The 2023 BET Awards, held at the Micosoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday (June 25), was an awards show that was heavy on “show” and very light on awards. Just six awards were presented during a show that ran nearly four hours. And just two winners – Latto and Coco Jones — were in the house to accept their awards.
The award for video director Teyana “Spike Tey” Taylor was accepted by her mother, who called Teyana to give her the good news and showed her image on the phone to the camera. So, you could say three winners accepted their awards. Beyoncé wasn’t present to accept the two awards she won on-air, nor was Burna Boy to accept his one award. Nor did either global star accept via video.
As a result, it’s hard to know what a win on this show will mean in terms of artists’ careers, which has long been one of the main benefits of winning at awards shows. Jones was present to accept her award for best new artist and to perform her hit “ICU,” which could make a meaningful difference in her hopes to secure a Grammy nomination for best new artist.
But none of SZA’s three awards were so much as mentioned on the show. Her blockbuster SOS tied with Beyoncé’s Renaissance for album of the year. She beat Beyoncé to win best female R&B/pop artist for the first time. And her “Kill Bill” won video of the year. If one or more of those awards had been part of the show, and she had accepted and performed, she might have boosted her chances of winning one or more Grammys next February. Without any presence on this show, it’s hard to see a boost for her coming out of this show.
For the record, Beyoncé and SZA tied for most awards on the night with three each, followed by Drake with two.
Beyoncé won two awards for “Break My Soul,” a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. She won the BET Her Award and the viewer’s choice award. These awards extended her lead as the artist with the most wins in BET Awards history. Bey is the first three-time winner of the BET Her Award, which honors motivational and empowering songs that center on women. She previously won for “Formation” and “Brown Skin Girl” (featuring Blue Ivy, Wizkid and Saint Jhn).
To win the viewer’s choice award, Bey prevailed in a field that included six other Hot 100-topping smashes as well as Burna Boy’s global hit “Last Last,” which reached No. 44 on the Hot 100. This was Beyoncé’s fourth win in the fan-voted category, which puts her in a tie with Lil Wayne for most wins (combining lead and featured credits). Bey’s previous wins in the category were for “Formation,” “Sorry” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” on which she was featured.
Drake, who led the field of nominees with seven nods, won two awards. He won best group for his collab with 21 Savage and best collaboration for Future’s “Wait for You,” on which he was featured along with Tems. This was Drake’s second win for best group. He won seven years ago for his collab with Future.
There was a second tie among the 21 categories (in addition to album of the year). Chris Brown and Usher tied for best male R&B/pop artist. This was Brown’s record-extending seventh win in the category; and Usher’s fourth (which puts him in second place for most wins in the category.)
Latto, last year’s best new artist winner, won best female hip hop artist for the first time. She beat a field that included three past winners in the category – Nicki Minaj, a seven-time winner; Megan Thee Stallion, a three-time winner; and Cardi B, a two-time winner.
Coco Jones won best new artist, prevailing in an all-female field that included GloRilla and Ice Spice. Jones is the first female R&B singer (as opposed to rapper) to win in this category since SZA five years ago. This boosts Jones’ chances of landing a Grammy nomination for best new artist this year. Latto was nominated in that category at the Grammys (though she lost to jazz singer Samara Joy).
Kendrick Lamar won best male hip-hop artist for a record-extending sixth time.
Kirk Franklin won best gospel/inspirational artist for a record-extending seventh time, this time for a collab with Maverick City Music.
Burna Boy won best international act for the fourth time in the past five years. The winner last year was Tems, who also hails from Nigeria.
Teyana “Spice Tey” Taylor won video director of the year for the second time in four years. Taylor is just the third repeat winner in that category, following Beyoncé, who has won three times, and Benny Boom, who, like Taylor, has won twice.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won best movie, five years after the original Black Panther won in that category. This marks the first time that a sequel has won in this category. Angela Bassett, who played Ramonda in that film, won best actress here, a few months after she lost the Oscar for best supporting actress to Jamie Lee Curtis. Surprisingly, this is Bassett’s first win in that category.
The emotional heart of the show was the presentation of the annual lifetime achievement award to Busta Rhymes, with video tributes from such A-listers as Dave Chappelle, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey. Busta is precisely the kind of artist the BET Awards should be giving flowers to – a giant in his field who has been under-recognized elsewhere. Busta has gone 0-12 at the Grammys over the years.