Saturday, December 05, 2009

Soul Train Awards 2009: A reflection of heritage?

I saw the Soul Train Awards on Centric last week.... And while I could take this time to dish about elements in the show, I have to admit I was taken to a space of introspect, retrospect and reflection on where the Soul Train Awards had been. This production, after all, was a resurrection of sorts.

The Soul Train show had been cancelled upon sale of the Tribune Broadcast Company and even as Soul Train had not produced an awards show in a couple of years, the awards already had been declining in quality and allure in it's last say, five years of life...

I was glad to see it back.

Soul Train is without a doubt, a national treasure. A distinctly American heritage. The foundation for the mass popularity of modern black music. Thus, when Don Cornelius decided to produce an awards show, the Soul Train Award became, for the black artist, almost as prestigious as the Grammy Award.

Now, with new owners of the Soul Train brand, they have resurrected the Soul Train Awards anew:

New channel - BET has created a new brand called Centric. (My guess is that they are trying to re-invent themselves...)
New location: Atlanta, GA - Georgia World Congress Center
New hosts: Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard

They got off to a decent start with 4 million viewers. According to CNN and PR NewsWire, compared to the last airing of the Soul Train Awards in 2007, the CENTRIC PRESENTS: 2009 SOUL TRAIN AWARDS on BET posted triple digit gains in viewership (+144%) as well as among adults 18-49 (+192%) and ranked as the # 1 Soul Train Awards telecast ever among Adults 18-49 (2.2 MM Adults 18-49). Additionally, the show’s ratings exhibited continuous growth every half hour. BET and CENTRIC Soul Train Awards-related terms dominated the top 10 trending topics on Twitter on Sunday, November 29.

When the Awards first debuted in 1987, the buzz all over the industry was tremendous. This was our award, created for us by us.... The ceremony was held at the Santa Monica Civic Center and was hugely anticipated by people within the industry and without. I mean we wore tuxedos, the ladies wore gowns, it was off the chain.... For years we came to the Awards in formal attire, the after parties were among the most elegant in Hollywood. And soon Soul Train Awards night became a week of celebration in the city as artists, record companies, magazines and corporations gave must-attend parties with guests lists that read like a who's who in Black America publication. The Soul Train Awards were the bomb until....

With the explosion of HipHop and Rap, came the expectation of violence at some of our most important black music events. All across the nation, our biggest and best music events would be stained by the spectre of violence. Those of us in the industry would frequently be caught in the middle of some beef between hiphop crews. We stood helplessly by as hiphop posses and their street teams totally vandalized the five star hotels where we used to hold our national conventions, or some beef would send us scattering for safety as the crew squared off in free for alls and even gun battles...

The Soul Train Awards was no different. Over the years, fear of fights caused an uneasy celebration. The Soul Train Awards was known for its' awesome after parties, a reputation forever tainted after a few were shut down by police due to fights, arguments and gunfire.

In spite of it all, The Soul Train kept on rolling. And while it rolled, the Awards got more and more stale. Artists stopped maintaining the Awards as a must attend event on their itineraries. Soon, only the brand new and wannabe artists would be in attendance. Rarely did the major artist come through and if they did, they did not stay around for the after parties or social soirees traditionally attached to the Show. Backstage, we would stand around for hours to wait for an major artist to visit the media room. That was few and in the end, that few dwindled to none...

The quality even went down in the attendees.. sign of the times I guess, but for the life of me could not understand how "generation next" could stop considering the awards as a dressy affair. Folk were coming to the awards in jeans, tennis shoes, shorts. etc. Ok, I know, those are designer items that carry a pretty penny at the store, but c'mon.. jeans and tennis shoes??? At an awards show???

And now, the Soul Train Awards is back. In the end, I am glad that "generation next" had the foresight to purchase the rights. I can only be optimistic that MadVision Entertainment will retool and grow the heritage brand that is Soul Train.

I wish them LOVE PEACE AND SOUL in all that they do...