"Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life", she said, speaking against the backdrop of a large black and white image of a young Franklin.
While it went in some odd directions, she did manage to reign it in from time to time, but did tell a story about singing one of Aretha's songs for two French blokes at an audition, which, again, was less about the song, and more about Madonna.
Look at all the somewhat confused reactions (below) about Madonna's tribute to Aretha that turned out to be a long story all about Madonna...!
Maybe there's a reason for all this?!
Arriving on stage, she bowed down to Madonna and dedicated the award to the 60-year-old pop legend.
But many fans didn't think her tribute empowered Aretha herself. "She proceeded to share a story about how she was inspired by Franklin and how she "belted" out "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at an audition for a gig she didn't book.
More help for drought-affected farmers
NSW Farmers Association president James Jackson said the announcement recognised the challenges farmers face accessing water and fodder.
"We're definitely going to honor her", said Jesse Ignjatovic, co-founder of the production company Den of Thieves and executive producer of the VMAs. "She led me to where I am today", Madonna said.
She left performing duties to Canadian singer and songwriter Shawn Mendes, who treated fans to his acclaimed single "In My Blood", which chronicles his struggle with anxiety disorder. This is a jovial kiki about Madonna's broken a- journey.
"Love you Madonna, but what was supposed to be a tribute to the "Queen of Soul", you made it all about you". You and @MTV should be ashamed. "She shouldn't be Aretha adjacent", political and cultural commentator Marc Lamont Hill wrote on Twitter.
"Aretha, without question, [is] one of the greatest voices in music ever", he says of the late music icon, who appeared several times on VH1's Divas.
Cardi B started the show as frontrunner, narrowly taking more nominations than Jay-Z and Beyonce, who ended the evening with just one award - best cinematography - for their Louvre-shot video "Apeshit". Thanks for paying homage and personalizing it to your life.
"I love you ty for incredible us with your attractive and powerful speech you're unbelievable", another fan added. "I'm surprised no other artists mentioned her tonight".