Jennifer Lopez defended the Motown tribute: ‘You can’t tell people what to love’

61st Annual GRAMMY Awards

Many of you disagreed with me that Alicia Keys was “the worst” part of the Grammys. Maybe I should correct myself – Keys was definitely one of the worst parts, just my opinion. Her narcissism drives me up a wall. But yes, arguably the worst part of this year’s Grammys was Jennifer Lopez being the “star” of the Motown tribute. It would be one – ill-advised – thing if Jennifer had just been one smallish part of a larger tribute with multiple singers and performers. But that’s not what happened. What happened was this cringe-inducing crap:

Some of us were like “this is on Grammy producers for even suggesting it” and some of us were like “yeah but Jennifer should have known better too, and she could have said no.” Everybody’s got some blame. And a sure sign that it really was that bad is that people are still talking about it days later. So much so that Jennifer had to address what happened, telling ET:

“The thing about music is that it inspires all. Any type of music can inspire any type of artist. 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.”

She went on to say that Motown producer Berry Gordy, as well as producers of the awards show, were “thrilled” about her involvement. “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them.”

As for those critics? “That’s okay,” Lopez said to Entertainment Tonight. “I’m just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs.”

[From People]

“They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them” - no, wait, what? In some sense, every artist that came after the Motown heyday was influenced by Motown. But mostly Jennifer carved out a corner in the straight pop music scene, with dance/electronica and hip-hop influences. Her music has never had any kind of Motown sound in way, shape or form. And please don’t make this about “what’s in your heart.” It’s easy enough to hear the Grammy producers’ ideas and say “you know what, I’m not the person to do this.”

Smokey Robinson thinks we’re stupid.

61st Annual GRAMMY Awards

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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59 Responses to “Jennifer Lopez defended the Motown tribute: ‘You can’t tell people what to love’”

  1. Alissa says:

    I mean, it’s definitely unfortunate that in order to do a tribute to Motown they pick someone who’s not black, can’t say, it has no real Motown influences in their music. but it is what it is.

    • Yvette says:

      I don’t understand why people are making such a big deal about this. Motown had white artists. Google the group Rare Earth and what about Teena Marie (“I Just What to be Your Lover Girl”)? I could see it if Motown had never signed white artists, but they did. I had hoped the media would have made this point by now, but hardly anyone conducts research any more before posting articles especially on the Internet.

      • Jerusha says:

        Maybe because when most people think Motown they think the Temptations, the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Isley.Brothers, the Miracles, the Marvelettes. They don’t think, “Now who were those few white artists on the label?”

      • Happy_fat_mamma says:

        Hi Yvette

        I am a white woman. I think that the tribute should have been lead by black artists, because the music of Motown is globally recognised as an important legacy of Black American culture and that should be respected. I personally would not be opposed to the participation of artists who are not black; as you point out, there were white artists on the label. Nonetheless, the stage presence at the tribute should reflect the people who made the music and who continue to make music in that genre.

      • Mel says:

        Motown was black owned and started to promote and produce black artists who wouldn’t get the same treatment at other labels. There are many surviving Motown stalwarts and other artists who were on Motown. If you can’t see why, with everything going on now, the fact that this is BLACK HISTORY Month why she had should not have been selected to do this. I can’t help you. Lets not forget that fact that she really can’t sing also….

      • Fiona says:

        But was it white artists who made Motown what it was?
        Motown was a predominantly black label and that’s one of the main reasons why it was revolutionary. Don’t try and discount that to fit your narrative.

        Anyway, it’s not just that they chose J Lo, the tribute was also awful. I feel like Lady Gaga would’ve done a better job and would’ve given Motown the tribute it deserved.

      • Cine says:

        @Yvette — your suggestion that we google those artists you named is exactly why it wasn’t ok for Jennifer to represent Motown — a smattering of a few white artists do not define Motown. .

      • Drop says:

        Yes Motown had white artists, but those white artists had powerhouse voices and were able to infuse a level of soul that was atypical of white artists at the time (especially Rare Earth). While Jlo is a good performer on the whole, singing is not her strong suit. There is 0 soul in her voice. She was simply the wrong person to do this tribute.

