Madonna is clearing up her intentions with her "tribute" to Aretha Franklin at Monday's MTV Video Music Awards by saying it was never meant as a tribute in the first place.
The pop superstar took to Instagram on Tuesday to respond to criticism about her long-winded speech from before she presented the arid for video of the year, in which she seemed to honor the Queen of Soul, who passed away on Aug. 16.
Madonna ended up telling a long story about an audition to French producers the jump-started her career, which sort-of related to Franklin, whose song she sang for the audition.
In the social media post, which included a photo of herself with Video of the Year winner Camila Cabello, Madonna clarified she was not there to do a tribute to Franklin at all.
"...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!" Madonna wrote. "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."
She added: "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." She finished with the hashtags #vmas #postivevibes.
Before the 60-year-old singer presented the award to Cabello, many viewers were left confused, with some saying Madonna's words were more about Madonna than Aretha Franklin. It didn't help that the segment was introduced with a short clip of Aretha singing, and Madonna's time on stage was back-dropped by a photo of the late singer.
"Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life," Madonna told the audience. "I left Detroit when I was 18. Thirty-five dollars in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer. After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to auditions for musical theatre."
"I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer but I went for it. I got cut and rejected from every audition — not tall enough, not blend-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough. Not enough," she continued. "And then one day a French disco sensation was looking for backup singers and dancers for his world tour. I thought, 'Why not? The worst that can happen is I can go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third floor walkup that was also a crackhouse.' That's right, I'm a Rebel Heart."
She told the story of how she showed up for the audition and nailed the dancing part — but had completely forgotten to prepare sheet music for a song to sing. "I had to think fast, my next meal was on the line. Fortunately one of my favorite albums was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out 'You Make Me Feel' ... silence. '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.'" Two French guys nodded at me. I said, 'You know, by Aretha Franklin.'
"I could see that they did not take me seriously — and why should they? Some skinny ass white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived?"
Her lengthy story continued: "I said, 'Bitch, I'm Madonna.' No, I didn't, I didn't say that. 'Cause I wasn't Madonna yet. I don't know who I was. I don't know what I said, I don't know what came over me."
Eventually, Madonna tried to connect the dots of her story and Franklin's unparalleled legacy. "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."
The awards show producers have not addressed the awkward moment.