During the 2019 Grammys, J. Lo performed a tribute to Motown, but not everyone watching was a fan.
Singer Jennifer Lopez took the stage at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, and she sang and danced her way through a comprehensive Motown tribute. As reported by Vox, Lopez performed iconic Motown Records songs like “Dancing in the Street” and “Please Mr. Postman,” alongside fellow artists Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, and Motown icon Smokey Robinson. And while no one seemed to deny that Lopez, 49, entertained with her high energy, her dancing, and her costume changes, many thought that she just wasn’t the right artist to give such a performance. As TooFab noted, not only is Lopez not black but her own music style is nothing like Motown’s sound.
So why was she selected to deliver a performance honoring a legendary label that’s largely featured black artists? Well, many people watching the awards show took to social media to wonder exactly that.
The account for BuzzFeed’s Pero Like tweeted, “No shade, JLo is truly a great artist, but let’s be real, this wasn’t her performance to give. Plenty of other black artists could have been given this platform and moment and we need to acknowledge that. #GRAMMYs.”
One Twitter user wrote, “Sorry. I’m not letting that Motown tribute go. It was horrible, the antithesis to everything Motown ever represented. It was a Black— people and culture— label that promoted Black talent— people and culture— with class and dignity AND SOUL!!!! #grammys.”
Another tweet read, “Not one moment of that Motown tribute felt like Motown. Not a single moment. That felt like a J-Lo a** celebration. No no NO.”
Someone suggested a number of other artists who would have been more appropriate as the night’s Motown tribute performer, including Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, and Jennifer Hudson. “How do you do a Motown tribute without an ALL BLACK cast of artists?!” another person wondered, adding, “And it’s Black History Month too.”
Besides taking aim at Lopez herself for being chosen to perform, others criticized her wardrobe choices. As one social media user explained, “The irony of the very sexy J.Lo Motown revue is that [Motown record executive] Berry Gordy had the women of Motown tame their sexy so as to not fall into the Jezebel, highly sexed trope which White America places black women in! So they could have NEVER given a performance like that, ladies at all times!”
So, with all the backlash to her Motown performance, just what did Lopez have to say? “The thing about music is that it inspires all. Any type of music can inspire any type of artist,” Lopez said to Entertainment Tonight. “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.”
Sharing that Berry Gordy and Grammys producers had been “thrilled” that she’d been tapped to perform, she continued, “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them,” adding, “But for some people, [it wasn’t], and that’s okay. I’m just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs.”
Lopez, who said she listened to Motown songs as a kid, said, “I grew up with this music and me and my sisters, the three of us, we were, like, the backups. We were The Temptations … and I feel it’s a dream come true” (via People). The Second Act star also noted that she did the performance for her mother, saying, “It was for my mom. I could cry. It’s such a good moment.”
Before Lopez even took the stage for her performance, Smokey Robinson defended her against criticism, telling Variety on Saturday, Feb. 9, “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset.” He added, “I think anyone who is upset is stupid.”
Robinson elaborated, “Motown was music for everybody. Everybody.”
Besides Robinson, one person who was most definitely thrilled to see Lopez perform the tribute at the Grammys was her boyfriend, former Yankees star Alex Rodriguez. According to Us Weekly, viewers watching the awards show from the comfort of their homes were shown a close-up of Rodriguez appearing stunned during Lopez’s performance. At one point, he mouthed, “Wow.”
So, fortunately for Lopez, no matter what people say, she’ll always have her no. 1 fan at her side.