      • Tanya says:

        Yvette, we know Motown had white artists, many of which we loved (RIP Teena Marie). “Lovergirl” by the way isn’t a Motown song, by the way. She left the company by then.

        The entire point is that Steal-Lo and her non-singing was not the appropriate decision to make. She didn’t even sing (Hell, she doesn’t even sing on her own songs). She lip-synched during the performance.

        Everyone’s been influenced by Motown. However, everyone cannot sing Motown, including her.

      • Pandy says:

        Rare Earth and Teena Marie are not validating your point, sorry. JLo can’t even sing!When they bring on the Latin tribute, maybe we can get an asian performer … you know, someone moved by the music. Sheesh.

      • Lboogi says:

        The non black artists signed to Motown largely sang/ made funk, soul, r&b music. better known to the world as “Black” music. I mentioned in yesterdays post on this that Teena Marie’s first album did not have her picture on it because they didn’t want people to know she wasn’t Black.

        Teena Marie is part of a sub genre in Black music that we call Blue Eyed Soul. It includes her, Michael McDonald, and others. They are well loved and respected within Black music.

        Had a person with proper singing ability and a connection to the music be chosen, no one would say anything. This is not just about her not being Black… but also, I don’t remember salsa being big on the Motown label…

      • Louise177 says:

        @Yvette: Motown is a label founded by and for black people. It’s especially notable since it’s Black History Month. Diminishing what the label is to justify Jennifer’s performance is ridiculous. But another big reason for the backlash is that Jennifer has no connection to Motown. A white artist like Adele or Sam Smith wouldn’t receive half of the criticism because they can sing and do the style of music most people associate with Motown.

      • Today says:

        @Yvette. Motown started because Black music was stolen without credit. And now, J Lo, w her tanning creme, steals a black tribute.

    • Alissa says:

      mad at myself because my comment is supposed to say that she can’t sing and has no Motown influence in her music.

  2. Vanessa says:

    The Grammys should had Leon bridges instead of Jennifer Lopez the Grammy knows they really are irrelevant so they wanted to get attention. The Grammy could have properly honor Motown there are countless talent R&b singers out there

  3. Lucy2 says:

    Who on earth thought this was a good idea? She’s probably the last person who would come to mind for a Motown tribute. Why not have some true Motown artists (who can actually sing, not just lip sync to autotuned tracks) perform instead? Or a bunch of people from all different genres do their take on it?

    • kim says:

      i agree!! She will never turn down an opportunity for attention though. For Pete’s sake she ran to dr luke for that god awful mama song during the kesha trial. After that I was alll..jlo? I don’t know who she is.

  4. Lala11_7 says:

    Let me be succinct about Smokey Robinson…who my Mama, Aunt and her girls ran with back in the day…Smokey said what he said…because…well…how should I put this…he was not thinking with the head that’s on top of his shoulder…and ALL of Smokey’s women look like they could be relatives of Jennifer…and my Mama never stood a CHANCE with him…based on that Aunt? OH YEA…MY AUNT STOOD A CHANCE…WERKED THE HECK OUT OF IT TOO IN THE 70s…

    But I digress…

    Smokey was disrespectful to Black Women…but Smokey BEEN disrespectful to Black women for DECADES…and so was Jennifer…and so was the Grammy’s…and that’s ALL I have to say…ABOUT THAT!!!

    • BengalCat😻 says:

      I would love to have drinks with you and hear all about your family. Your mom sounds cool af!

    • Jerusha says:

      I still have my 45 of You Really Got a Hold on Me(1962)by the Miracles(not Smokey Robinson and …). They were great then. Success went to his head. Claudette was done wrong.

    • PhillyGal says:

      LALA 11_7 – I’d buy and read that book by your Aunt and Mom about their life in the 70’s.

