Madonna gave no respect to the Queen of Soul — and viewers weren’t having it.
In the days since the death of Aretha Franklin, we’ve seen numerous moving tributes to her legacy, including Ariana Grande’s tremendous performance of “Natural Woman.” But Madonna’s attempt to pay her R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the Queen of Soul at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards was not among them.
Instead, Madonna made Franklin’s “tribute” primarily about Madonna, in an awkward, overlong speech that seemed to leave the audience slightly baffled, if not outright offended.
The actual references to Franklin in the meandering, self-aggrandizing speech were almost nonexistent, despite Madonna’s opening proclamation that “Aretha Franklin changed my life.”
What followed, though, was a rambling anecdote about being an aspiring star (complete with an aside about “getting robbed, held at gunpoint, and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third-floor walk-up that was a crack house”) that only came back around to Franklin as Madonna described (in a weird Russian accent) an early audition in which she wowed a couple of French auditors by singing “Natural Woman.” You can get a feel for the rambling nature of her speech below:
#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
“None of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul,” Madonna eventually said, seeming to suddenly recall why she was there as an image of a young Aretha Franklin loomed behind her in silent judgment.