We can see how it looked like a good idea on paper. Madonna, one of the most celebrated musicians of all time and someone who has been part of the MTV VMAs since the beginning, honouring the late Aretha Franklin. Both women are from Detroit and both fought their way up the charts to become the Queen of Soul and the Material Girl. Yet, somehow Madonna’s tribute to Franklin at Monday night’s MTV VMAs was so tone deaf we can almost hear Franklin rolling her eyes from the great beyond.
How difficult is it to pay tribute to an artist who broke down walls both as a musician and an activist, spent decades releasing some of the most iconic pop and soul songs of all time, and sang for presidents, royalty, and millions of fans around the world? If you’re Madonna, very difficult.
Madonna’s tribute started out strong, with the singer recounting a story about the time she went to an audition without sheet music and sang Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a song she knew by heart. But then things went off the rails. Madonna didn’t book the job, instead going to Paris and coming back to the US broke. Then there was some rambling about living in a crack den (is this Madonna’s version of “Jenny From The Block”?) before she circled back to Franklin long enough to tell the crowd to show the late singer some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
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
Not surprisingly, people were M-A-D.
As a lifelong Madonna fan it pains me to say this…but this is what happens when you don’t have anyone in your life who tells you that you shouldn’t do something or tells you that you’re acting out of control.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 21, 2018
Madonna presents an Aretha Franklin tribute by Madonna featuring Madonna with Madonna and Madonna as “Madonna”
— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) August 21, 2018
What a touching tribute to Aretha Franklin where Madonna talked about her goddam self for like 30 mins
— KFC (@KFCBarstool) August 21, 2018
does Madonna know Madonna didn’t die
— Katie Nolan (@katienolan) August 21, 2018
We were so busy being confused by Madonna’s ‘tribute’ speech that we barely had time to process what she was wearing. Having just returned from Morocco and Malawi where she celebrated her 60th birthday, Madonna apparently didn’t have time to change, coming straight from the airport and bringing her cultural appropriation carry on with her.
Suffering from pancreatic cancer, Franklin died in her home in Detroit on August 16 and sent the music world and her fans into mourning. With Franklin passing away only a few days before the MTV VMAs, producers scrambled to add the Queen of Soul to the almost three-hour show.
Let’s hope the Grammy Awards do a better job coming up with someone to honour the late Queen of Soul.
Be sure to read the full transcript of Madonna’s speech to get the full effect. You won’t be sorry. Or maybe you will be.