Madonna paid homage to the legendary singer Aretha Franklin at the MTV VMAs on Monday, but the tribute didn’t sit well with some fans of the “Queen of Soul.”
Madonna took the Radio City Music Hall stage during the second half of the show for what appeared to be the night’s big tribute to Franklin, but the tribute appeared to be more about Madonna than the soul singer, who passed away late last week.
“Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life,” she said, speaking against the backdrop of a large black and white image of a young Franklin. “I left Detroit when I was 18. Thirty-five 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 audition for musical theater. I heard the pay was better. I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer, but I went for it. I got cut, and rejected from every audition.”
The pop star — donning shoulder-length braids, a thorn-like headpiece and a long flowing black poncho — went on to tell a story about a time when she performed an impromptu version of Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at an audition, but that was one of the only mentions of Franklin.
Madonna said “Aretha” a mere four times during the seven-minute speech, but she uttered the words “I” and “me” more than 50 times.
She also managed to squeeze in a quick reference to her legendary performance of “Like a Virgin” at the 1984 VMAs, where she rolled around on the stage in a white wedding dress and bared her backside.
“After the show, my manager said my career was over,” she said with a sinister smirk. “Well. Hello, sir. I would now like to present the nominees for the Video of the Year. “
The tribute didn’t sit well with Franklin’s fans, many of whom took to social media to call her out.
“No to this Aretha tribute. How Madonna making this about her,” one Twitter user said.
“You do not disrespect an ICON like that. This is a jovial kiki about Madonna’s broken a– journey. You honor a legend by telling their story or SHUT UP. The AUDACITY,” another fan noted.
Some Franklin fans took to Madonna’s own Twitter page to protest the tribute. Madonna’s VMAs posts, including one that mentioned the hashtags “respect” and “arethafranklin,” racked up hundreds of comments after the awards show.
“Love you Madonna, but what was supposed to be a tribute to the “Queen of Soul”, you made it all about you. You and @MTV should be ashamed. Very disappointing,” one user wrote.
“Wha….what is going on here?!?? Who approved this,” another said.
A few of the star’s die-hard fans managed to shine a ray of light on the situation though, including one who called the tribute a “Great speech! Thanks for paying homage and personalizing it to your life. I’m surprised no other artists mentioned her tonight.”
“I love you ty for amazing us with your beautiful and powerful speech you’re amazing,” another fan added.