Was Madonna Being Inappropriate And Insensitive About Aretha Franklin's Death At The VMAs?
The 60-year-old pop culture icon might be admired for the most part, but her spiel-slash-Aretha Franklin tribute at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards sure managed to raise some eyebrows—and tempers, too.
Could she have done better, or is she simply being misinterpreted? You be the judge!
So what exactly was Madonna's offense, you ask. To say the least, she's currently being lambasted for her sins of self-indulgence and being emotionally tone-deaf and conceited. Those are pretty heavy accusations to make about a music legend who has a reputation for being inclusive, progressive, and generally "a lover of love" in every way.
Unfortunately, her behavior at this year's MTV Video Music Awards seems to have warranted the backlash in the eyes of those she offended the most, and what transpired looks like it's already been permanently etched in the annals of Hollywood infamy to her disadvantage.
In case you missed out on the real-time action and are just catching the embers of the fire that was Madonna's botched moment, here's a quick recap of what went down:
The Rebel Heart singer was given the honor to present the Video of the Year award, one of the ceremony's biggest and brightest accolades. Before reading out the awardee's name and handing them their Moon Person (previously called a Moonman), Madonna was also tasked to pay tribute to the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who passed away just a few days ago.
But instead of using the few minutes she had onstage to highlight Aretha's massive contributions to the music industry and lasting influences on modern singers, Madonna talked about herself and, well, not much more.
What was supposed to be a tribute turned into a rambling story about how Madonna had broke into the music scene as a young woman who impressed a snooty panel at an audition. Emphasizing the fact that she was underprepared for the make or break opportunity, she credited Aretha for her song "Natural Woman," which she ended up singing acapella—and earned her recognition from record execs. Then that was that.
That, and how Madonna said Aretha had changed the course of her life, were the only mentions of the great Memphis-born talent during a moment that was supposed to be hers. It certainly didn't help that Madonna's Michael Jackson and Prince tributes from previous awards shows were delivered in the same fashion and evoked similar responses.
Even before Madonna had gone offstage, people were quick to point out everything she got wrong about her spiel. Everything from cultural appropriation to vanity from her star power was included in people's venomous words. Here are some of the tweets about it:
See this is what happens when you let someone on stage that hasn't received an award in awhile. It becomes about them and not what they are actually up there for. #Madonna #VMAS#VMA #vmas aretha franklin #VMAs pic.twitter.com/zkO6sZ3glN— Fit2BeJustMe (@sexytnmami) August 21, 2018
#Madonna is demonstrating a dynamic performance of peak white womanhood. This was not an #Aretha tribute but a monologue on how another iconic Black woman is being reduced to how she helped a white woman.— Anansi (@blaqueerflow) August 21, 2018
#Madonna paid tribute to Aretha?— Alan (@AlanEurotrash) August 21, 2018
Were Beyonce, Tina Turner, Annie Lennox, Adele, Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Mary J Blige, Barbara Streisand, Cher, Lady Gaga, Chaka Kahn, Sade, Celine Dion, Stevie Nicks etc all busy?
I would say #Madonna needs to step down gracefully from her popstar podium, but it's a few decades too late for that. #HowIsMadonnaStillAliveAndActuallyHowIsSheStillRelevantIn2018— The Eclectomaniac (@ThEclectomaniac) August 21, 2018
On one hand I love that Madonna appreciates & adores the music of black artists so much. It’s amazing and everyone should be a fan. However, she has to stop jumping on stage doing tributes she shouldn’t. Please stop #Madonna. Please no more.— Nika (@Nneka94503778) August 21, 2018
Unable to wait for the storm to pass, Madonna took to Instagram to post an explanation behind her choice of words and tribute. The lengthy caption accompanied a photo of her and Camila Cabello, the artist who brought home the award she presented.
In the post, she claims that she was never meant to give honor to the late singer, and that she was asked by the event organizers to share an Aretha-related life story.
Im with the Winner!! The beautiful @camila_cabello ! So proud of her! ??????. And just to clarify: I was asked to present video of the year by MTV! And then they asked me to share any anecdotes I had in my career connected to Aretha Franklin! I shared a part of my journey and thanked Aretha for inspiring me along the way. I did not intend to do a tribute to her! That would be impossible in 2 minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment. Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T. ????. I Love Camilla! Congrats! I LOVE my dress! AND. I love-L O V E!! ♥? and there is nothing anyone can say or do that will change that. #vmas #postivevibes
Providing the other side of this story, Madonna put a stop to some of the ire she was at the receiving end of, but has yet to recover from the episode completely.
Photos from @madonna