Jennifer Lopez Drives Fiat on Stage: Most Brazen Product Placement Ever?

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At the American Music Awards last night, Jennifer Lopez shed her clothes, strutted back and forth on stage in a nearly nude body suit, and simulated sex with the rapper Pitbull. But because the performance featured a Fiat 500 at center stage for no sensible reason, JLo probably won’t be remembered for being raunchy, but for being a sell-out.

Soon after Jennifer Lopez’s performance at the AMAs, in which the singer—and perhaps more importantly, shill for Fiat—lost most of her clothing and hopped behind the wheel of a new Fiat 500 in the middle of the stage, the critics piled on to bash the brazen, inexplicable product placement.

The Los Angeles Times called Lopez’s appearance “the most cringe-inducing, embarrassing performance of the night.” The critique had nothing to do with Lopez’s singing or dancing or wardrobe (or lack thereof):

It wasn’t that Lopez wasn’t really wearing any clothes, as audiences expect that nowadays. Instead, it was Lopez’s choice of an accessory, which in this case was a car.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog summed up the performance this way:

Jennifer Lopez’s set was basically a car ad crossed with a strip tease. And it was followed by her actual car ad for Fiat.

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Yahoo!’s Stop the Presses blog noted that some of Lopez’s peers also found the performance distasteful, strictly because of the product placement. John Legend tweeted:

That had to be the most shameless thing I’ve ever seen in a performance. I was genuinely shocked.

Questlove, of the Roots, tweeted:

Yo. I know I didn’t just see that dumb Fiat. I KNOW I didn’t just see that friggin’ Fiat.

By now, years after Britney Spears at the MTV Awards and Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl, the presence of nearly naked artists performing provocatively on stage and TV is ho-hum old news. Been there, ogled that. To get attention today, the most shocking thing you can do is insult the audience with brazenly overt marketing.

Last week, a particularly cranky column by the Chicago Tribune‘s Phil Rosenthal questioned the wisdom of pairing celebrities like Lopez with a car for the masses such as the Fiat 500. Rosenthal wondered:

Does anyone think Jennifer Lopez really drives her own car?

Do those who believe Jennifer Lopez drives her own car, really think she drives a Fiat 500?

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And hey, does anyone know how much Jennifer Lopez got paid to put a Fiat 500 on stage in front of a national TV audience?

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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