LOS ANGELES - The BET Awards became the official Michael Jackson TV celebration yesterday, with joyous tributes to the King of Pop from a New Edition medley of Jackson 5 songs to host Jamie Foxx's tender monologue delivered in that classic red leather zipper jacket and white glove.
"No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man," said Foxx, who kicked off the show with a reenactment of the choreography from Jackson's iconic "Beat It" video in front of the star-studded crowd, on its feet from the start of the show.
Joe Jackson, the singer's father, was on hand to represent the grief-stricken family. "I just wish he could be here to celebrate himself," he said. "Sadly, he's not here, so I'm here to celebrate for him."
Already an affair of major star-wattage, the night's show at the Shrine Auditorium was thrown under a white-hot spotlight in the wake of Michael Jackson's death Thursday, adding attendees and guests, doubling the number of media requests, adding an extra half-hour to the telecast and even lengthening the red carpet to accommodate all who wanted to take part.
While Jackson's incredible influence stretched across genres, races, and cultures, he had a unique place in the world of black entertainment. His influence is arguably most visible in urban music, seen in stars such as Usher who mimic his dance moves, to Ne-Yo, whose music is marked by its Jackson-isms. But that influence went beyond music: Jackson was black America's biggest star. He broke racial barriers and allowed so many other superstars to follow.
Producers of the annual awards show - which recognizes the best in music, acting, and sports - revamped the show to meet the moment. While Beyoncé and T.I. were the leading award nominees with five apiece, giving out trophies was an afterthought: Honoring Jackson became the show's main focus.
While some performed their own hits, most made sure to incorporate some of the man who influenced them in their performances. A chant of "Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson" was heard while Keri Hilson performed, and Foxx's "Blame It" incorporated some of the Jacksons' dance hit "Blame It On the Boogie."
Throughout the night, Foxx also regularly turned up in some of Jackson's signature looks, like the wide-collar black leather outfit from "Billie Jean."
New Edition, the 1980s teen sensations who were considered that generation's Jackson 5 with their own version of bubble-gum soul, ran through several of the Jackson 5's greatest hits, from "I Want You Back" to "ABC," mirroring their idols right down to the group's original choreography. Ne-Yo sang one of Jackson's most sensual songs, "Lady in my Life."
"He's the man who made it possible for me to be on the stage; I love you and I miss you," he said later.