Last night’s Billboard Music Awards had plenty of performances— Britney Spears, Rihanna, Kesha — but perhaps this morning’s most talked-about goes to Madonna and Stevie Wonder’s tribute to the late Prince. The performance isn’t available to embed here, but it was a fairly low-key affair, with Madonna trying hard to hit the notes on “Nothing Compares 2 U,” while Wonder later joins her for a sing-a-long of “Purple Rain.”
The performance earned the expected backlash on social media, even from the BET Network, whose shady tweet, as Pitchfork points out, became home to a thread of the internet’s most concentrated hatred of the performance. (BET reacted to the tribute by publicizing its own tribute, which is happening in June.) Also, for those who were against the very idea of Madonna performing the tribute, it must be said that she’s one of the few living, performing artists who for a time was a friend of Prince’s and his peer, too, in talent, artistry, and fame. Who else could’ve done it?
Anyway, given that the backlash came primarily via social media, it’s appropriate that Questlove took to Twitter to defend the performance, though the gist of his defense is this: it’s tribute enough to even attempt to sing a Prince song because Prince cannot fully be covered, and no rendition of a Prince song will be “orgasmic.” Madonna also responded to the critics, saying oh-so-eloquently throughout several Instagram photos, “Deal with it,” and, “Anyone who wants to do a tribute to Prince is welcome to. Whatever your age Gender or skin Color. If you loved him and he inspired you then show it!!!! I love Prince 4 ever!”
You can find Questlove’s Twitter talk below, but if his point is that no cover of a Prince song will ever be as good as the original, then what’s the point in trying?