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Jennifer Lopez Responds to Motown Tribute Criticism: “You Can’t Tell People What to Love”

Jennifer Lopez is defending herself against criticism of her Motown tribute at the 2019 Grammys. At the award show on Feb. 10, the singer performed a medley in honor of the record label’s 60th anniversary, which included iconic songs like “Dancing in the Street,” “Do You Love Me,” and “My Girl.” While Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo, and Alicia Keys also joined Lopez on stage, Grammy producers faced criticism that a more fitting performer could have been chosen to lead the tribute given Motown’s impact on black history and culture.

“Any type of music can inspire any type of artist.”

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight following the show, Lopez said, “The thing about music is that it inspires all. Any type of music can inspire any type of artist.” She added, “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.”

Describing the performance as a “dream come true,” Lopez also explained that she grew up listening to Motown releases with her mom. “It was for my mom. I could cry. It’s such a good moment,” she said. “Singing up there with Smokey Robinson, like, I gotta pinch myself. I grew up on all those songs, and because my mom loved him so much, she passed him on to us.”

Though Lopez acknowledged the performance was met with some backlash, she said Motown founder Berry Gordy was “thrilled.” The label’s official Instagram account also shared a photo of the tribute with the caption, “A performance to remember.” Lopez said, “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them. But for some people, [it wasn’t], and that’s okay. I’m just very humbled and honored to be able to have sung those songs.”

As for Robinson, he seemed to be having none of the criticism. In an interview with Variety at a pre-Grammys gala on Feb. 9, the singer and former Motown vice president said, “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset. I think anyone who is upset is stupid.” Robinson also argued that Lopez was a good fit given her background “growing up in her Hispanic neighborhood.” He added, “Motown was music for everybody. Everybody.”