After raising eyebrows at the MTV VMAs with a speech seemingly dedicated to the late Aretha Franklin, Madonna is explaining her side of the story.
Before presenting video of the year to Camila Cabello on Monday night, the pop star, 60, outlined the role the Queen of Soul — who died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at 76 — had played in launching her own career.
After recalling her years of struggling as an artist and a specific audition during which she sang Franklin’s smash hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” the singer concluded: “So you’re probably all wondering why I’m telling you this story. There’s a connection, because none of this would’ve happened — could’ve 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 was hit with criticism on social media afterwards, with many saying she made the moment about herself instead of about Franklin.
On Tuesday, the star posted a photo of herself posing with Cabello at the awards show and explained her speech was never meant to be a tribute to the late entertainer.
“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,” she captioned the photo.
“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.,” she continued.
Since the legend’s death last week, there have been a flood of tributes from her fellow musicians and other pop culture luminaries. Ariana Grande shared her love for Franklin on social media, and later delivered a tearful version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Soul greats like Cissy Houston, Gladys Knight, and her old Detroit friend Smokey Robinson have made public remembrances, as did former President Obama — who invited Franklin to sing at his inauguration in 2009.