Jennifer Lopez’s presence alone just about guarantees a solid, show-stopping performance at any show, but that doesn’t make it an appropriate choice, especially when Motown is involved. She’s received hefty criticism as the choice performer for the Grammys’ Motown tribute, in which she sang “My Girl,” alongside Smokey Robinson, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” with Alicia Keys, “Another Star” with Ne-Yo, “Please Mr. Postman”, and “Money (That’s What I Want).”
Berry Gordy, who founded Motown Records in 1959 sat in the audience and according to Lopez, was “thrilled” with her involvement. During his tenure, Gordy signed some serious titans, including The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Commodores, the Velvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5. The twitter-sphere has rightfully suggested that Gladys Knight or Stevie Wonder would have been a far more suitable choice. Lopez furthered that, “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.” Smokey Robinson also came to her defense, saying, “Anyone who is upset is stupid.”
First, I resent being called stupid for making an extremely obvious-yet-important point. To quote one twitter user, “No doubt Latinos would be upset if they had a black soul singer doing a tribute to Latin music.” Additionally, while Motown lives in everyone’s heart, I find it distasteful to forgo using a black artist, especially during Black History Month. Have we learned NOTHING? Remember Emma Stone’s recent “I’m Sorry” exclamation about playing an Asian-American role in ‘Aloha?” Or how about Scarlett Johansson whitewashing ‘Ghost in a Shell?’ To say it’s simply about the art, is to demean the contribution of African American artists who represent the history of Motown. It’s whitewashing, and it’s extremely important to point out — NOT stupid. Finally, if you’re going to do a Motown tribute — at the very least — change up your standard “JLO.” I love a good leotard, and she can certainly rock it, but nothing about her performance suggested Motown. Nothing except the songs itself.