Why was Jennifer Lopez representing black music history at the Grammys? (Column)

It’s only February, and 2019 already has been a tough year for star-studded A-list events. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had to scramble to fill a job nobody wanted after Kevin Hart stepped down as Oscar host amid controversy over his homophobic past on social media. The NFL found itself in a similar position while planning its halftime show due to its shoddy treatment of Colin Kaepernick over his kneel-in protest to racism in the U.S.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences have had its share of rough times this year, too. Ariana Grande bowed out of performing at the Grammys and boycotted the ceremony entirely over a showdown with the event’s producers over which song she would perform. And according to reports, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) all declined to perform, allegedly due to the Grammys’ recent history of not rewarding black performers in the big categories.

The Recording Academy has fielded charges of racism for years, and as with AMPAS, the response has been to ramp up the diversity of its voting community. For the 2019 show, the Grammys tried to show its appreciation of black music history as well as contemporary black music artistry with its 60th-anniversary tribute to Motown, the record label that put black music and black performers on the pop map.

So why did they go and make it basically a showcase for Jennifer Lopez? She joined Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo, and 2019 Grammy host Alicia Keys for a medley of some of Motown’s greatest hits, but Lopez was given the largest portion of the segment and became its de facto headliner.

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Jennifer Lopez's motown tribute at 2019 Grammys
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Jennifer Lopez's motown tribute at 2019 Grammys
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Ne-Yo and Jennifer Lopez performance onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson perform onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson perform onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez and Smokey Robinson perform onstage at the 61st annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez (L) and Smokey Robinson perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez (C) performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
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The temptation to go with Lopez likely had everything to do with ratings. She’s a huge superstar, and also the center of one of Grammys’ most memorable moments this century. (Remember the plunging green dress?) But where is the R-E-S-P-E-C-T in so heavily featuring a white Latina performer in a tribute to a record label that was dedicated to grooming black talent when blacks were still relegated to the back of the bus, in life and in entertainment?

Gladys Knight, who was just unanimously praised for her performance of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, was signed to the Motown label in the ’60s along with the Pips. In fact, they had a massive hit with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” before Marvin Gaye made it iconic.

Social media slammed the 74-year-old singer for daring to cross the symbolic picket line by performing at the Super Bowl, but featuring her in the Motown tribute would have been a way for the Recording Academy to show that it knows and appreciates black music history. (Both the Super Bowl and the Grammys aired on CBS, so there was no conflict of interest there.)

As criticism mounted, Smokey Robinson defended Lopez’s involvement. “I don’t think anyone who is intelligent is upset,” he told Variety. “I think anyone who is upset is stupid.

“Motown was music for everybody. Everybody,” he said, also suggesting that growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood (the Bronx) gives her black cred. “Who’s stupid enough to protest Jennifer Lopez doing something for Motown?”

