MTV VMAs 2018: Madonna pays tribute to Madonna, er, Aretha Franklin

Jennifer Lopez, Post Malone with Aerosmith offer rare highlights

It was a long, painful slog through the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards until the stroke of 11:22 p.m., when the return from a commercial break featured video of a young Aretha Franklin gliding through her version of “I Say a Little Prayer.”

First thought: Is this all MTV is going to do to honor Aretha?

Madonna comes onstage wearing a black sack of fabric, apparently having tripped into a barrel of beads in the green room.

Next thought: Lord, please don't let Madonna ruin another artist's tribute (see: Prince, Billboard Music Awards, 2016).


Yep, she did it again – and this time only by talking.

As someone who has respected and followed Madonna’s career from her first wink on MTV, I am not a hater. I even defended her version of “American Pie” back when it mattered.

But 20 minutes after the 2018 VMAs have ended, I still can’t figure out the connection between Madonna and Franklin, other than they both lived in Detroit.

Madonna, of course, made this “tribute” all about Madonna – how she left Detroit at 18 with $35 in her pocket, got rejected from many musical theater auditions, had an audition with French producers who wanted her to provide sheet music, she didn’t have any but since Franklin’s “Lady Soul” was one of her favorite albums she asked the accompanist to play “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” he didn’t know it, she sang it a capella.

And there you have it. Madonna was empowered by Franklin – “our lady of soul” - the same way I’m empowered by, oh, pick one – Lady Gaga? Katy Perry? Taylor Swift? – because I’ve occasionally sung along with their songs in the car.

But Madonna believes that a fateful moment at an audition with French producers (who wound up not hiring her, but brought her to Paris to work with Giorgio Moroder, and, really, who even cares anymore?) led her to becoming Madonna.

At least her closing, “Long live the queen,” spared us a moment of cringing.

Jennifer Lopez defines fierce. She’s a worthy recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and her exhaust-a-thon medley including “On the Floor,” “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” “Jenny from the Block” and “I’m Real” - complete with Ja Rule cameo! – was truly inspiring. This woman turns 50 next year? Mercy.

In her acceptance speech – following an awkward introduction from Shawn Mendes who tried to stay professional as stagehands wandered around behind him – Lopez was sincere in her recollections of growing up watching MTV and seeing her dreams realized.

“I kinda had to forge my own path, make my own rules,”’ she said.

Heartfelt shoutouts to her mother and kids, as well as the always-smitten Alex Rodriguez – aka The World’s Suavest Boyfriend (seriously, how did it take so long for these two to find each other?) – reminded us that even with the abs of a 17-year-old athlete, J. Lo is really just a cool mom and girlfriend.

Lopez later won best collaboration for “Dinero,” her dance floor popper with Cardi B (“Heyyyy, husband!”) and DJ Khaled.

RELATED>> For a full list of VMA winners, click here

Credit: Michael Loccisano

Credit: Michael Loccisano

To close the night, Post Malone and Atlanta’s 21 Savage paced the stage to “Rockstar” and then, miraculously, a bunch of them showed up!

Aerosmith, looking shaggy as ever, amped up the finale with a potent“Dream On” and a sloppy “Toys in the Attic.” But watching Post Malone’s unmitigated glee while strumming a guitar next to Joe Perry and sharing the same air as Steven Tyler was worth a little screeching.

Credit: Michael Loccisano

Credit: Michael Loccisano