LOS ANGELES The BET Awards on Sunday were hosted by a Queen and honored a Prince, but it was a fallen star, Chris Brown, who surprised fans with a tearful tribute to the late King of Pop.
Alicia Keys, Trey Songz, Nicki Minaj and current albums chart champ Drake were among the big winners at cable television network BET's annual salute to R&B and hip-hop stars, while Diddy, Kanye West, Eminem and El DeBarge wowed the audience with their performances.
Veteran funk-rocker Prince was given a lifetime achievement award at the show, which was hosted by comedian, actress and rapper Queen Latifah.
Prince watched in the audience as Stevie Wonder paid tribute in a video, and onstage Janelle Monae gave an energetic rendition of his "Let's Go Crazy" while disco diva Patti Labelle pumped out a rousing "Purple Rain."
Wearing white trousers and turtleneck, Prince took the stage, thanked the crowd and said, "I do believe the future is in good hands, I've seen so much talent here tonight.
"I was pretty wild in my younger days and you don't have to do what I do," he said, with a smile. "You don't have to make any of the mistakes that I made. The future is in your hands."
The night's top honor, BET's viewers choice award, went to Rihanna and Young Jeezy for their song, "Hard."
Keys, who also performed a Prince song, took home two trophies for R&B female singer and best collaboration for smash hit, "Empire State of Mind," sung with Jay-Z.
Trey Songz, whose hits include "Can't Help but Wait," was named best R&B male singer. "I want to let you all know that anybody can be anything, all it takes is dedication and a lot of hard work," Songz said.
Canadian rapper Drake was named best male hip-hop artist, and Minaj took home the trophy for best female hip-hop singer. Beyonce and Lady Gaga earned video of the year honors for their collaboration "Video Phone," but were not on hand to accept their trophy.
CHRIS BROWN REFLECTS
Brown's medley of Michael Jackson songs stood out from the pack, as much for the emotion as for his energetic dancing to tunes such as "Billie Jean."
Brown, who in 2009 was arrested and pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend Rihanna, fought back tears as he struggled to sing Jackson's gospel-inspired song about self-redemption "Man in the Mirror." After it was over, he left the stage at the Shrine Auditorium and hugged Jackson's brother Jermaine, who had introduced him.
Later in the show, Brown was given an "AOL Fan-demonium" trophy and he told the audience, "I let y'all down before, but I won't do it again. I promise"
Two days after the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, Jermaine Jackson took the stage for the tribute to his brother and said, "everyone worldwide for the love shown us (his family) over the last year."
He then quoted what his sister, Janet Jackson, had said at last year's BET Awards: "Michael's a legend to you, but to me, he's my brother." He pointed upward and said, "Love you, Michael."
Among other highlights, former "Diff'rent Strokes" TV star Todd Bridges introduced a section on stars who had died in the past year, including his one-time co-star Gary Coleman. And John Legend was given a humanitarian award.
(Editing by Dean Goodman)