Original Air Date April 21, 2019: Cedric the Entertainer and Smokey Robinson host this musical celebration honoring Motown Records’ 60th birthday.
The tribute to the iconic sound that changed America features appearances by Boyz II Men, Chloe X Halle, Ciara, Lamont Dozier, Fantasia, Brian and Eddie Holland, Thelma Houston, Tori Kelly, John Legend, Little Big Town, Ne-Yo, Smokey Robinson, Pentatonix, Jennifer Lopez (Jlo), Martha Reeves, Diana Ross, Valerie Simpson, Mickey Stevenson, Meghan Trainor and Stevie Wonder.
The live concert recording was held Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. PT at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, just two days after Music’s Biggest Night, the 61st GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 10, 2019.
Smokey Robinson performances were focused and controlled as he weaved his sultry vocals through classics he wrote including “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Ooh Baby Baby,” chief among them. Producers aim for vocal-chemistry magic when they pair artists form different genres or generations, and the union of Robinson and a cappella stars Pentatonix on “Shop Around” provided one of the show’s highlights.
Little surprise that Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder provided show-stopping moments, though it was a bit of jaw-dropper when Thelma Houston, a Motown veteran from the disco era, vigorously delivered “Don’t Leave Me This Way” to close out a girl group medley highlighted by Meghan Trainor’s letter-perfect “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
As always happens in these tribute shows, viewers learn how hard it can be to top the bar set by an icon. As studied performances go, John Legend’s straightforward approach to Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (‘s The Ecology)” and “What’s Going On” was spot-on, though it lacked the original’s ease of delivery. Ciara’s take on Rick James was devoid of James’ trademark libidinal nastiness.
ALL COMMERCIALS EDITED OUT
Total Duration 1 Hour 24 Minutes