Considering it was the MTV Video Music Awards, one would think they would have some sort of tribute to the late, great Aretha Franklin — and they did. Madonna stepped out on the stage at the VMAs adorned in what looks like everything from her appropriation jewelry box, then paid homage to the Queen of Soul…but it wasn’t the tribute many people had in mind.
The Material Girl, who made her VMA debut in 1984 in a memorable, body-writhing performance of “Like of a Virgin,” was all set to the present the award for Video of the Year but as she stepped onstage, an image of Franklin flashed on the screen behind her. Many, including myself, feared that Madonna was going to sing a song by the Queen, but fortunately, she spared us. Instead, she shared a story of her early days as a struggling singer and dancer living in a crack house. She proceeded to share a story about how she was inspired by Franklin and how she “belted” out “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at an audition for a gig she didn’t book.
Even though Madonna said the point of her story was that her career wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t “for our Lady of Soul” and ended saying, “Thank you for empowering all of us. Long live the Queen,” Twitter immediately dragged, roasted and read Madonna for filth for making the tribute about herself and her journey as a pop star — whether it was intentional or not.
Tony Award winner and star of the upcoming Steve McQueen film Widows Cynthia Erivo took to Twitter saying: “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.”
April Reign took Madonna and MTV to task tweeting, “They played a video of Aretha. And then did the huge backdrop of her. If they had given that 10 more seconds, and then introduced Madonna, who would’ve just introduced Artist of the Year or whatever, it would’ve been fine. But… no. How dare you, @MTV. How. Dare. You.”
Activist Brittany Packnett pulled out more receipts when it came to Madonna’s recent actions. “Madonna has been entitled + gentrifying [black] things for a LONG time,” she tweeted. “She called her white son “Dis N*gga” and then SHE got offended. She epitomized white feminism @ the Women’s March…and let’s not forget her centering herself in The Carter’s historic moment.”
She added, “The fact that you made a moment about OUR Queen about YOU is just another example to add to the list. And MTV shoulda known better.”
YouTube personality Kingsley weighed in as well: “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.”
This isn’t the first time Madonna has received backlash for honoring an icon. In 2016, people weren’t too happy with her tribute to the late and legendary Prince at the Billboard Awards. It seems like she just can’t get this tribute thing right.