All music award shows have their own unique quality that appeals to its audience. However, the 2016 Soul Train Music Awards had a transcending quality that not only surpassed my expectations but reached to every audience. This awards show played a major role in exposing me to black excellence in the music industry from an early age. So you can only imagine my level of excitement when discovering I would be attending this premiere event, and exploring Toyota’s partnership with BET’s Soul Train Music Awards. Follow me on this journey as I walk you through my amazing weekend.
My love for music and award shows runs deep. So many iconic moments in music show history come to mind as I think back over the years:
1. The night Michael Jackson moonwalked across the stage at the Motown 25th Anniversary.
Music lovers, young and old alike, shared an experience that spanned generations and ushered in a new era of dance moves, fashion trends, and most importantly, new music.
2. The night The Fugees performed at the MTV Music Awards.
That night, The Fugees’ career launched into major stardom and heightened the appreciation of music for viewers all over the world. Additionally, the debut of this performance highlighted the star talent of Lauryn Hill, who forever has a special place in my heart, and many others (I’m sure).
More than a decade later, my love for music award shows has not wavered. Whitney Houston at the BET awards, Beyonce at the MTV Music Awards, and Prince at the Grammys, just to name a few. With all of these memorable performances that shaped my tremendous gratitude for music award shows, there was no way any modern day event could top them—so I thought.
For another year in a row, the 2016 Soul Train Music Awards steamed full-speed ahead for an extravagant weekend of celebrity filled events, a red carpet, parties, and the main event, hosted by Erykah Badu. This party train took over Las Vegas, kicking off on a Thursday night at the gorgeous Mandalay Hotel. Here I was able to participate in Acoustically Speaking, a night of intimate conversations and performances hosted by Big Tigger. This event featured newcomer Yuna, R&B crooner, Tank, and soul diva, Monica.
The format of the night was simple: interview first, performance second. The first artist to grace the stage was Yuna. The soulful artist spoke to Tigger about growing up in Malaysia and her innate love of music that she started crafting at a young age. During the interview with Yuna, she spoke in a manner that everyone could relate to. She just recently dropped her third studio album, Chapters, which includes the lead single Crush featuring Usher. I was most enamored by her simplicity, calm energy and how personable she was. At one point Tigger asked her what should we expect as we transition from discussion to her performance, and she replied, “I’m performing for you. Think of me as your friend!” Yuna became your bestie by the end of the night, through her smooth conversation and melodic voice. Her voice is like honey and it resonates with your soul. As I listened to her sing, her voice comforted me like an old friend when you need them the most — Such a beautiful experience.
With an atmosphere of comfort and friendship, it only made sense that Toyota, a notable automotive brand, sponsored this night of intimate conversations and exclusives performances. Donna Hodge, Media Director at Burrell Communications, Toyota’s African-American Agency of Record explained:
“Toyota has a long-standing commitment to music and their partnership with Soul Train Music Awards. So when the opportunity came up for Toyota to sponsor Soul Train, the team felt that it was the right place to be, in order to not only connect with our consumer on a music platform but also to align itself with an iconic brand. So, we’re going on year six with this sponsorship.”
With such a strong relationship between Toyota and the BET Soul Train Awards, it’s no wonder they’ve partnered again for this exciting event. They continue this legacy with the addition of Acoustically Speaking. Although Acoustically Speaking is a new music event just added to the Soul Train Experience this year, it was a natural fit for Toyota to sponsor the event.
Adding to the Soul Train Experience was none other than the man, Tank, who managed to steal the show, after the lovely Yuna. Per usual, Tank had every lady in the building at “hello”, and when he started singing, it was all over. His voice and talent as a soulful artist and writer are undeniable. His catalog of music is so perfect that if he never writes another song, we will be completely satisfied with the beautiful ballads he has already blessed us with.
Switching gears, Monica closed the night with her “sista girl” swag. She belted out classics that the crowd knew and loved, which set the tone for the entire Soul Train Music Awards weekend. At this point, anticipation for the main event was at an all-time high, after an epic night of spectacular performances.
The next big event to happen during this experience was the red carpet, which gathered the elite of celebrity artists and entertainers in one place to celebrate the history, power, and culture of The Soul Train Music Awards. Toyota, the main automotive sponsor for the red carpet was proud to align their company with one of the most exciting parts of the evening. Donna Hodge, expressed her heartfelt opinion about the red carpet event:
“BET continues to deliver. They do events extremely well. We’ve seen the Soul Train Awards evolve over the years since Toyota has been involved, and it gets better year after year and this year is no exception… The red carpet was exceptional, they found ways to expand it, make it better, make it different from last year. Pleased with the positioning of the vehicle and how the Toyota brand was represented so it was very much a success.”
Success also came in the form of an impressive #Mannequin Challenge displayed on the red carpet. Nevertheless, this viral sensation was only the warm up to the actual Awards Show.
Erykah Badu hosted the 2016 Soul Train Music Awards and honorees, Brandy and Teddy Riley, rocked the crowd with music ranging from over three decades. Performances from Dru Hill, Eric Benet, India Arie, Big Baby Dram, Ro James, Carl Thomas and others gave the crowd the same nostalgic feel as when Michael Jackson moonwalked across the stage. Teddy Riley was this year’s recipient of the Legend Award, the most highly acclaimed award of the night. And yes, you guessed it… this award was sponsored by none other than Toyota, keeping in line with their flawless reputation of representing only the best. If you ask me, there was no better man to receive this award than Mr. Teddy Riley. His work as a producer is acknowledged by many generations, he’s timeless, and he is the father of the “New Jack Swing” sound. Furthermore, who knew he produced Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time?” After accepting his award on stage, Teddy Riley gave the performance of his life, working from the beginning of his music career to present day. He produced tracks for various artists, Heavy D, Keith Sweat, Guy,Wreckx-n-Effect, and of course, we all know Blackstreet. Yet, let’s not forget my personal favorite, Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative”. The ultimate classic right there! There was really nothing else to be said after Teddy Riley shut it down. The show was over and my musical soul had been fed for the evening. I now add Teddy Riley to my list of award show performances that defined and enhanced my love for music.
The Soul Train Music Awards has always presented a sacred platform that showcases new music and artists, while still honoring the legends of the past. The event has an extensive history of being a well-known brand and staple in black music. Through the weekend I experienced, this awards show is still moving in the right direction, with the fuel of Toyota to keep them on track. Without further adieu, be sure to tune in Sunday, November 27th, 2016 on Centric and BET (8 p.m. ET).