thanks.
3-a. There should be a rock song in this tribute. He was a funk-rock artist, please honor that and don’t only focus on his RnB or Pop hits.
3-b. There should be a guitar spotlight in this tribute. He was a beast on the piano, but his guitar skills were what he was most proud of. He spoke often about how he taught himself to play and it took him years to play the way he wanted to. Whenever he jumped in to surprise and play back-up for folks, it was bass and/or electric guitar. And can we EVER forget this guitar solo that he destroyed??? Don’t be afraid of a Lenny Kravitz and Larry Graham duet. If you pick the right song, you can combine with point 3-a.
3-c. I’d like a strong horn section… because… why not? But optional.
4) Additional Notes / Simple Shade / Me Being Petty
– Mayte and Manuela can be invited, but we will only tolerate one … ONE 5 second audience reaction shot from them. Keep them away from microphones and stages. No shade, but since when do exes get so much air time? We’ve heard enough from them.
[By the way, if you’re still reading this, round of applause – I’m impressed that you hung in there this long.] You may be thinking I’m being extra and you may be correct, but this is important… Dare I say critical? BET we want you to be great. PLEASE BE GREAT. What do you need us to do? Say some extra prayers? Don’t be afraid to take this one to the Altar – The Word says “lean not unto your own understanding”. Come on and let yourself be led by the Spirit BET. DO US PROUD.
Additional Notes for All You Other Award shows:
- MTV VMAs: Don’t be too proud to do a video montage of iconic Prince videos and performances. We’ll also accept an award in his name (not to be shared with David Bowie).
- AMAs: A video montage of Prince’s AMA performances. If BET does what we need them to do – between that and the Paisley Park memorial, there won’t be much left for you anyway.
- NAACP Image Awards: Musical performance tribute using whomever BET doesn’t use. Yall have so many examples, this should be easy for you. (NAACP Image Awards)
- Grammy’s: A musical performance using whoever BET and NAACP doesn’t use. No new people, no big names for the sake of big names.
- Oscar’s: A mention in “In Memorium” segment. Contact whomever you need to contact now so they can submit whatever paperwork is needed. We will accept NO excuses for Prince’s name being left out. He starred, produced, and/or directed at least 5 films, one of which he won an Oscar for meaning he at one time was a voting member of The Academy. This is not a drill, no excuses.
- Golden Globes: See Oscar’s note above.
- Any relevant Fashion Award Shows: Video Montage. We don’t need anything else from you.
To end on a high note and as a thank you to all who made it this far… bask in the awesomeness of The Purple One – #sigh this is who we lost L