When the 2016 BET Awards unleashed five separate acts dedicated to Prince sprinkled throughout Sunday night's telecast, it was clear—nothing would be able to compare, not even the 2016 Billboard Music Awards.
In late May, Madonna led a static finale tribute to the late legend with "Nothing Compares 2 U" at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. The performance was immediately met with digital criticism as Twitter ignited against the homage, claiming it was pitchy, uneventful and just plain off.
Among the critics was BET, the network quickly tweeting a new clip in promotion of its own upcoming ceremony. The video, which has since been taken down, quickly caught viral fire when viewers realized it was throwing subtle shade at what had just unfolded on the BBMA stage. "Yeah we saw that. Don't worry. We Got You," the screen read under a purple image of Prince.
Now, having ignited a competition, the stakes were running high as the audience assembled at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles Sunday night. However, it was soon crystal clear that the BET Awards had not taken its challenge lightly.
One after the other, Prince's contemporaries and proteges—among them Erykah Baduh, The Roots, Stevie Wonder, Maxwell and Janelle Monáe—took the stage with enthusiastic, energetic and soulful renditions of his most celebrated songs. Whether Sheila E. was sliding across the stage or Monáe was shimmying in her revealing chaps, the acts captured the infectious playful spirit of Prince—the same spirit that had been missing from Billboard's homage.
Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET
If fans were looking for a good cry, they got that too with a redux of "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Maxwell and all of the feelings with Bilal's version of "The Beautiful Ones."
However, the most triumphant moment came when Jennifer Hudson stepped out onto the stage, clad in a Prince-inspired white hooded frock, to belt "Purple Rain" with full emotional force.
Much like she had done to memorialize Whitney Houston at the 2012 Grammy Awards, the Oscar winner hit the most perfect note with her version of the iconic song. While public performances of the pop classic can easily sound like strewn out karaoke, the Grammy winner managed to refresh the 30-year-old song without stripping it of its quintessential backbone.
Overall, in sheer numbers alone, it seems Madge's finale was just not enough to garner the same kind of praise as five larger-than-life performances. While you can bet BET won this battle in the court of public opinion, it's important to heed Questlove's wisdom: "EVERYBODY wants and deserves a chance to say goodbye in their own way."