Madonna is being heavily criticised for her tribute speech to Aretha Franklin at this year’s MTV VMAs, with punters calling it self-centred and narcissistic.
With Franklin passing last Friday at age 76, the VMAs confirmed pre-show that the awards ceremony would pay homage and tribute to the Queen of Soul. That took the form of Madonna’s speech before awarding Camila Cabello the award for Video Of The Year: dressed in a black gown and a clash of jewellery and beads, she spoke for several minutes about the beginning of her career.
“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 dancer,” she began.
The story continues, detailing her constant rejections until an audition to be a back-up dancer and singer for a ‘French disco sensation’, in which she sung Franklin’s ‘(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman’.
“I thought, ‘why not?’ The worst that can happen is going back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint and being mistaken for a prostitute on my third-floor walkup that was also a crack house. That’s right — I’m a Rebel Heart,” she said, a reference to her 2015 album.
“You’re probably all wondering why I am telling this story.” Yes, Madonna. #VMAs
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) August 21, 2018
Madonna then mentioned that Franklin’s Lady Soul was a personal favourite at the time, and ended with the star saying that she owes her career to Franklin’s inspiration.
“None of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul,” she said. “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.”
#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) August 21, 2018
Needless to say, the speech stuck out for viewers, who criticised its self-mythologising nature.
"If it wasn't for Aretha, we wouldn't have Madonna"- Madonna
— Roy Wood Jr- Ex Jedi (@roywoodjr) August 21, 2018
That was such an awkward tribute to Aretha Franklin. I was hoping Madonna would talk a liiiiiiiitle less about herself and more about Aretha but idk lol 🤦♀️🤷♀️
— Kathleen Lights (@KathleenLights1) August 21, 2018
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
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
Given Madonna’s long-standing history of cultural appropriation, she was also criticised for her braids and outfit, including a headpiece in-debited to those traditionally worn by Moroccan Amazighs, an ethnic minority of North Africa.
Can we hold this discussion in the parking lot? I got an appointment https://t.co/u7aMM6NFXY
— ❄Mikki Kendall❄ (@Karnythia) August 21, 2018
I’m annoyed. Madonna is still playing dress up in Moroccan Amazigh clothes. She’s got the jewelry on too. What the actual fuck. #VMAs
— Al-Thighda/نرجس (@TheJistOfItAll) August 21, 2018
madonna really threw on my mama's saturday cleaning dress with some necklaces from the rasta man on 125th st and called it a day
— peter kavinsky's bashful splash (@ethiopienne) August 21, 2018
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
Meanwhile, some were more impressed by an eye-catching audience member:
tag yourself there's only two options, madonna or that dude in the bottom left pic.twitter.com/ztOspiZbnV
— The FADER (@thefader) August 21, 2018
It’s not the first time Madonna has come under fire for missing the mark when it comes to tributes. In 2016, her Prince tribute performance at the Billboard Music Awards was criticised for being lacklustre.
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