    • Lala11_7 says:

      I’ve BEEN trying to get my Mama to write her life story…FOR YEARS!!!! Cause she got some TALES TO TELL! Her…my Aunts…my Mama’s best friends….all these…GLORIOUS…GORGEOUS…INTELLIGENT…SOPHISTICATED Black women who were attracted to men with power…like a moth to a flame…and mostly got out without getting burnt up!!! Just last night she was regaling me with her Teddy Pendergrass stories because of the MAGNIFICENT Showtime documentary about him that aired this weekend….and all I kept thinking to myself was…


      And one more thing about Teddy Pendagrass…cause I’m STILL IN A HAZE FROM WATCHING THAT…



      • Kitten says:

        Ok she NEEDS to make this happen. I would read the eff out of that book.

      • Mia says:

        Girrrrl I feel a hot flash coming on. I’m remembering seeing him in concert during the “Life is a Song Worth Singing” and “Come Go With Me”. I was in front row, that tall dark piece of Chocolate yassssssss.

      • holly hobby says:

        Maybe you can write it! Just do interviews with your mom and you can shape it into a book!

  5. Renee2 says:

    The reason that Motown existed was because Black singers/musicians couldn’t get deals or airplay on “mainstream” radio…it arose to combat the very real effects of systemic anti-Black discrimination. To gloss over this fact, and to do it during Black History Month, is a true affront. Nevermind the fact that she can’t even sing.

    Jennifer “All Lives Matter” Lopez solidified her career around her second album by dueting with numerous Black rappers and affiliating herself and with so-called urban music so I am always interested to hear how she speaks on issues of race and representation, which is that she usually does not. In this instance it is disappointing that she failed to position herself as an ally. Given the long history of the music industry exploiting the talents and cultural production of Black artists she could have sat this one out but I guess her ego got the better of her.

  6. RBC says:

    It was a bad idea to have her perform the Motown tribute, but it certainly gave Jlo something she always craves: Attention
    She knew actually what the reaction would be to her performing. “Nancy Pelosi SOTU clap”

  7. AnnaKist says:

    Oh dear. JL is old enough, with life experience, and has been in th business long enough to know that sometimes, the more you say, the worse you look. Nothing she says now will swing it around.

    Yeah, Alicia Keys has also given me irrits for a long, long time.

  8. MS says:

    It looked like a crummy rendition you see on cruise ships. Just awful! There is no excuse for not picking a black artist who can actually sing.

  9. Eric says:

    Very Trumpian for Lopez to say that Berry Gordy and the show’s producers were “thrilled…”

    Everyone is saying so. I’ve heard. I’ve been hearing. I know all the best…

    Blah blah blah

  10. Barrett says:

    2 problems:

    1. Her in a Motown tribute?
    2. The hat!

  11. Leah says:

    It’s beside the point, but how she has the balls to do an entire performance knowing and not caring that she didn’t belong up there and so obviously lip sync most of it in front of rows of talented people requires a shamelessness i almost envy.

  12. Jerusha says:

    As far as I know Martha Reeves is still alive and kicking and we all know Gladys Knight is still in fantastic voice. Why not one of them? Oh, never mind, I know-no revealing outfits or prancing around with superfluous dancers. Glad I missed it and only saw clips of the atrocity.

  13. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    And her open mouth is fstupid.

  14. HK9 says:

    I stopped the video halfway through which sums up my feeling on this. Le sigh.

  15. EKT says:

    I find it a little ironic that various artists were preaching the entire night about how music is the universal experience that ties us all together regardless of race, gender, etc. and lets us all enjoy things together, and now we are berating people for not staying in their specific lane or box.

    • Happy_fat_mamma says:

      Hi EKT

      What happened during this tribute was not something we could “all enjoy together”, because 1) it excluded so many living artists who have a direct connection to Motown, and 2) it minimised the participation of Black artists in the tribute to a globally loved music label where Black artists are leaders.

      In any case, I for one usually enjoy J-Lo’s work, and I did not enjoy this. Not at all.

      • Mia says:

        I like J Lo as an entertainer but not for Motown. Now we see why she wasn’t asked to be apart of the Latin medley. When I think of Motown, I think of singers and class not a** wiggling. Dolly Parton had a tribute with country artist or lovers of country music, why couldn’t the same happen with Motown? I mean if there was a Metallica tribute, I wouldn’t expect for Rihanna or Beyonce to be involved.

