This year’s Soul Train Awards ranked on the Top Ten of Sunday night ratings. Yet, somehow, the involvement on social media seemed to fall short when it came to engagement about the show. For so many people to criticize the lack of colored representation at the Grammys, you would assume a night that is all about celebrating Black achievement, black artists would raise the bar higher on the social aspect of the show.
Which raises the question, are the BET Soul Train Awards still relevant?
The BET Soul Train Awards took place on Nov. 29. Please let’s not get it confused with the BET Awards. The Soul Train Awards held a socially distanced award show on a stage that seemed to be slightly smaller than that of an intimate comedy show. Which, not many may know, is how the BET Soul Train Awards started.
The birth year of the show in 1993 brought a small stage and an even smaller run time. The comedic intellectual program was the first and the last of its kind. Following that year, the award show stuck to what viewers know it as today, a place to represent black music, talent, and soul.
The best friend duo of Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold hosted this year’s award ceremony for the third consecutive year, following Erykah Badu’s three-peat hosting run. The duo held press conferences to accompany the fun-loving and kinetic energy that they brought to the soulful stage.
The two buddies were visibly comfortable with each other on stage as well as in their demeanor which called for an interactive and nostalgic commemorative moment in celebration of R&B music.
Just looking at the past few years, the Soul Train Awards have seen a large array of viewership ratings, with no consistent standing. The ratings have had a large influx of ranking on Sunday night. In 2017, the staple award show was No. 67 on viewership numbers. That’s a big drop in audience support compared to 2014 when the show was No. 4 in viewership.
In 2018, the Soul Train Awards hit No. 7 when it came to audience viewership. The number dipped slightly in 2019 when the show came in at No. 9. As for this year, the award show kicked off the award show season amid the coronavirus pandemic at No. 6.
This brings the surprise of the Twitter traffic for the night which seemed to fall short of an interactive moment in television history as the award show did not make its moment on the famously interactive “trending page.” Twitter’s trending page as of late has brought attention to major moments in music and award show history.
Take the announcement of this year’s Grammy nominations. The trending topics of the show were almost instant to share their lack of representation of color and the even more so even more disappointing list of nominations for this year’s awards. The famous contemporary R&B singer The Weekend took to Twitter to share his disappointment in the Grammy committee’s efforts against his nomination in this years’ awards.
The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) November 25, 2020
Yet, the Soul Train nominations which celebrate black artists and their efforts was left far out of the conversation.
— The Weeknd News (@NewsWeeknd) November 13, 2020
American artist, singer, and songwriter H.E.R. took to the Soul Train Stage to share her inspiration for the night and support the importance of sharing this night with everyone as she accepted her award for Best R&B Soul Female Artist to say “this stage is for us, this stage represents us. And I think it’s very important to not forget where we come from, where we came from. I wanna talk about R&B and how its rhythm and blues, and a lot of people say R&B is dead, and it’s not dead it is in everything… R&B is not dead, we are forever.”
— H.E.R. (@HERMusicx) November 30, 2020
If we take a look at the artists that have come out of the Soul Train Awards over the last five years, one thing becomes very prominent in the results among the winners over the years.
They called it first.
The Soul Train Awards called famous names as winners on their stage before other award shows ever did. The Weeknd, Summer Walker, Cardi-B, Bruno Mars, and Lizzo, just to name a few, are some of those artists who have graced the stage of the Soul Train Awards. This year, we have H.E.R. on the stage calling out recognition for support towards black representation on stage in an industry that does nothing but celebrates black entertainment.
It seems as though the Soul Train Awards has done the work of a magic ball telling the future on who the next up-and-coming A-list artists will be up next. Lizzo is a perfect example of this. Lizzo started with two wins at the Soul Train Awards and went on to win big at the Grammys.
One thing you won’t find at the Soul Train Awards is those same A-list artists down the line. Past winners like Beyonce and Chris Brown, who are both household names in the music industry, have won big in previous shows. However, Beyonce and Brown were noticeably absent from this year’s awards presentation.
For the sake of COVID-19, we can go ahead about assuming their absence was due to the surge in positive results from the pandemic. But in 2016 during B’s big win for Formation, she also was nowhere to be seen. And as for Chris Brown, this would not be the first time the popular R&B crooner missed the show.
It is safe to say that the Soul Train Awards may be a good go-to when it comes to seeing who’s up next on the Grammy stage, but maybe not to see the big-name stars everyone is feening to photograph on the red carpet.
This year’s show aired on BET and resulted in 12 wins overall, a shorter list than years past. H.E.R. and Brown were multiple winners.
Editor’s note: Featured image: Soulful songbird Monica performs during the 2020 Soul Train Awards presented by BET. (Photo by Leon Bennett/STA 2020/Getty Images for BET)