Madonna defends 'disastrous, disrespectful' Aretha Franklin speech at VMAS

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 20:  Madonna speaks onstage during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 20, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo credit: MTV

Madonna has taken to Instagram to defend herself against backlash over a speech honouring the late Aretha Franklin at the MTV Video Music Awards.

The pop icon was presenting the Video Of The Year award in front of a backdrop of Franklin, explaining how the soul singer "changed my life."

During the speech, the 'Material Girl' recalled "getting robbed, held at gunpoint, and being mistaken for a prostitute," and reminisced on one of her first auditions.

Sharing an anecdote of the time she sang Franklin's song '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman' while trying out to be a back-up singer, she said:

"Some skinny-ass white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song from one of the greatest soul singers who ever lived?"

"Bitch, I'm Madonna."

The tone-deaf speech was labeled as "disastrous" by Rolling Stone, and prompted fierce backlash on Twitter.

"This is disrespectful beyond," read one tweet.

"Madonna made Aretha Franklin's death about herself and her own musical journey, and honestly, this is some of the whitest shit I have ever seen," said another.

Madonna has since taken to social media herself, explaining that the speech was never intended to be a tribute.

"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!" she 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!

The Grammy winner continued that a proper tribute would be "impossible" in only two minutes, and she could never do Franklin justice in the environment of an award show.

"Unfortunately most people have short attention spans, and are so quick to judge. I love Aretha! R.E.S.P.E.C.T."

Madonna concluded by professing her love for her outfit on the night - "I love my dress!" and her affection for Video Of The Year winner Camilla Cabello.