The 2011 BET Awards remembered the past while honoring the present last night in Los Angeles, with a full fifteen musical performances—mostly multiple-song medleys—that spanned decades and genres. We highly recommend you check out all of the performances, especially Mary J. Blige‘s mega-medley of “Mary Jane,” “Real Love,” “You Bring Me Joy,” “Rapture” (with Anita Baker) and “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (with DJ Khaled and Jadakiss), and the Patti LaBelle tribute featuring Cee Lo (dressed as LaBelle!), Marsha Ambrosius, and Shirley Caesar.
The highlight of the night, though, was Alicia Keys‘s own four-song medley. She stood on her piano as she opened with new-old song “Typewriter,” a Songs in A Minor outtake that will be included on tomorrow’s 10th Anniversary reissue of the album. She took to the keys for single “A Woman’s Worth,” from the same album, for which she was joined by Bruno Mars on guitar and vocals. This wasn’t merely a throwback performance, though. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—see Alexander O’Neal & Cherrelle‘s “Saturday Love”, which sounded as good as ever.) Rick Ross took the stage for a triumphant rendition of “Maybach Music 2,” with Keys providing T-Pain’s hook and Bruno Mars providing the guitar riff.
After she shouted out Rozay and Bruno Mars, Keys closed out her medley alone, with “Fallin’,” which retains its power and charm millions of radio plays and a decade later. We’re still processing the fact that these songs (except 2009′s “Maybach Music 2″) are all ten years old, and they sounded so good and fresh last night that we’re even more confused.