We don’t presume to know what the late great Aretha Franklin would want from a tribute, but we do know one thing she enjoyed: beautiful gowns. So that’s strike one right there for Madonna, who delivered a surreally long, minutely detailed anecdote about a young Madonna auditioning with the Queen of Soul’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” whilst living in a crack den, a memory Aretha Franklin would surely cherish.
“Why not?,” Madonna recalled of her decision to audition. “The worst that could happen is, I can go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint, and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third-floor walk-up that was also a crackhouse.” A man in the audience laughs, presumably out of nervousness.
Despite being a “skinny-ass white girl,” Madonna went on to nail that audition while drenched in “nerve sweat,” so, in a sense, Aretha Franklin was tangentially related to her success. This, and a shout-out from Travis Scott, comprised the entirety of the 2018 MTV VMAs’ tribute to Franklin, who died last week at the age of 76. Oh, well, and they played “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” over the show’s final credits and showed her photo.