NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 20, 2018) (MTV) – The Queen of Pop Madonna led a tribute on Monday (August 20) to the late Aretha Franklin at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) but angered fans who felt she spent more time talking about herself than the Queen of Soul.
The expected tribute to Franklin at the first gathering of top musicians since the singer’s death at age 76 last week came at the end of the almost three hour ceremony.
In a 10-minute speech, Madonna recalled her early days as an aspiring singer and dancer, including one audition where she performed an a cappella version of Franklin’s iconic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
“None of this would have happened without our lady of soul,” Madonna said. “She led me to where I am today and I know she influenced so many people in this room tonight. I want to thank you Aretha for empowering all of us. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Long live the queen.”
Some viewers took to Twitter to criticize Madonna and MTV for the speech, saying it was self-indulgent and did not focus enough on Franklin. Others questioned why Madonna was chosen to deliver Franklin’s tribute over artists who were more closely associated with her.
“Aretha Louis Franklin changed the course of my life. I left Detroit when I was 18, 35 dollars 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.”
“So I showed up to the audition and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theater, daring me to be amazing. The dance audition went well. Then they asked me if I had sheet music and a song prepared. I panicked. I had overlooked this important part of the audition process. 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, uh-huh. I said ‘you know, by Aretha Franklin?’ Again, uh-huh. 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 acapella.’ 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. Acappella? I said ‘bitch, I’m Madonna.’ No I didn’t. I didn’t say that because 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. I just walked to the edge of the pitch black stage and I started singing. When I was finished and drenched in nerve sweat — you all know what that is right, nerve sweat — they said we will call you one day and maybe soon. So weeks went by and no phone call. Finally the phone rang and it was one of the producers saying ‘we don’t think you are right for this job.’ I’m like mother*** why are you calling me? He replied ‘we think you have great potentials. You are rough for the edges but there is good rawness. We want to bring you to Paris and make you a star. So we’ll put you in a studio with the great Giorgio Moroder.’ And I had no idea who that was. But it sounded good and I wanted to live in Paris. And also I wanted to eat some food. So that was the beginning of my journey as a singer. I left for Paris but I came back a few months later because I had not earned the luxury life I was living. It felt wrong. They were good people but I wanted to write my own songs and be a musician not a puppet. I needed to go back home and learn to play guitar. And that’s exactly what I did. And the rest is history. So you’re probably all wondering why I’m telling you this story. There is a connection, because none of this would have happened, could have 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.”