Bringing dance with a hearty side of lip syncing, the 2014 Soul Train Awards remained true to its classic namesake TV show when it taped weeks back on November 7. Still, the lineup slated to take the stage was (mostly) a truly special class, from the anxiously anticipated Jodeci reunion to performances by modern stars like Chris Brown and Elle Varner. Now that it’s finally aired last night (November 30), EBONY separates the standouts from the suspect.

Song: Chris Brown medley

Performer: Chris Brown

Rating: 4.5 of 5



Almost 10 years into the polarizing superstar’s run, Chris Brown kicked off this year’s Soul Train Awards with a grab bag of smashes old and new. You remembered that innocent kid who politely made you swoon with “Yo (Excuse Me Miss),” hyped up the party with “Poppin’ ” and dropped the slow-grind anthem, “Take You Down.” Even without their guest stars, current hits “Loyal” and “New Flame” were just as combustible. Choreography on fleek (or whatever the Twitter kids are saying these days)!

Song: “Am I Wrong?,” “In Your Arms”

Performer: Nico & Vinz

Rating: 3.0 of 5

Elle Varner and Leela James nearly spoiled this performance before it started, with their overdone, teleprompted paid shoutout to Twix. But then Nico & Vinz took the stage and proved their rhetorical, world-sweeping song “Am I Wrong?” is just as contagious live as it is on the radio. The set was tame, with dancers playing the background while the Norwegian duo focused on hitting their notes. Believe it or not, they’ve recorded at least one song other than their breakout record—they performed “In Your Arms,” which was cool too.

Song: “It’s You,” “Love Calls,” “If It’s Love”

Performer: KEM, Ledisi

Rating: 4.0 of 5

All the aunties in the building stood from their seat once KEM began singing “It’s You.” Everyone else joined in when the beat for the classic “Love Calls” dropped, and some of the more overwhelmed probably collapsed right back down once Ledisi joined in for “If It’s Love.”

Song: “Drop That #NaeNae”

Performer: We Are Toonz

Rating: 2.0 of 5

If you didn’t get enough of the Nae Nae dance during Chris Brown’s opening performance (and we imagine you did), ATL originators We Are Toonz showed their moves with “Drop That #NaeNae.” Rae Sremmurd must’ve been booked.

Song: Jodeci medley

Performer: Jodeci

Rating: 3.5 of 5

There’s very little that could sabotage a Jodeci reunion. The legendary foursome could’ve sang through sock puppets and moistened more than a few fans—as long as they were playing the classics. So expectedly, nostalgia peaked when K-Ci & JoJo, DeVante Swing and Mr. Dalvin took the stage to the sounds of “Freak’N You” and “Stay.” But then a poorly timed debut of their new single “Nobody Wins” (featuring an animated B.o.B) brought the ’90s vibes crashing down. Luckily, the men in black picked it back up with “Come and Talk to Me” and “Forever My Lady,” finishing with only minimal lip synching. DeVante’s hair—pulled into a, umm, man bun—stole the show.

Song: “Pretend,” “2 On”

Performer: Tinashe

Rating: 4.0 of 5

One of the most promising performers of the night was also one of the youngest. Sporting red-hot leather pants and a skimpy chest-baring top to match, Tinashe opened with her midtempo A$AP Rocky collaboration “Pretend,” incorporating an upbeat dance breakdown. After a quick interlude, featuring a brief snippet from her dope album cut “Cold Sweat,” she danced through the club hit that made her a star, “2 On.” Turn down for what?

Song: “The Man,” “Love Is the Answer”

Performer: Aloe Blacc

Rating: 3.0 of 5

The guy who sings that song you like opened up with a few seconds of that song you like. Then Aloe Blacc made sure you remember his name with an impressive performance of his follow-up single, “Love Is the Answer.” He just might have succeeded.

Song: “I Really Miss You”

Performer: 3WB

Rating: 4.0 of 5

It’s that time of the show when we remember those who are no longer with us. And who better to set the mood than gospel giants Carvin Winans, BeBe Winans & Marvin Winans (b.k.a. 3WB)? The trio soundtracked the somber segment with a spotless performance of the touching ode, “I Really Miss You.” Pour out a lil’ liquor.

Song: “Home”

Performer: Stephanie Mills

Rating: 4.0 of 5

Not every singer can sang. That’s no secret. But the queen Stephanie Mills proved once again that she’s one of the elites on these here vocals, as she ran through “Home.” Bravo!

Song: Kool and the Gang medley

Performers: Doug E. Fresh, Tank, Elle Varner, MC Lyte, Joe, Tamar Braxton, Liv Warfield, Tessanne Chin, Ma$e, Justine Skye

Rating: 4.5 of 5

In a set-up segment, Questlove played musical professor and schooled viewers on the musical tree of Kool and the Gang, which has yielded countless samples over the years. Then we watched those remakes come to life. Emceed by Doug E. Fresh, the tribute started with Tank singing “Get Down on It,” followed by Elle Varner rejuvenating the chorus of Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff’s “Summertime” (which samples “Summer Madness”) while MC Lyte rhymed the verses. Joe and Tamar Braxton linked up for “Too Hot” and Liv Warfield and Tessanne Chin sang a too-short rendition of “Celebration” before the exclamation point: Ma$e’s “Feel So Good,” featuring Justine Skye. (Bonus points for Ma$e’s shiny blue shorts and those same ol’ Bad Boy-era steps.)

Song: “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)”

Performers: Eric Benét, Lil’ Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott

Rating: 4.5 of 5

The 2014 Soul Train Awards’ second anticipated reunion closed the night out. A continuation of the Kool and the Gang tribute, Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott and Da Brat joined forces for the first time in over a decade to perform “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix).” Eric Benét got things started with an opening verse, and then the remix’s beat dropped as Lil’ Kim took the stage with some age-worn moves. No worries, though: After Left Eye’s music video scenes played on the big screen, Da Brat came out like a firecracker, spitting speedy rhymes as her puffy orange mohawk bounced front to back. Missy brought it home; the energy when she rapped, “Oh what a night/You should be like Missy instead of being like Mike” was palpable. Although collaborator Angie Martinez was nowhere to be found (really, Ang?), Total, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo and Lady of Rage all repped on stage for the double-X chromosome set.



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