Madonna Responds to Backlash Over Her Aretha Franklin “Tribute” at the 2018 VMAs
“I could never do her justice in this context or environment.”
Madonna, an icon of the MTV Video Music Awards since the very beginning, wasn’t exactly well-received at this year’s VMAs. She took the stage toward the end of Monday night’s ceremony and, before awarding Camila Cabello with Video of the Year, rambled through a speech about her triumphant journey from a working-class neighborhood of Detroit to the VMAs stage. The speech may have been perceived as inspiring and powerful had Madonna not been standing in front of a huge portrait of Aretha Franklin and, therefore, ostensibly tasked with paying tribute to the late Queen of Soul. But, alas, she was, and thus was swiftly met with a flood of backlash from social media users who criticized her for “gentrifying” a tribute to Franklin and making it all about herself, slipping in only a few passing references to the “Respect” singer.
On Tuesday, Madonna attempted to clear the air. In an Instagram post of her own, she first congratulated Cabello, then went on to claim that her assignment hadn’t been to formally memorialize Franklin, but rather to simply share a few anecdotes about her. “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 [two] minutes with all the noise and tinsel of an award show. I could never do her justice in this context or environment,” she wrote.
“Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T.,” Madonna continued, then added, “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.”
That said, the “anecdotes” Madonna did share involving Franklin were few and far between, and had a distinctly more self-congratulatory vibe than one of gratitude toward the late superstar. Still, one has to wonder what MTV and the show producers were thinking by leaving the Franklin tribute in the hands of Madonna alone, and then not even giving her proper directions.
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Jennifer Lawrence, born August 15. Photograph by Tim Walker for W Magazine, October 2012.
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