Chatter around one of the most eyebrow-raising performances of the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night began before the show did. Criticism of Jennifer Lopez performing a Motown tribute at the Grammys was piling up quickly when, on Sunday afternoon, Motown legend Smokey Robinson defended Lopez, claiming, “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset.” Now, Lopez is taking a gentler approach to defending her performance and, in the process, explaining her motivations for doing the gig.
Backstage at the Grammys, Lopez spoke with Entertainment Tonight, first explaining who her Motown tribute performance was for. “It was for my mom. I could cry. It’s such a good moment. It’s just a dream come true,” Lopez said, also telling ET she and her mother apparently shared a love of Motown when she was growing up. For Lopez, it would seem that it doesn’t matter if the tribute wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, nor did it matter if everyone thought she was a solid choice; she was only ever performing for her mom.
Lopez also went on to explain just how important her tribute co-performer, Robinson, was to her growing up. “Singing up there with Smokey Robinson, like, I gotta pinch myself,” she recalled. “I grew up on all those songs and because my mom loved him so much she passed him on to us.”
— V Magazine (@vmagazine) February 11, 2019
Lopez broadened her comments a bit, going on to explain just how music connects us all and that, much like the Motown tribute, we don’t have to like every genre in order to appreciate the art form: “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 also noted that both the Recording Academy and legendary Motown producer Berry Gordy gave their thumbs up for Lopez performing the tribute, saying they were “thrilled” she signed on.
Jennifer Lopez was amazing tonight. Take that haters!@JLo proved once again she can dance, sing and keep going. We celebrate #Motown with her. I grew up near Detroit and Motown is in my soul. #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/R54aqLqk39
— Rebecca Aguilar (@RebeccaAguilar) February 11, 2019
Previously, critics of the selection of Lopez claimed that she had no blatant connection to Motown. Others have noted that choosing Lopez to perform over a Black singer who has roots in soul, Motown or similar genres felt like a cheat for viewers excited about the tribute. Perhaps the decision and its subsequent backlash has opened up the door for further consideration about how the Grammys should structure tributes, but we also hope that Lopez had a good time performing, because she definitely gave it her all.