What could have been one musical legend waxing poetic about a legendary career of another turned into a history lesson about the wrong person last night.
Madonna honored soul icon Aretha Franklin, who died last week, while presenting the Video of the Year award at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards last night — but with a twist that left some viewers upset.
Radio City Music Hall was packed with a star-studded crowd for the event, but Madonna, appearing in front of a larger-than-life image of a singing Franklin, reportedly didn’t do a whole lot of talking about Franklin’s career at all. Instead, she chose to talk about the influence the icon’s music had on hers — all while wearing traditional African clothing following a 60th birthday trip to the continent last week.
Most of her time was spent talking about how she sang Franklin’s song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at an audition with “French record producers,” who eventually jumpstarted her career and helped her out of poverty.
— TIME (@TIME) August 21, 2018
“So, you are probably all wondering why I am 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,” Madonna said, before talking about another moment in her career that was unrelated to Franklin’s work, and handing over the award to artist Camila Cabello.
Naturally (get it?), Twitter had a lot to say.
Twitter lit up in anger
Check out a few of the responses:
does Madonna know Madonna didn’t die
— Katie Nolan (@katienolan) August 21, 2018
MADONNA: Here’s a story about my accomplishments and how amazing I am.
MADONNA: I could not have been as amazing as I am without Aretha Franklin.
MADONNA: When I performed at the first VMA’s, I messed up but then I got more famous.
— Fortune Feimster (@fortunefunny) August 21, 2018
Madonna presents an Aretha Franklin tribute by Madonna featuring Madonna with Madonna and Madonna as “Madonna”
— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) August 21, 2018
Aretha watching Madonna’s tribute to her from heaven …. pic.twitter.com/fuMkCCf1AT
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 21, 2018
The Aretha Franklin tribute is Madonna talking about herself at great length?
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) August 21, 2018
Madonna REALLY went out there in her best cultural appropriation outfit to talk about Queen Aretha Franklin?
— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) August 21, 2018
Madonna gave herself a tribute featuring Aretha.
— LoveYourself (@ScottieBeam) August 21, 2018
— SHR3D (@AreYouR3ddy) August 21, 2018
Madonna has since responded in an Instagram post with Cabello, saying, in part: “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!”
“Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge,” she wrote later in the message.
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