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  • Writer's pictureJermaine Thomas, II

2021 Soul Train Awards Highs & Highs

The Soul Train Awards has an extremely special place in my heart. Thinking back to the first ceremony that I recall watching in 2010, at the age of 12, I’ve always looked forward to the Sunday after Thanksgiving because I knew one of my favorite award shows was going to be on the air. I’m in the longest love affair with Soul and R&B music. I can say with my entire chest that there are truly no other forms of music quite like it.

I wanted to take a moment to give my flowers to the Soul Train Awards for staying on par with the vision that Don Cornelius set all those years ago. There aren’t many other shows that put our Soul and R&B artists on a pedestal and appreciate them for the music they produce, especially our living legends. Who knows what institution would be around to celebrate Soul and R&B if Don Cornelius hadn’t pioneered the show in 1971? That is a question I’d rather not think too hard about!

After streaming 2021’s Soul Train Awards ceremony, I made a little list of my favorite moments from the show! Keep reading for my top moments…


Maxwell’s Legend Award Medley

Maxwell's 11-minute neo-soul crash course put an exclamation point on why he was the recipient of this year's Soul Train Legend Award. Before Maxwell took the stage, BET featured a short video featuring some of his closest friends, collaborators, and artists who were inspired by his work. Fellow R&B artist Miguel said, "There's so much more to come from [Maxwell], yet and still what's he's given already is legendary, timeless, and unmatched."

Not only did Maxwell sing some of our favorite hits from his past albums, including Bad Habit”, “Lifetime”, and “Sumthin’ Sumthin”, he also performed his new single “OFF” for the first time! Since the show was filmed at the world-famous Apollo Theatre, Maxwell got the chance to work the stage quite a bit. I immediately remembered where the show was taking place once Maxwell hit the iconic steps on the side of the stage and sang his throat out while performing the new single. Also, did you notice how Maxwell started off the show with fresh cornrows and by the time he hit the stage had a full ‘fro?! High Blackness at its finest.


Tisha and Tichina’s Ever-Changing Wardrobe and Classic Banter

Hosting the show for the fourth time, this duo is one of the most tried and true in the business. Their decades-long kinship was the star of their time on stage. Knowing someone for as long as they have allows them to recall some of the most nostalgic moments from the past (Like Tisha re-creating Gina’s bed frame look) and take better, funnier digs at each other

Case and point, Tichina shading Tisha for being noticeably absent during the fifth season of Martin - that's long-term friend shade. Plus Tisha as 90's Steve Harvey? Classic. Scroll through the photo album for some of my favorite looks from the hosts!

Photos from: Photos by: Aaron J. Thornton & Bennett Raglin


Ari Lennox Taking the Stage Two Whole Times

My vehicle is not the only one where "Pressure" has gone platinum! The song has the Black community by the neck, and we’re not fighting to release it any time soon, I fear. I’ve been itching to see Ari perform "Pressure" live since the release. Unfortunately, my wish was not granted at the Lights On Fest back in September, but this performance will be just fine.

Ari hit the stage in an all-white feathered bodysuit moment and confidently delivered the vocal while her dancers moved like listeners think we do when the song comes on. AND THEN, she came back later on and performed “Unloyal” with Summer Walker. New School MVP of the Night goes to Ari Lennox. Does she have your vote?


It was so hard to choose just three moments, so I have to take a moment to shout out Ashanti for receiving the Lady of Soul Award with an exciting medley of her hits (she has many) and Jazmine Sullivan for her Album of Year speech. Heaux Tales was the soundtrack to so many folk’s 2021, but I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the niche space that Jazmine is carving for Black women. Her pledge to be seen hit me in the heart, so I can’t imagine what it means for women to hear Jazmine say that let alone make those words actionable throughout the last year. Kudos to Black Women!

Stream the 2021 Soul Train Awards with your cable subscription on the BET Now app, and with a subscription to the BET+ app! Many of the performances are available on Youtube as well!

Cover by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

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