Madonna paid tribute to Aretha Franklin, and herself, at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday night, and made a lot of viewers angry in the process.
The 60-year-old singer took to the stage to present the award for Video of the Year and chose to honour the Queen of Soul in a lengthy speech which barely referenced the late soul legend who passed away last week at the age of 76.
“Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life,” Madonna said, explaining how Franklin’s 1967 hit “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” had helped her through an audition early in her career.
“I could see that they didn’t take me seriously, and why should they?” she said of the men she was auditioning for at the time. “Some skinny-a** white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived? A capella?”
She continued: “I said, ‘B***h, I’m Madonna.’ No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. Because I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was.”
The “Hung Up” hitmaker went on to talk about her path to pop stardom, before finishing, “I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Long live the queen.”
Many fans on social media were quick to call out Madonna’s tribute, criticizing the singer for focusing on her own accomplishments and not the life of Franklin.
“I thought Madonna was supposed to be paying homage to Aretha but all I heard was her paying homage to herself,” radio host Charlamagne Tha God tweeted.
This was a sentiment shared by a lot of other social media commenters.
Others slammed MTV for not having an artist of colour talk about Franklin’s legacy and the influence she had on them and fellow musicians.
Madonna later responded to the backlash on her Instagram account. The “Like A Prayer” singer posted a photo of herself with the Video of the Year award-winner Camila Cabello, who she congratulated on her victory, and explained her speech.
View this post on Instagram
Im with the Winner!! The beautiful @camila_cabello ! So proud of her! 🌈💕🎉. And just to clarify: I was asked to present video of the year by MTV! And then they asked me to share any anecdotes I had in my career connected to Aretha Franklin! I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way. I did not intend to do a tribute to her! That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment. Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T. 🙏🏼. I Love Camilla! Congrats! I LOVE my dress! AND. I love-L O V E!! ♥️ and there is nothing anyone can say or do that will change that. #vmas #postivevibes
She said that MTV asked her to present the award and then later asked her to share any anecdotes from her career connected to Franklin. “I did not intend to do a tribute to her!” Madonna wrote. “That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment.”
“Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T”