Jennifer Lopez, who led a Motown tribute at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards Sunday, responded to critics who reprehended the show's producers for not having an African-American performer headline that homage to the traditionally black music company.
"The thing about music is that [it] inspires," Lopez, 49, told "Entertainment Tonight" almost immediately after her performance, for which she was joined at various points by Grammys host Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo and Motown legend Smokey Robinson, who performed his composition "My Girl" with Lopez.
"Any type of music can inspire any type of artist," Lopez continued. "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've got to do what's in your heart." She said Motown founder Berry Gordy, who attended the awards, "was so thrilled that I was doing this" and that the producers knew "how much I've been influenced by that music. And so it was a natural for them, but maybe some people didn't know. That's OK. But I'm just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs."
She dedicated the tribute to her mother, Guadalupe Rodríguez, telling "ET" that, "My mom … used to have us in the living room, dancing and singing, and singing up there with Smokey Robinson. … I grew up on all those songs."
Before the performance, Songwriters Hall of Famer Robinson, 78, lambasted Lopez's critics, telling Variety, "I don't think anyone who is intelligent is upset. Y'know? I think anybody who's upset is stupid."
He added, "Motown was music for everybody. Everybody. Y'know what I mean? So that just says that Jennifer Lopez, growing up in her Hispanic neighborhood … loved Motown, how can we beat that? Who's stupid enough to protest Jennifer Lopez doing something for Motown?"
Criticism of Lopez began shortly after a Grammys commercial aired on CBS on Feb. 4, announcing she would star in a tribute celebrating Motown's 60th anniversary. "So Beyoncé bout to do a tribute at the Latin Grammys," one Twitter commenter riposted satirically.
Other critics were more pointed. The Afrocentric online magazine The Root said Monday that Lopez "can put on a show and has the stamina to last multiple performances, but the one thing we've grown to enjoy most about her is her ability to stay in her lane — and last night, she … turned that Motown tribute into a Vegas residency, and we were not amused."
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GRAMMY RATINGS UP SLIGHTLY. A more diverse lineup of performers and award winners helped stabilize the audience level for the Grammy Awards, delivering a slight ratings bump for CBS, reports the Los Angeles Times. Sunday night’s telecast of the annual music industry prizes presented by the Recording Academy bucked the trend of declining audiences for TV awards shows, growing up 0.5 percent over last year to 19.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.