The MTV Video Music Awards were the first big awards show since Aretha Franklin passed away last week. So, naturally fans expected a tribute to the Queen of Soul.
Instead, what they got on Monday night’s show was a rambling speech from Madonna about her humble start as a singer, living in a crack house and being inspired by Franklin’s music.
Wearing a flowing black robe with African-inspired jewelry, the pop superstar delivered her awkward tribute just before presenting the video of the year award to Camila Cabello.
With a giant picture of Franklin behind her, Madonna spoke at length about her dream of becoming a performer, living in a “third-floor walk-up that was a crack house” and an audition where she performed Franklin’s iconic single (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
“Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life,” Madonna told the audience. “I left Detroit when I was 18 – 35 dollars in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer. After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to auditions for musical theater…”
Angry viewers took to Twitter to complain that the Queen of Pop spent more time talking about herself than the Queen of Soul.
Madonna responded to the criticism Tuesday in a statement on Instagram.
“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,” she wrote. “Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”
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
The Justify My Love singer’s statement came after angry viewers took her to task on social media during the VMAs.
“Aretha deserved better…That vma tribute was confusing, selfish and shameful,” one person tweeted
Aretha deserved better…That vma tribute was confusing, selfish and shameful 😒 pic.twitter.com/thoEZJedQL
— Bobbi 🌸 (@purple_devotion) August 21, 2018
Another person added: “MTV did Aretha wrong. That tribute or lack there of was straight trash.”
— Belinda 🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@belinda_tbh) August 21, 2018
“The Least y’all could have done was play a VIDEO montage of Aretha’s performances,” someone else wrote. “ I didn’t want to hear about Madonna’s come up.”
— Kahlia Trim (@kla_shanae) August 21, 2018
Franklin died Thursday at age 76, after battling pancreatic cancer. Her funeral service and public viewings will be held later this month in Detroit.
You can read more reactions to Madonna’s tribute below.
People are upset about Madonna's Aretha Franklin tribute at the VMA's 'cos it was basically all about her and not Aretha. Whatchu think? Here's a snippet
— Kenzy Vinco (@KenzyVinco) August 21, 2018
im tryna figure out why Madonna was chosen to honor Aretha. then made it her autobiography. #VMA
— Porsche (@porshh_toofly) August 21, 2018
How many people were holding their breath thinking Madonna was about to sing an Aretha Franklin song? #VMAs
— ShakariSBriggs (@ShakariSBriggs) August 21, 2018
I didn’t know Aretha Franklin was spelled M A D O N N A … wtf am I watching ? #VMA
— Ciara L. Lee (@Ciarallee) August 21, 2018
Really disgusted by Madonna's 'tribute' to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. I guess that's one more reason why Aretha will always be a Queen and Madonna was just a material girl. #QueenOfSoul #Aretha #VMA
— Trixie Love (@MissTrixieLove) August 21, 2018
Madonna graced the VMA stage looking like the back of Fred Sanford’s truck then paying tribute to herself instead if the one and only Aretha Franklin! Grrrrrl, take off that crown of junk and give The Queen of Soul her propers: RESPECT! #2018VMAs pic.twitter.com/dEHWiPQ0qG
— JudyTenuta (@JudyTenuta) August 21, 2018
Can we talk about Madonna's speech, honoring herself instead of Aretha Franklin, all while committing the worst case of cultural appropriation that I've seen? #MTVAwards #VMAs #VMAs2018 #VMA #madonna pic.twitter.com/DlYtNQSHU7
— Rose Alene (@rosehasse) August 21, 2018
— Dr. Petty Shabazz – M’baku (@EClareStewart_) August 21, 2018