To quote Soul Train creator Don Cornelius, the 2015 Soul Train Awards was a “stone gas, honey.”
Held once again at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, the highly energetic 2015 Soul Train Awards spotlighted some of the best artists in soul music, who brought the house down with every performance.
The queen of neo-soul Erykah Badu hosted the ceremony this year and did a great job keeping the momentum going throughout the show. Emerging onto the stage riding a glow-in-the-dark hoverboard and flanked by dancers on similar gadgets, she performed a medley of her hits and informed the audience that, although she likes hip-hop, the evening’s show was going to be solely a “soul extravaganza.”
Among the evening’s highlights was an excellent tribute to Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, recipient of the Legend Award. The tribute began with an introduction by his former songwriting partner, L.A. Reid, and culminated with terrific performances by some of the artists Edmonds wrote hits for, including Tevin Campbell, Brandy, Bobby Brown, and Boyz II Men. Babyface wowed the crowd with his 1990 hit, “Whip Appeal.” Fantasia delivered a fantastic rendition of the Babyface-produced “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” which the late Whitney Houston originally sang for the 1995 film Waiting to Exhale, and a blistering rendition of Karyn White’s 1988 hit “Superwoman.”
The funk group Cameo made an appearance to do their classics “Word Up” and “Candy,” while the R&B group After 7 appeared with Jazmine Sullivan for their classic “Ready Or Not.”
There was a great black & white video performance presentation of Eddie Levert, K-Ci, Janelle Monae and Lalah Hathaway, who called themselves Soul Cypher, performing an impromptu, soul-stirring session of songs.
Speaking of soul-stirring, Erica Campbell from the gospel group Mary Mary did a rousing version of “I Need To Call on Jesus,”while Tasha Cobbs offered a likewise moving rendition of “I’m Gonna Put a Praise on Him.”
Tyrese had the ladies screaming during his performance of his current hit, “Shame.”
Introduced as “Jilly from Philly,” Jill Scott received the Lady of Soul Award and followed with an outstanding medley of her hits.
Soul singer Jeremih sang a couple of tracks from his new album Late Nights (Erykah Badu’s introduction of him had to be retaped since she introduced him as “je-re-mi-ah” instead of “je-re-mi”).
The soul pied piper himself, R. Kelly, closed the show with a dynamic medley of hits including “Backyard Party,” “Your Body’s Calling,” and “Step in the Name of Love,” which had the audience up on its feet stepping in the aisles.
There were several moments that the television audience won’t see but which occurred between stage set ups and performances, such as when actor/musician Malcolm-Jamal Warner recited a powerful spoken word piece. Shanice Wilson dedicated a top-notch rendition of the Rick James/Teena Marie 1981 classic “Fire & Desire” to Teena Marie, who was the first producer she ever worked with.
Soul crooner Avant performed his current single “Special” from his new album The VIII during a pre-awards red carpet special, where he also proudly announced that he was celebrating his 15th year in show business and that he would be part of a tribute to legend Smokey Robinson.
This year’s Soul Train Awards is definitely one of the best in recent years, filled with many “get up out of your seat” moments (which the audience literally did quite often throughout the show) Don Cornelius would be extremely proud.
The 2015 Soul Train Awards airs Sunday, November 29, 2015 on the BET and Centric networks.
Journalist, actor, filmmaker, dancer, performer, writer, poet, historian, choreographer. That’s Stephen McMillian.