The 2018 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony is the first awards show since Aretha Franklin‘s death last week. After the “Queen of Soul” ended her battle with pancreatic cancer, MTV announced that the VMAs would pay tribute to the musical legend. In what was clearly not a smart move, MTV chose Madonna to present the tribute.


Madonna took the stage looking like she had come straight from her 60th birthday celebrations in Morocco, dressed in traditional African garb. MTV showed a brief video clip of Franklin performing “I Say A Little Prayer” before Madonna launched into her speech. “Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life,” Madonna began before veering off into a long-winded story about her own early days trying to make it as a singer. There were brief hints that may have suggested this speech was about Franklin: there were mentions of Madonna’s humble origins in Detroit (the city Franklin called home) and how she sang “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” at a botched audition. As a whole, however, Madonna sounded like she was giving a eulogy for herself rather than Franklin.

After several minutes of describing her own struggle to make it in the entertainment industry, Madonna finally seemed to remember who she was meant to be talking about. “You’re probably all wondering why I’m telling you this story,” she said. “Because none of this would have been possible without our Lady of Soul. She led me to where I am today and I know she influenced so many people. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”

Many Twitter users posted their disappointment in Madonna after her speech. Madonna was criticized for using this opportunity to praise herself rather than Franklin and MTV was chastised for not choosing a Black artist to honor Franklin.

While the “tribute” did not demonstrate any of the values that Franklin stood for, it was perfectly in-tune with the VMA’s penchant for tasteless drama. Madonna famously botched a tribute for Prince in 2016 and a tribute to Michael Jackson in 2009.

SLIDESHOW: Met Gala 2018 – 23 Best Dressed Stars 

Read more about: