Madonna has been slammed for using her tribute to the late Aretha Franklin at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards to speak about her own career and legacy. The Like A Prayer singer took the stage at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Monday, August 20, to present the award for Video of the Year and give a speech supposedly in honour of the Queen of Soul, who passed away last Thursday aged 76 following a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer.
But fans were left angered when Madonna put the focus of her rambling 10-minute speech on herself, scarcely referencing Aretha and instead focusing on how the famed icon intersected with her life as she struggled to break into the industry and “become Madonna”. “Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life,” the 60-year-old shared on stage against a black-and-white backdrop of the late singer. “I left Detroit when I was 18 with 35 dollars in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer after years of struggling and being broke.”
Madonna went on to recall a tense audition with a group of men in which she forgot her sheet music and started singing Aretha’s hit 1968 song You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman) to salvage the situation.
“The worst that can happen is I can go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint, and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third-floor walk-up that was also a crack house,” she continued about her decision to audition.
#VMAs: The Queen of Pop @Madonna pays tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin: “I want to thank you, Aretha for empowering all of us. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Long live the queen.” pic.twitter.com/ugdxbr48Gz
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) 21 August 2018
Finally, the Hung Up hitmaker returned to the task in hand, concluding: “(Franklin) led me to where I am today and I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight. I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. Long live the queen!” and referencing her iconic single Respect. But it was a little too late for some, who took to Twitter to air their grievances at the “disrespectful” tribute.
I’m so lost. I thought Madonna was supposed to be paying homage to Aretha but I all heard was her paying homage to herself. HEAVY on the Mayonnaise……
— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod) 21 August 2018
“I’m so lost. I thought Madonna was supposed to be paying homage to Aretha but all I heard was her paying homage to herself,” radio presenter Charlamagne Tha God wrote.
Madonna makes the life and works of Aretha Franklin (Queen of soul), about herself and her rise to fame. Heart was nowhere to be found, ego and privilege reigned supreme. #VMAshttps://t.co/ps98de9AKa
— Cynthia Erivo (@CynthiaEriVo) 21 August 2018
Actress Cynthia Erivo added, “Madonna makes the life and works of Aretha Franklin (Queen of soul), about herself and her rise to fame. Heart was nowhere to be found, ego and privilege reigned supreme. #VMAs.”
You do not disrespect an ICON like that. This is a jovial kiki about Madonna’s broken ass journey. You honor a legend by telling their story or SHUT UP. The AUDACITY.
— Nina Parker (@MzGossipGirl) 21 August 2018
Another viewer wrote, “You do not disrespect an ICON like that. This is a jovial kiki about Madonna’s broken a*s journey. You honor a legend by telling their story or SHUT UP. The AUDACITY.”