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Inside the 2019 Grammy Awards
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Inside the 2019 Grammy Awards
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Miley Cyrus backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dolly Parton (L) and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Travis Scott (L) and Kylie Jenner backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Michelle Obama (L) and Lady Gaga during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Alicia Keys performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Lady Gaga (L) and Cardi B during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Wilmer Valderrama (L) and Bebe Rexha (C) pose for a photo during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Katy Perry (L) and Shawn Mendes backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Post Malone during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Alicia Keys speaks onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith,, Michelle Obama, and Jennifer Lopez speak onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Shawn Mendes performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Mark Ronson (L) and Diplo with the GRAMMY Charities Signings during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Drake backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Noah Cyrus (L) and Lady Gaga during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Kelsea Ballerini (L) and Anna Kendrick during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dan Smyers (L) and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Cardi B performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Shawn Mendes performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Kacey Musgraves, Grammy winner for Best Country Album, speaks onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Lady Gaga backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Miley Cyrus, Shawn Mendes and Karen Mendes backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly celebrate backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Cardi B performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Miley Cyrus (L) and Shawn Mendes perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Tracee Ellis Ross during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Maren Morris, Katy Perry, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, Dolly Parton, Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet, Miley Cyrus, and Kacey Musgraves perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Kane Brown, Meghan Trainor, and Luke Combs speak onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Maren Morris, Katy Perry and Jimi Westbrook perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Ricky Martin and Camila Cabello perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Lady Gaga accepts award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: H.E.R. performs onstge during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Cardi B (L), winner of Best Rap Album for 'Invasion of Privacy,' and Offset pose backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: John Mayer (L) and Alicia Keys speak onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jada Pinkett Smith (L) and Kylie Jenner backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys, Michelle Obama, and Jennifer Lopez speak onstage during backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Katy Perry, Dolly Parton and Kacey Musgraves perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Post Malone performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Noah Cyrus (L) and Lady Gaga during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dua Lipa backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Daryl Sabara (L) and Meghan Trainor backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: BTS backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dolly Parton (L) and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Post Malone perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Miley Cyrus (L) and Noah Cyrus pose during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Janelle Monáe performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Host Alicia Keys speaks onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Miley Cyrus (L) and Shawn Mendes perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: H.E.R. accepts the Best R&B Album award for 'H.E.R.' onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Diana Ross performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Brandi Carlile performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Chloe Bailey (L) and Halle Bailey of Chloe x Halle perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: St. Vincent (R) and Dua Lipa perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: St. Vincent (R) and Dua Lipa perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Cardi B during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Lady Gaga during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Travis Scott performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez (L) and Smokey Robinson perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: John Mayer (L) and Alicia Keys speak onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dua Lipa (C) accepts the Best New Artist award onstage from Alessia Cara and Alessia Cara during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Miley Cyrus (L) and Jaden Smith during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Alessia Cara (L) and Bob Newhart speak onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Diana Ross (c), her family, Eve and Swizz Beatz backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Dua Lipa backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Jennifer Lopez (C) performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Kelsea Ballerini backstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, and Andra Day perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Cardi B (L) and Offset accept the Best Rap Album for 'Invasion of Privacy' onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
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With all due respect to Robinson, a singer-songwriter who was one of the chief architects of the Motown legend, dismissing all critics of the Motown line-up as “stupid” is not a sign of high intellect. It’s not so much that Lopez was included as that she was featured more heavily than any of the other participants. She got six songs and two minutes and 47 seconds, compared to one song and 42 seconds for Robinson, three songs and one minute and 18 seconds for Keys, and one song and one minute and 34 seconds for Ne-Yo.

Why not pay tribute to Motown by paying tribute to Motown artists, too? Robinson was the only performer in the segment with deep ties to the label.

Many of Motown’s leading stars are no longer with us, but Stevie Wonder, who famously saved Madonna when Billboard inexplicably chose her to pay tribute to Prince at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, is alive and still kicking. So are Motown talents spanning multiple music generations: Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Erykah Badu, 98 Degrees, India.Aire, and the Supremes’ Mary Wilson.

Diana Ross, also formerly of the Supremes, got her own 75th-birthday tribute at the Grammys, but as one of Motown’s greatest and most-enduring alumni, she would have been a much better fit to headline the medley than Lopez. The Grammys had the opportunity to recreate a little bit of the magic of 1984’s “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever,” but the Recording Academy squandered it.

To be fair, spotlighting Lopez in the Motown tribute isn’t in the same league as the NFL inviting a white act, Maroon 5, to headline the Super Bowl halftime show in Atlanta, in the midst of racism controversy. Georgia’s capital has such a significant black population, and it’s associated with numerous black music superstars, including Usher, TLC, and Toni Braxton. Yet, Maroon 5 got the gig and Adam Levine was allowed to bare his nipples, the body part that led to the blacklisting of Janet Jackson after Justin Timberlake accidentally revealed hers on live television during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

Janet Jackson might have been too close to the Michael Jackson “Leaving Neverland” controversy for the Recording Academy’s  comfort, but considering that February is Black History Month, the Grammys should have aimed blacker than Lopez when training its Motown spotlight. There are other tributes worthy of J. Lo as the headliner, but this one, a celebration of a record label that was dedicated to celebrating black talent when few other labels cared, deserved a black talent as its star.

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Grammys 2019: Best dressed of the night
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Grammys 2019: Best dressed of the night
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Halle Bailey (L) and Chloe Bailey of Chloe X Halle attend the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Miley Cyrus attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Janelle Monáe attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Host US singer-songwriter Alicia Keys arrives for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
Singer Ashlee Simpson arrives for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Shawn Mendes attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Giuliana Rancic attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Kacey Musgraves attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
(L-R) Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough of US vocal group Backstreet Boys arrive for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Camila Cabello attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
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