      • lucy2 says:

        Well said.

    • Ann says:

      I know you thought this comment was insightful when you type it. But it’s the polar opposite.

  16. DiegoInSF says:

    Days later? It was Sunday night, it’s only Tuesday morning. This makes it seem also like she defended herself just now, the ET interview was just after her performance. I find it telling that the attacks against her on twitter have been extremely mysoginistic and racist. So much about music bringing everyone together.

    • Lboogi says:

      I think you’ve missed what many are saying. This is not simply “Jlo isn’t Black, so this is horrible”. It’s even talked about in the post. Her inclusion would be weird and inappropriate even if she was just one of many; because she has never ever ever had any Motown connection in her music. She used hip hop and r&b to get popular and then moved on to mainstream pop and latin. She never even looked back at the hip hop style she did in the beginning. Which, hey ok, that’s fine… and still leads to why her for the entirety of a Motown tribute? Not only are there plenty of Motown artist still alive, there are talented White, Black, Asian, and Latino(x) artist who would’ve been a much better fit for a Motown Tribute.

      Saying people are just being racist is dismissive of the real issue.

  17. Totally old says:

    JLO looked horrible. She is desparately fighting against aging and it only makes it worse. But the hat and the frosted lipstick with the mouth open waiting to catch flies is the absolute worst I’ve ever seen her. I can’t say enough how ridiculous she looked. Anyone notice the 2nd pic above where it looks like the speaker from the gramophone is sitting on that monstrosity of hat. Hell the entire gramophone could have fit on that ugly af hat. I won’t even comment about her totally misstep in singing the Motown tribute. She royally effed up.

  18. livealot says:

    Like someone stated. Let CIARA due a Selena tribute at the Latin Grammys and see how well that would go over.

    Everyone wants to be black but no one wants to be black. I blame the black men who agreed to this as much as I blame Jlo.

    And why is it always the group that experiences no prejudice of any kind shouting “ I don’t see color”. “Racism doesn’t exist”. “Music is colorless”. It’s no different than white men having a say about childbirth. YOU. CAN. NOT. RELATE.

  19. Cranberry says:

    Instead of Alisha Keys doing her double piano medley rendition, they should have expanded that into the Motown tribute with other singers and muscicians, black and white. It would have been such an easy fix, and it would have probably cost the same or less than JLo big dance act.

    To me this seems like a nice little paycheck for JLo. There was no reason for her to be there aside from presenting. The other tributes were appropriate. Aretha Franklin’s was a simple trio that blew the roof off.

    The producers thought they needed a bigger star power than just Alisha Keys for ratings. But JLohas to be the main feature because she’s JLo. They had to make her fit into the show cause there was no other reason for her to be there except for ratings. So they gave her the entire M tribute. Really stupid.
    Yes you want big performers to pay tribute to Motown, but if they make no sense then the tribute is lost. It’s diminished. They already had Keys. Just having her do a solo tribute would have been better than then the fiasco makes-no-sense-JLo-tribute.

  20. Cine says:

    quick poll: who here thinks jennifer lopez says ‘no’ to ANY gig ?

  21. Ms. Petit says:

    I worked for J Lo’s record company when she first started her “singing” career. My job was to get airplay at radio stations for her music. It was well known at the record label that she couldn’t sing, or barely hold a tune. I’d have radio stations want to have her perform at their various shows and the company line was that she was too busy with her film career to do them. That may have been partly true, but back at that time there was no way she could perform live.

  22. Mar says:

    She’s so corny IMHO

  23. Pandy says:

    Example #1: ARod.
    Yeah, we get it.

  24. Mandy says:

    I am a white woman. JLo is all about JLo wheneva whereva all ways. full stop. does she have time to be a mama between dance moves? She is only promoting herself 24/7. The Motown Tribute fiasco was such a horrible decision by the Grammy producers and yes, she should have turned it down but her massive ego would never say no to the JLo show. It was The JLo Show.

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