Madonna delivered a tribute to Aretha Franklin at the 2018 MTV VMAs on Monday night but her speech left some people thinking she gave more of a tribute to herself.
“Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life. I left Detroit when I was 18, $35 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,” Madonna begins.
She says she landed one audition where she decided at the last minute to sing a song by Franklin.
“I had to think fast, my next meal was on the line. Fortunately one of my favorite albums was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out ‘You Make Me Feel’… silence. ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.’ Two French guys nodded at me. I said, ‘You know, by Aretha Franklin,’ ” she continued. “They looked over at the pianist, he shook his head. ‘I don’t need sheet music,’ I said, ‘I know every word. I know the song by heart, I will sing it a cappella.’ I could see that they did not take me seriously — and why should they? Some skinny ass white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived? And a cappella … I said, ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna.’ No, I didn’t, I didn’t say that. ‘Cause I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was. I don’t know what I said, I don’t know what came over me.”
Madonna explained that she didn’t get the job but was offered the chance to record music in Paris with Giorgio Moroder. She accepted the offer but ultimately decided to return home to write her own music.
At the end of the story Madonna explains its significance to her saying “So you’re probably all wondering why I’m telling you this story. There’s a connection, because none of this would’ve happened — could’ve happened — without our lady of soul. She led 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.”
Afterward, Madonna tells another story about her 1984 performance of “Like a Virgin” at the VMAs, a story that had nothing to do with Franklin, before presenting Camila Cabello with Video of the Year.
The self-centered tribute caused social media to slam the pop star.
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) August 21, 2018
Im sorry, I love Madonna…but her telling a 5 minute story about herself was not the right time to honor Aretha Franklin. Wow….. So shocked. #vmas
— Isis King (@MsIsisKing) August 21, 2018
Aretha watching Madonna’s tribute to her from heaven …. pic.twitter.com/fuMkCCf1AT
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 21, 2018
Madonna presents an Aretha Franklin tribute by Madonna featuring Madonna with Madonna and Madonna as “Madonna”
— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) August 21, 2018
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) August 21, 2018
Madonna talking about guitar lessons, Paris baguettes and her ass hanging out while she looked for a stiletto with the image of Aretha Franklin behind her is everything I expected from the #VMAs
— Kingsley (@kingsleyyy) August 21, 2018