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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Jenny's Gentrification

Who doesn’t love Jennifer Lopez a.k.a. “Jenny from the block”? Over the years, she has served us kick-ass dance moves, flawless red carpet looks and not to mention some pretty good romantic comedies. So, we all know the “I’m Real” singer is a one of a kind entertainer. But it’s been four days and I still can’t figure out why J. Lo was the choice to give the Motown tribute.

It was a slap in the face, no less. The history of Motown deserved to at least have someone within the same genre celebrating its 60th anniversary. Was Mary J. Blige out of the country? Did Kelly Price have a prior engagement? Did anyone try to call Ashanti or Ciara? Hey, how about Diana Ross (Miss Motown) and Fantasia since they were right there in the building?!

Instead, we get a shared introduction with J. Lo and Smokey Robinson (Mr. Motown) and he doesn’t even perform. What was the ten second side-step from Alicia Keys for? The piano playing by Ne-Yo? They each were relegated to mere cameos and it was insulting.

How can one woman manage to completely gentrify Detroit’s pride and joy? Well, she did it. She certainly did it.

Whew, chile. It was even more uncomfortable to watch than the horror on Berry Gordy’s face during the performance. From the feather boas and body suit to the salsa dancing, it was confusing.

Let’s be clear. This was not a bad performance. We all know J. Lo can put it down with the best of them. But her as the headliner and singular tribute to the timelessness of Motown music? Not okay.

For a Motown tribute, there wasn’t much Motown about it except the songs by black artists that J. Lo obviously lip-synched to. Smokey Robinson defended her by saying that “Motown is not just for black people.” Really, Smokey? We do know this sir.

Berry Gordy’s always been very clear that he created the Motown sound for everyone to enjoy and one of those people was J. Lo’s Mama who played Motown records in her living room. In a post-show interview, Lopez told E! “I grew up on all those [Motown] songs… My mom loved them so much.”

Of the ten songs, J. Lo “sang”, all but one was by a black artist (“Square Biz” by Teena Marie), and yet the black artists performing were reduced to quick duets. Poor Ne-Yo, a three-time Grammy Award winner who is currently signed to Motown, sang half a song and didn’t even get up from his piano.

I am all about inclusion. J. Lo has just as much right to enjoy and appreciate Motown as anyone else. I still feel some type of way with her being headlined to celebrate the legacy of such an iconic black music label.

I’m also hyper-aware that we are in a time when diversity and inclusion matters most. However, this was not the time to push forward that narrative. We wanted to be transported back to the days of soul-stirring Motown. It's legacy deserved better. The artists that represented this one of a kind name deserved better. The fans deserved better! What we got was Jenny’s Las Vegas show. Not okay.

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