Why Are People Criticizing Jennifer Lopez’s Motown Tribute at the 2019 Grammys?

Last night’s Grammy Awards broadcast featured memorable performances from the likes of Janelle Monáe, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, Cardi B, Dua Lipa, and many more. But one performance stuck out for all the wrong reasons. When Jennifer Lopez took the stage to perform a tribute to Motown, it had some viewers raising their eyebrows. Here’s why.

Why some people weren’t happy with J.Lo’s performance

Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson
Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson perform onstage at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

During the telecast, Lopez delivered an energetic performance, belting out a medley of Motown hits, including “Dancing in the Street,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “My Girl,” “Do You Love Me?” and “Money (That’s What I Want).” Ne-Yo, Grammys host Alicia Keys, and Motown legend Smokey Robinson also performed, but Lopez was clearly the star of the tribute.

Some fans, however, were not happy that the Grammys chose the “Jenny from the Block” singer to perform those hit songs. Motown was a black-owned record label that put out music by predominantly black artists like the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. Critics thought it would have been more appropriate to have a black singer pay homage to the label that launched the careers of some of the most famous African-American performers in pop music history – especially during Black History Month.

Some argued that the Recording Academy could have chosen an artist with a closer connection to Motown for the tribute, such as Diana Ross (who performed separately at the ceremony). Variety pointed out that Motown artists like Mary Wells, Lionel Ritchie, or Stevie Wonder might have been a better choice, noting that “There are other tributes worthy of J. Lo as the headliner, but this one, a celebration of a record label that was dedicated to celebrating black talent when few other labels cared, deserved a black talent as its star.”

How J.Lo responded to critics

Lopez didn’t let the criticism of her performance faze her. “The thing about music is that it inspires all. Any type of music can inspire any type of artist,” the Bronx-born singer told ET. “You can’t tell people what to love. You can’t tell people what they can and can’t do, what they should sing or not sing. You gotta do what’s in your heart.”

Lopez explained that she’s a lifelong Motown fan who grew up listening to the label’s hits with her mom. “Singing up there with Smokey Robinson, like, I gotta pinch myself,” she said. “I grew up on all those songs and because my mom loved him so much she passed him on to us.”

Robinson also defended Lopez. “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset. I think anyone who is upset is stupid,” he told Variety before the Grammy Awards ceremony. “Motown was music for everybody. Everybody.”

The Grammys have a bigger tribute to Motown planned

Motown fans who were disappointed with Sunday’s tribute might be more pleased with the Recording Academy’s upcoming celebration of Motown.

“Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration” will take place on February 12. The event will feature Boyz II Men, Chloe X Halle, Ciara, Lamont Dozier, Fantasia, Brian & Eddie Holland, Thelma Houston, Tori Kelly, John Legend, Little Big Town, NE-YO, Pentatonix, Martha Reeves, Diana Ross, Valerie Simpson, Mickey Stevenson, Meghan Trainor, and Stevie Wonder. The concert will air April 21 on CBS.

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