Madonna & Stevie Wonder perform Prince tribute at BBMAs: inoffensive?

I had very low expectations for Madonna’s appearance at the Billboard Music Awards last night. We knew ahead of time that Madge would be paying tribute to Prince, but we didn’t know which songs she would perform. She ended up doing “Nothing Compares 2 U” solo, then “Purple Rain” with special guest star Stevie Wonder. I have to say… while I don’t think Madonna’s voice is now or has ever been strong enough for “Nothing Compares 2 U,” her cover wasn’t completely terrible. She treated the song with respect, and the tribute was somewhat decent. Once Stevie came out, it felt like “Purple Rain” just became a gospel sing-along, which strangely enough, I think Prince would have enjoyed. Here’s the video.

So, what’s the verdict? Do we hate this or do we think that Madonna did a half-decent job? Like, I think the BBMA producers should have gotten someone else, but if it had to be Madonna, this was probably the best possible outcome. And how weird is it that I absolutely loathed Lady Gaga’s David Bowie tribute but I’m okay with Madonna’s Prince tribute?

Madonna also had a custom Gucci suit made for her performance – purple paisley, for Prince.

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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93 Responses to “Madonna & Stevie Wonder perform Prince tribute at BBMAs: inoffensive?”

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  1. Talie says:

    Madonna is in the same league as Prince, so I was cool with her tribute. The Weekend was a bit over the top with his speech though, right? Crying about Prince and then saying he never met him.

    • InvaderTak says:

      Well, I cried when Bowie died. It might have come off as a bit OTT because he was accepting an award, but I get the feeling behind it.

    • Nev says:

      Word.

      It was perfect.

    • Eleonor says:

      They also had a song together, so she didn’t seem out of context. And for once Madonna didn’t do everything about Madonna, she respected Prince.
      On the other side Gaga tribute was all about Gaga…

    • Cran says:

      For me Madonna is not even close to being in the same league as Prince. Agree that she was respectful in her tribute. Her voice has always been weak. She gives a great show but Prince, to me, is a true artist and musician. Madonna has a genuine appreciation of art but I always feel that her greatest strength is marketing and salesmanship.

      • SJO says:

        They are from the same era, not the same league. Big difference. Prince is an amazing musician and performer. Madonna perfected the art of reinvention/self-marketing before it was a strategy you could look up on You Tube.

  2. Fee says:

    Auto tuned

  3. InvaderTak says:

    Wish Stevie Nicks was there instead of Madonna. Purple Rain and Stand Back would have been a pretty awesome mashup I think. And It wouldn’t have been the usual “artists cover legend in some kind of tribute.” But that would also assume that the audience knows the significance. For whatever reason (probably because she’s not shocking or controversial) most of my peers have no idea who SN is.

    • Would have loved that!

    • byandby says:

      Did you mean a Little Red Corvette/Stand Back mashup? :)

      The signifigance being that Stevie heard LRC on the radio and was so stunned she had to pull the car over, and went on to write Stand Back that night? Then called Prince to finish it off, and he put that haunting, pulsing synthesizer on the top, and walked out 20 minutes later?

      Because yes, that would have been INCREDIBLE. Much better than Madge warbling and making it all about Madge. Great idea!

      • Cran says:

        Thanks for the history lesson @byandby. Stevie Nicks is freaking amazing. That would have been fantastic to see. From your lips to Gods ears and Stevie’s as well.

      • InvaderTak says:

        Yes that story! How wonderful would that have been? Doesn’t have to be Little Red Corvette. Purple Rain would be in Stevie’s wheelhouse I think and then crescendo in to Stand back is what I was thinking.

  4. Izzy says:

    Ugh, whatever. I’mma wait for the BET Tribute in June.

    • roses says:

      So ready for it and I know they will deliver. BET even threw some shade about last night’s tribute – LOL.
      https://twitter.com/BET

      • GiGi says:

        I LOVED that, lol!

        And anyone saying Madonna is in the same league as Prince, does not know Prince. The man was just a prolific genius. Madonna can barely even carry a tune.

    • Almondjoy says:

      EXACTLY. I came here to say the same. I thought it was awful and didn’t do Prince justice. Why not get Chaka Khan or Larry Graham?? Those two were like family to him.

      And yes the SHADE thrown by BET had me in stitches!

