Jennifer Lopez delivered a high-octane performance at the 2019 Grammys on Sunday, February 10th, but no matter the intensity, it wasn’t enough to distract from inevitable controversy: J.Lo was the headliner for a Motown tribute. The medley, which saw J.Lo shimmying and quick-changing to classics like “Dancing in the Street,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Do You Love Me,” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” received criticism on Twitter on a very simple basis: she’s not a Motown singer.
The Detroit-based record label, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, built the careers of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, the Jackson 5, and numerous other hitmakers, each with an inimitable sound that bears little similarity to that of Lopez’s dance tracks and Latin pop music. Though Smokey Robinson, Alicia Keys, and Ne-Yo also participated in the tribute, Grammys viewers were convinced a more fitting living legend could have subbed for Lopez.
But criticism aside, J.Lo had a very meaningful motivation behind her performance: her Motown super-fan mom, Guadalupe. “It was for my mom. I could cry. It’s such a good moment,” Jen told Entertainment Tonight after her set. “It’s just a dream come true,” she continued. “Singing up there with Smokey Robinson, like, I gotta pinch myself. I grew up on all those songs and because my mom loved him so much she passed him on to us.”
Speaking to the confusion behind her involvement in the tribute, Lopez said:
Lopez shared that the show’s producers, in addition to Motown founder Berry Gordy, were “thrilled” that she was involved in the tribute. “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them,” she explained. “But for some people, [it wasn’t], and that’s OK. I’m just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs.”
It sounds like Lopez’s intentions were pure, but maybe next time Grammy producers will consider context when conceptualizing such a groundbreaking tribute.