Madonna Tops Pop Drama with Rambling Aretha Tribute

August 21, 2018

By Scott T. Sterling

The pop music universe converged on Radio City Music Hall in New York City last night (Aug. 20) for the latest installment of the MTV Video Music Awards. Despite the presence of pop’s current vanguard of stars, the evening belonged to… Madonna?!

Maybe not in the best light, but it was none less than Madonna herself who lifted this year’s lumbering spectacle into something surreal and newsworthy.

For those wondering why the Material Girl is suddenly trending all over the place, it’s because 34 years after stunning the world with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the very first VMAs back in 1984, she found a way to do it again.

MTV rolled out Madonna to close the this year’s show with a tribute to Aretha Franklin. The pop legend’s rambling and aggressively self-referential speech made reference to that notorious VMA showing in 1984, sharing that afterwards her then-manager said her career was over.

With Nicki Minaj in full damage control for her current Queen album rollout (and having Travis Scott remind her during his performance that it’s his Astroworld album that’s No. 1 in the country right now while shouting out Aretha Franklin at the same time), Shawn Mendes and Ariana Grande settling into superstar mode and Columbian hero Maluma bringing the multicultural flavor, it’s actually kind of impressive how Madge was still able to find a way to steal the spotlight.

Where she once rolled around on the floor in a wedding dress, now she simply talks about being robbed at knifepoint, mistaken for a prostitute, and whisked off to France to record with Giorgio Moroder back in the early ‘80s because she “wanted to eat some food”—all while dressed like a Mad Max/Game of Thrones mash-up version of Joan of Arc.

And yes, her speech was as confusing and bizarre as it sounds.

The rest of the show was the expected pop circus, with Aerosmith playing the role of rock’s coolest dads by letting Post Malone and his friend jump around onstage while they played classics like “Toys in the Attic.” Jennifer Lopez wowed the crowd with a spirited medley of her hits, recognized with this year’s Video Vanguard award. Camila Cabello took home awards for Video and Artist of the year. Logic made immigration his cause this year, bringing out hundreds of children and families onstage “to protest the Trump Administration’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy that tore thousands of children from their parents and continues to keep hundreds apart.”


See the complete list of winners:

Video of the year
"Havana," Camila Cabello

Artist of the year
Camila Cabello

Best direction
"This is America," Childish Gambino

Best art direction
"APES**T," The Carters

Song of summer
"I Like It," Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin

Best collaboration
"Dinero," Jennifer Lopez, DJ Khaled and Cardi B

Best cinematography
"APES**T," The Carter

Best choreography
"This is America," Childish Gambino

Best visual effects
"All the Stars," Kendrick Lamar feat. SZA

Best editing
"Lemon," N.E.R.D. feat. Rihanna

Best dance video  
"Lonely Together," Avicii feat. Rita Ora

Best rock video
"Whatever It Takes," Imagine Dragons

Best new artist
Cardi B

Best Latin video
"Mi Gente," J. Balvin

Song of the year
"rockstar" feat. 21 Savage, Post Malone

Best pop video
"No Tears Left to Cry," Ariana Grande

Best hip-hop video
"Chun Li," Nicki Minaj

Push artist of the year
Hayley Kiyoko

Michael Jackson Vanguard Award
Jennifer Lopez