LOS ANGELES — Pharrell’s “Happy” is keeping a smile on the musician’s face: The song won video of the year Sunday at the BET Awards, the top prize in a show marking the best in black entertainment.
His win came in the second hour of the three-hour-plus ceremony that featured performances by the multitalented Pharrell as well as Lil Wayne and Usher. Last year, the network didn’t announce the top award in the jam-packed show.
Pharrell thanked his family, fans who elevated the song to No. 1 and BET for its support.
“(BET) allows us as black people to be different and do what we do,” he told the crowd. “You guys keep the lights on for us.”
The multitalented Pharrell, who also won best male R&B/pop artist, kicked off the show with a playful performance of “Come Get It Bae” featuring the reclusive Missy Elliott. Host Chris Rock also succeeded with back-to-back jokes, helping take attention away from a fatal shooting and a separate stabbing at unsanctioned parties celebrating the ceremony.
One person was killed and five injured in separate incidents ahead of the show at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles police said. The events were “unauthorized and unaffiliated with the BET Awards,” BET said in a statement.
The death and four of the injuries followed gunfire early Sunday at a restaurant, Officer Drake Madison said. Separately, a man was stabbed in the stomach Saturday night at a nightclub.
Rock didn’t mention the violence. He won over the audience with jokes about Donald Sterling, the hit series “Scandal” and rapper Rick Ross. He called the BET Awards the “black World Cup.”
The show featured a medley of hits from Usher and a performance by Chris Brown, who recently was released from jail. Brown sang and danced his signature moves to his latest Top 10 hit, “Loyal.”
John Legend sang his groove “You and I” and was joined by rising newcomer Jhene Aiko, who won over the crowd by singing “The Worst” as Legend played piano.
As the show kicked off, a tearful August Alsina, nominated for four honors, won the night’s first award for best new artist.
“I represent the struggle,” the New Orleans newcomer said onstage. “This award is not for me, it’s for the people.”
Drake, Beyonce and Jay Z were top nominees with five each. Drake, who was originally set to perform, did not attend, BET said Sunday. He won best male hip-hop artist.
A representative for Beyonce also said the singer wouldn’t attend, and her husband’s rep wouldn’t divulge if Jay Z would be there or not. Their attendance had nothing to do with the violence at the weekend parties.
Beyonce and Jay Z launched a co-headlining stadium tour days ago. She is nominated for best female R&B/pop artist, with little competition aside from Rihanna.
Other performers set to sing Sunday include Mary J. Blige and Robin Thicke, who is set to release his new album, “Paula” – an ode to his wife, Paula Patton, whom he is separated from – on Tuesday.
Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea – whose anthemic “Fancy” has spent its fifth week on top of the Billboard charts — will compete for best female hip-hop artist, an award Minaj has won consecutively for four years.
Lionel Richie will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the show, where presenters include Kerry Washington, Kevin Hart and Gabrielle Union.
Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave,” was named best actress.