In the lead up to the 2018 VMAs, reports surfaced of a planned tribute to Aretha Franklin, the musical titan and civil rights activist who passed away last Thursday. MTV was mum with the details, but Madonna dropped some hints on social media that she would be handling the Queen of Soul’s memorial.
On one hand, it makes sense for Madonna to bid goodbye to an icon on MTV considering she’s basically the first lady of the network. That being said, the Material Girl doesn’t have the pipes to pull off “Respect” or “Chain of Fools.” In fairness, that could be said of every singer in attendance, save for maybe Ariana Grande.
Of course, once Madonna stepped out onto the stage in an outfit that was pieced together from the appropriation rack from Urban Outfitters, it was clear the “Like a Virgin” singer was going to embarrass herself far more severely than if she tried to sing one of Franklin’s songs.
Madonna’s rambling tribute was both heartfelt and a cautionary tale about what happens when you reach a certain stratosphere where the obscene wealth and fame insulates you from people who might challenge your shitty ideas and ultimately protect you from your own delusions. Aretha Franklin was a footnote in her own eulogy as Madonna told the story of how covering one of the Queen of Soul’s songs in an audition figured into the “Vogue” singer’s own origin story.
“None of this could have happened, would have happened, without this lady of soul,” Madonna said, of her own rise. “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.”
Without Aretha there was no Madonna, and a world with no Madonna is apparently the real tragedy.
Watch the baffling tribute below.