Grammys: Jennifer Lopez Motown Tribute Sparks Backlash

Jennifer Lopez Performs Grammy - Getty - H 2019
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Lopez received criticism online for her participation in the celebration of the record label that was home to a number of iconic black artists.

Jennifer Lopez, accompanied by Smokey Robinson and Ne-Yo, sang and danced to some of Motown's most memorable songs at the 2019 Grammys.

But the Latina singer-actress was quickly criticized online for her leading role in the tribute to the historic black record label. 

The backlash Sunday night came after an ad earlier in the week promoting Lopez's participation in the tribute led to a smattering of criticism online, with people wondering why the tribute wasn't being led by a black artist.

Jemele Hill, Loni Love and #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign were among those who critiqued Lopez's involvement earlier in the week.

On Sunday night, after Lopez took the stage at the Grammys, a number of Twitter users wondered again why a black artist wasn't selected to honor Motown and questioned Lopez's connection to the label, with some pointing out that a black woman honoring Selena, the Tejano artist Lopez memorably played in the 1997 biopic, would generate a similar backlash.

The performance, a tribute to Motown ahead of a concert celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the influential record label, was introduced by Robinson and Grammys host Alicia Keys.

Throughout the Grammys, the performance was billed as coming from Robinson, Ne-Yo and Lopez, but it was clear during the moment itself that Lopez was the lead artist.

Robinson introduced Lopez, who then performed "Dancing in the Street" and "Please Mr. Postman" while sporting a black ensemble with white feathers and backed by a group of female dancers. A group of male dancers then took the stage as Lopez shed her black feathered outfit to reveal a skimpy, sparkly bodysuit during "Money (That's What I Want)." Lopez continued with "Do You Love Me?" and was joined by Robinson for a duet of one of the songs he wrote, "My Girl."

Keys then joined Lopez, with the latter this time adding a pink ruffled coat to her ensemble, for "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," before Lopez continued with "Square Biz" and Ne-Yo wrapped things up, while Lopez vamped atop his piano, with "Another Star."

Just days after the Grammys, Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater will be the site of a star-studded celebration of Motown's 60th anniversary, hosted by Robinson and Cedric the Entertainer. Performers set to participate in the Motown celebration include Boyz II Men, Chloe x Halle, Ciara, Lamont Dozier, Fantasia, Brian and Eddie Holland, Thelma Houston, Tori Kelly, John Legend, Little Big Town, Ne-Yo, Pentatonix, Martha Reeves, Diana Ross, Valerie Simpson, Mickey Stevenson, Meghan Trainor and Stevie Wonder. The concert, taking place Tuesday, is set to air on CBS on April 21.

Lopez thanked a number of Motown's best-known artists during her performance including Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Ross and The Supremes.

"We have all been so inspired by the writers, producers and artists who unified the world with their music," she said of the Motown roster, urging audience members to stand up for the label. "I am so grateful to be here tonight, humbled and honored."

At the end of her performance, Lopez dedicated it to her mother.

Motown Records was founded by Berry Gordy in 1959. The Detroit-based record label was home to artists like Robinson, The Temptations, Wonder, Ross, Michael Jackson and Gaye.