Mary J. Blige brings class and style to the BET Experience

Chris Brown’s surprise appearance during Trey Songz's set at Staples Center during the BET Experience festival may have been the most exciting moment of this five-hour concert, but Mary J. Blige’s set of hits and some new material was easily the most consistently satisfying set of the night.

By today’s standards, Mary J. Blige can legitimately be considered an old school R&B artist, being that she got her career start in the early 90s. However, this woman – who is now nearing her mid-forties – sure looked good in her white top and shorts as she strutted across the stage and sang such hits as “Sweet Thing.” Although she brought joyous bounce to the house, Blige proved she is worthy of the diva title when she sang the big, emotional ballad “No More Drama.” Folks got their money’s worth, and then some, when Blige performed for more than an hour-and-a-half, which is a beautiful, everlasting eternity on a multi act bill such as this one.

Trey Songz preceded Blige with a set comprised primarily of bedroom balladry, at least until Brown joined him for some enjoyable dance numbers. The nature of Songz’s smooch music is exemplified by “Neighbors Know My Name,” which – as you might guess – is a bit of an embarrassing way to get introduced to the neighbors.

The slimmed down Jennifer Hudson now looks ready to compete with today’s model-esque pop vocalists, and she danced, pranced and sang her way through a brief survey of her hits. However, when she slipped backstage and asked her backing vocalists to vamp for a few minutes, it gave the crowd reason for concern. Yes, she closed with her breakthrough ballad, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” but it took the admittedly tired vocalist every ounce of energy left just to get the job done.

TGT, the vocal group made up of Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank, came off like an older version of Trey Songz, only in triplicate. Sevyn Streeter is trying to do what Jennifer Hudson is doing now, only she showed she still needs a lot more professional polish to make that happen. Poor Mack Wilds had to do his thing for an extremely small, early crowd.

Actor/comedian Bill Bellamy did a wonderful job as tonight’s host, introducing each act and telling plenty of music-related jokes. He didn’t have to pretend he was excited about the lineup; he sincerely was.

There was talk that this year’s BET Experience would pale in comparison to last year’s Beyonce’s headlined event, but Mary J. Blige proved that she still belongs right up there with Beyonce and the elite of today’s R&B artists.