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A Frankie Tale

Black America Cancels "Jenny From The Block" over 2019 Grammy Motown Tribute

Often times we are so passionate about the things we believe in, we allow it to cloud our judgment. From perception to reality, we are all highly-opinionated beings. Once we witness the power of voicing our opinion, our perspective becomes our reality of what is correct. These are my very sentiments to the current state of "Black affairs." in pop culture; particularly in Hollywood. More specifically the cultural misappropriation we are so quick to proclaim and toss around through the world of entertainment. This ideology that only black folks can do or accomplish certain things, and heed to offense when not in the "black favor."

Take J'Lo's 2019 Motown Tribute for example. Oh my goodness, can you say backlash!? Critics questioned why Jennifer Lopez was tasked to lead the Motown tribute at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, but the 49-year-old singer wasn’t having it. Lopez’s tribute had the Bronx-born singer performing hits like “Dancing in the Street,” “Do You Love Me,” “Money (That’s What I Want),” “Please Mr. Postman” and "My Girl."

According to People Magazine, "Many Twitter users were quick to criticize Lopez’s participation in the Motown tribute on Sunday, calling for black performers to honor the genre that was launched by Gordy with artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips and The Temptations.."

However, despite the backlash, memes, and critics, after her amazing, high-energy performance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, she defended her connection to Motown in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

She spoke about dedicating the tribute to her mother Lupe, who raised her on this era of music. She went on to put an end to the nay-sayers by reminding us that music is for all to enjoy, regardless of where we are from or what we look like; music is universal.

“The thing about music is that it inspires all. Any type of music can inspire any type of artist. 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.”

J'Lo's tribute was a spectacle to say the least. (But what show of hers isn't, like for reeal...???) She even brought a few legends in music to join her on-stage for this memorable and historical moment. Motown Recording Artist Ne-Yo on the keys, The Host of the evening Alicia Keys with some vocals, and of course Motown's very own green-eyed handsome Legend Smokey Robinson joined her to sing "My Girl", by the Temptations. I could only imagine how exhilarating that moment must have been. To sing alongside one of the OG's of this prominent organization.

The passion behind her love for music shows and penetrates through the screen as she spoke with ET for this exclusive interview. Lopez was so emotional, she was barely able to get her words out. But as she did, she provided insight on the influence Motown had on her as a child, and to be frank, that is very relate-table. She even went as far as elaborating why she dedicated this tribute to her mother.

“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. I grew up with this music and me and my sisters, the three of us, we were, like, the backups. We were The Temptations and we just sing with her and I feel it’s a dream come true.”

So many people from all over the world were inspired by Motown, so pardon me for not sympathizing nor agreeing as to being upset with her involvement. This is the MECCA of MUSIC, to touch and influence GLOBALLY. Meaning regardless of color, age, culture, background, political views, etc.- music is a language with no barriers. So whereas I can UNDERSTAND Black America's discernment and disapproval, I cannot say "they" did not choose the right person for the job.

Now, here's my flip coin argument, why was she the headline? Don't get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE J'LO! (FUN FACT: she is actually my favorite artist of all time following Micheal Jackson due to her multi-talents; her spirit truly resonates with me.) BUT what I cannot get to understand is- why a soulful singer or even ALICIA KEYS herself was NOT granted with the opportunity to headline for the tribute? Or even better, why was this not a collaborative effort of multiple black artists, even if it meant keeping J'LO to bring some zest with her outrageously great dance skills. Some say because Hollywood likes to white-wash the culture, and that is indeed a fair assessment. But let's dig a little deeper.

Personally, I don't think they could have chosen a better performer than J'LO. It's one thing to be a soulful singer, which J'Lo is NOT, by any means. But it's a whole-nother thing to PUT ON A SHOW! As a dancer, let me tell you- YOU ARE ALWAYS GASPING FOR AIR during a performance. We (the dance community) have a saying to dance your hardest for showtime and that is called "FULL OUT." Do you know how difficult it is to not pass out while performing before 100's of 1000's of people!? The adrenaline and passion just pours out, taking over your whole body. Now add some vocals on top of that, surrounded by blaring speakers- this is talent at it's finest.

