Patti LaBelle’s tribute performance to the late Tina Turner at the 2023 BET Awards had the internet divided as to which legendary singer it dishonored.
LaBelle’s performance of Turner’s famous single “The Best“ began on a note of high energy. But soon, it became clear the 79-year-old singer didn’t know all the words. She deviated from the original lyrics a bit, singing “My soul’s on fire” rather than the original line, “my heart’s on fire.” She later mumbled inaudible words at times and missed her entry cues as the backup singers continued without her at times.
LaBelle acknowledged her missteps in real time. “I’m trying, y’all,” she said while singing the first verse. During the second verse, she said she couldn’t see the words displayed on the teleprompter. “Whatever, I can’t see the words, I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know. I’m trying y’all.”
On Twitter, Fans watching the performance debated how to make sense of the legendary singer fumbling a performance intended to honor her peer.
Some saw LaBelle’s cover as being disrespectful to Turner.
“It was terrible, they need to redo it,” someone tweeted.
“One word: rehearsal. Tina Turner deserved better. Patti Labelle has been in the industry far too long not to show up on stage prepared to perform and know the words,” another wrote.
Others were more amused by the mistake. “Pattie ain’t know this song,” someone tweeted with crying laughing emojis.
LaBelle mentioned she “couldn’t see the words” during the performance. An attendee at the BET Awards provided context to what LaBelle said, writing in the caption of a video posted on Twitter, “Patti couldn’t see the teleprompter because our section was standing in front of it.”
There was a cohort of fans who used the blocked teleprompter to defend the “Someone Loves You Baby” singer, implying she was set up to fail.
“Yes, because producers didn’t make sure that her Teleprompter was clear. They owe her (a) big apology. Not tolerating any Patti slander. This woman is almost 80 and is a legend,” a fan tweeted.
“She’s 80 years old for goodness sake she deserve a pass…Leave Auntie alone…” another said.
“Producers needed to make those words big AF,” one wrote.
BET announced LaBelle as the tribute singer on June 23. She told Rolling Stone in a statement it’d be her honor.
“Tina was a trailblazer and someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for because of all that she overcame and all that she accomplished,” LaBelle told the outlet. “She was and is everything! And I am honored that I am able to pay tribute to her in this way.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com.