Madonna took the Radio City Music Hall stage during the second half of the show for what appeared to be the night's big tribute to Franklin, but the tribute appeared to be more about Madonna than the soul singer, who passed away late last week.
Called on to present the award for Video of the Year, she was slammed for an Aretha Franklin tribute that turned out to be mostly about her, telling a story of an audition that spared her from living in a third-floor walk-up above a crack house in New York City.
We've assembled the best Twitter reactions (to Madonna's speech and the rest of the VMAs) below for your perusal. They looked over at the pianist.
"Because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul".
There was a change of costume and tone - not to mention fake falling snow - as she sang "Jenny From the Block" and was joined by Ja Rule for "I'm Real" and "Ain't It Funny". "I left Detroit when I was 18, $35 in my pocket", she said.
"There's so much more to do and I know in my heart the future is even brighter", she said as she received the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award for her lifetime contributions to pop culture. Because I wasn't Madonna yet.
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And in the morning, my telephone rang and the man said, 'Hi, Cher, it's George Miller.' I said, 'Hey, George.' He was the director of Witches of Eastwick. Finally, the phone rang, it was one of the producers, saying, 'We don't think you are right for this job.' I'm like, 'Motherf-ker, why are you calling me?' He replied, 'We think you have great potential. Actually, who everyone?Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-TMadonna gets roasted P.S. why is Travis Scott dressed like a minion?
"Alright, sit down, because I'm going to tell you a fabulous story", Cher said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
"Does Madonna know Madonna didn't die?".
"So instead of an actual tribute to Aretha you let Madonna talk about herself for 30 minutes?! It felt wrong. They were good people, but I wanted to write my own songs and be a musician, not a puppet", she said. ESPN's Katie Nolan tweeted.