Madonna takes heat for self-serving tribute to Aretha Franklin at VMAs
Madonna's tribute to the late Aretha Franklin at MTV's VMAs on Monday turned out, for many, to be full of 'D-i-s-r-e-s-p-e-c-t."
The one-time pop star was there to present the award video of the year and honor the Queen of Soul, but her speech turned out to be more about Madonna than Franklin.
Madonna began by telling the audience, "Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life." But from there, the speech went into how she — Madonna, not Aretha — came to New York and broke into the business. She said while on an audition for a backup singing gig with a French disco producer she was asked to sing and chose "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," one of Franklin's signature tunes. She sang it a cappella.
Madonna went on (still about herself), saying said she didn't end up getting that job, but that the producers called her and told her she had a "rawness" about her. She ended up going to Paris and … well, Madonna went on more about herself and her career.
Minutes into her speech, the Material Girl finally got to what was supposed to be the meat of her tribute: "So. You are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story. There is a connection, because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul. She lead me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight. In this room tonight. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Long live the queen."
Of course, she added even more about herself — a story from the 1984 VMAs and a wardrobe malfunction.
The critical responses have not been kind.
This ain't about Aretha at all. #VMAs— Felonious Munk (@Felonious_munk) August 21, 2018
this just goes to show. just because you surround yourself with black people doesn't mean you understand what it means to show respect and compassion towards our community. @MTV knew better and so did Madonna. Aretha deserved better. #VMAs— lisa baye. (@callherlisa) August 21, 2018
That was such an awkward tribute to Aretha Franklin. I was hoping Madonna would talk a liiiiiiiitle less about herself and more about Aretha but idk lol ♀️ ♀️— Kathleen Lights (@KathleenLights1) August 21, 2018
Madonna presents an Aretha Franklin tribute by Madonna featuring Madonna with Madonna and Madonna as "Madonna"— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) August 21, 2018
Enough‼️ Be mad at me if you want. But, we as a nation ... must stop letting #Madonna do the tributes to great black music legends. First there was that Billboard debacle to Prince. And NOW ... Madonna babbling about Madonna, in that faux #MTVVMAS " #Aretha tribute". #nomore— Arsenio Hall (@ArsenioHall) August 21, 2018
Aretha watching Madonna's tribute to her from heaven .... pic.twitter.com/fuMkCCf1AT— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 21, 2018
For the record, I LOVE Madonna. I'm a huge fan. She just shouldn't be anywhere near Aretha. She shouldn't be Aretha adjacent.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) August 21, 2018
Madonna did the tribute speech for Aretha Franklin. Madonna did the tribute performance for Prince. Madonna did the tribute speech for Michael Jackson...why? Who keeps thinking its a good idea to hire Madonna to eulogize Black artists who have passed away?— LEFT⚫️ (@LeftSentThis) August 21, 2018
To be fair, not everyone was a hater.
You want to go the lowest of the low? Trashing @Madonna for speaking about her connection with Aretha, her muse. People are pure trash. Madonna is a humanitarian and helped people around the globe. What have you done? #Madonna #VMAs— Albie (@_MANDONNA_) August 21, 2018
After all that, the video of the year award ended up going to Camila Cabello. (In case you were wondering.)