If I had to defend the Grammy's board (whoever the hell makes these outrageously secret decisions) as to why J'LO was chosen to be the Motown Tribute headliner, I would say it is for this very reason: she can put on a SHOW and go beyond the brink of just singing songs well! But is that sustainable? Is that a good enough argument as to why other acts were not considered?

Honestly, the only other person that comes to mind who can remotely match up to this type of talent is Janet Jackson, and she was not even present at the Grammy's. She's typically very M.I.A. So who else could have done it better? Am I going to sit here upset because Jennifer Lopez wasn't "BLACK ENOUGH" to pull this off? Am I offended because she wasn't soulful?

The answer is no, none of the above. I will however defend that I don't think her SOLE involvement was the best choice either. I appreciated her looks, choreography, and even homage to salsa music as she performed a small Salsa dance number. But this could have

definitely been better received with more BLACK FACES present.

To be candid, some of Motown's legends who are STILL ALIVE, could have been selected for this. Diana Ross had her very own Grammy moment, but that energy could have been re-allocated for the Motown tribute, as she herself was a Motown Records Artist. Same for Stevie Wonder, who if I may add, ranks in history as #6 of the Top 10 Most Grammy-Winning Artists, with a whopping total of 25 Grammy Awards. THAT would have been a {REAL] tribute.

But don't get it twisted, I think with JLo headlining this tribute, there is a much bigger message here. One I have been preaching for years, as it pertains to the infusion of cultures for a greater good. Keep reading....

Jenny from the block is a great representation of diversity and bridging the gap between Black and Latin American ideals. However, in the eyes of Black America, her involvement in this tribute only further deviates from the black agenda and provides a misrepresentation of the culture. Regardless of how amazingly talented she is, using her as the face to pay tribute to a historical organization who's mission is to provide PEOPLE OF COLOR opportunities to explore the world of music, was not only not well received, but it was perhaps not the wisest decision from the Grammy planning board. So I can empathize with the feeling of discernment, as it pertains to the message that may come across.

As a Latina myself, I am always so excited to see mis hermana's winning. Though our cultures may vary, when one of us makes it, we all feel like we have. And of course, with J'Lo being in my TOP 5 Favorite Hollywood stars of all time, I was thrilled at her involvement. You know who else was thrilled? Motown producer Berry Gordy, as well as producers of the awards show. According to Jen, they were literally “thrilled” about her involvement. “They know how much I have been influenced by that music and so it was a natural fit for them.”

Now I wouldn't go as far as agreeing that it was "natural," as in she was "naturally" the best fit, NO! But I am a big believer in your accomplishments will open doors for you. I will argue that her ability to sing, dance, and impersonate simultaneously led her to this opportunity. (Shout out to her break-out film where she did EXACTLY THIS: Selena.)

Do I think the Grammy's missed their mark by NOT including [MORE] Black, SOULFUL ACTS? Absolutely! Perhaps this is an act of white-washing, but we can always change the narrative by sending a bigger message:

Jennifer Lopez's involvement in headlining for the Motown Tribute shows just how far we've come from Martin Luther King Jr's dream. It's a reminder that there is beauty in unity, collaboration and diversity, and that no matter will always be what brings us together.

Furthermore, as a fan of conducting yourself with class and of course as a fan of JLo herself, I am so glad Jennifer was so graceful and humble in her approach as she responded to the backlash. It only further proves that her love lies in the music and performing. Quite frankly, we as fans of the art, should be more supportive of these strides. To be honest, I would't be mad if Madonna was selected to do this either, music is music and legends are legends. JLo deserved this and she DELIVERED!

What are your thoughts?

Do you think JLo's 2019 Motown Tribute

was an attempt to White-wash

Black History and Culture?

This is #aFrankieTale...get a peek inside my head!

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