    • Alex says:

      Prince deserved MUCH better. I loved that BET threw shade at the tribute pretty much immediately. I knew it was going to be terrible (her vocals alone told me that) so it lived up to my very low expectations

    • saras says:

      I hope BET gets a lot of his bandmates and collaborators from his long stellar career and pulls off a proper tribute. It was really sad to hear the diss on Sheila E and his friends who he worked with for so long by Ms. Hey yea yea yea.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I thought this was absolutely terrible. Prince was an AMAZING musician. Madonna has no where near his talent, but where their skills do overlap is in showmanship. Why did she do a song that required vocal and musical skill? She should have celebrated his life with one of his up beat songs. This seemed to drag on and on for me, and the close ups of “DEATH” headstones in the background seemed inappropriate.

    • Jane says:

      Exactly, and it’s going to be blooming EPIC.

  5. Karen says:

    Honestly, I’m just glad she didn’t crawl out onstage singing Darling Nicky.

    • The Original G says:

      That made me laugh. Thanks.

    • mary simon says:

      +1 lol Also, she wasn’t drunk or two hours late, and thank God! her private parts weren’t hanging out all over the place. I guess the bar is low enough these days to call that a decent performance from Madonna.,

  6. Jegede says:

    People bash on Madonna.

    But she, Prince, Michael Jackson, were the Holy Trinity of the 80′s music wise.
    They were soundtrack and culture touchstones on a worldwide scale.

    From Lagos to London, no birthday was complete without their songs blasting out of the system on rotate.

    So I though it was fitting that it was she and Stevie Wonder that did this tribute.

    Madge also did the same for MJ, so kinda sad.
    She was born the same year as them – 1958 – and is the only one still standing.

    • Nev says:

      Word.

    • Luca76 says:

      It’s not really about Madge at this minute though. However popular those three were in the 80s Prince had chops as a songwriter and true talent whereas Madge was just pure pop and image. They could’ve and should’ve gotten someone else.

      • Emma - The JP Lover says:

        @Luca76, who wrote: “It’s not really about Madge at this minute though. However popular those three were in the 80s Prince had chops as a songwriter and true talent whereas Madge was just pure pop and image. They could’ve and should’ve gotten someone else.”

        Thanks for stating this SO well. I don’t think BBMA begged Madonna to do the tribute to Prince, and I’m sure it was all about ‘her’ rather than a tribute in any fashion. They could’ve ‘and’ should’ve told her ego NO and gotten someone else.

        Stevie Wonder should have done the tribute solo as ‘he’ was the Prince of his day in that he was a prolific song writer, played numerous instruments, and had the voice to bring everything together. I never will forget Paul Simon thanking Stevie wonder for not making an album the year he won a Grammy. That’s how good Stevie Wonder was in his day and everybody loved his music.

      • GiGi says:

        This. Madonna ASKED Billboard to do the tribute, not the other way around.

      • DragonWise says:

        Totally agree, Luca and Emma! Madonna was arguably his equal in fame and influence, but absolutely NOT in talent! She is a miracle of determination to make something of very little, exploiting other’s talents and cultures at a timely moment, and marketing! Though her performance was a bit better than I expected, she was struggling the whole way through the song, and it wound up sounding like a Prince cover at a cheap Vegas show. Also, that one backup singer was doing a lot of the heavy lifting! Here goes Madonna again, inserting herself into something that doesn’t concern her for attention, and overestimating her talent. Can’t wait for her to “direct” another flop! Stevie should have gotten to do this alone, as yes indeed he was the Prince of his day! He would have brought the house down if she weren’t drowning at his side.

    • Mia V. says:

      Who’s better to pay a tribute to Prince than the queen?

      • Emma - The JP Lover says:

        How about someone with the talent to give a proper tribute to Prince? The man could play numerous instruments, was an incredibly talented song writer, and had a voice to bring both to life.

      • QQ says:

        A Black Artist or 20 of the ones he inspired ( seeing as how Prince always wanted to have Black women on his stages and for his tributes #TheTimeHeCaughtMotherPattisShoe)

      • FingerBinger says:

        How about this isn’t going to be the only tribute to Prince. You’re all acting like it is.

        @QQ Only black people can pay tribute to Prince? He transcended race but only black people can honor him?. That’s very narrow minded.

      • Marty says:

        @QQ- I think it would have been nice to have Janelle Monáe do something. She has a great voice and Prince was her mentor. This tribute was pretty underwhelming.

      • Almondjoy says:

        When I think of “the Queen” I think of Patti, Aretha and Chaka… Not Madonna.

        Yes Marty, Janelle would have been amazing! I think they were going for the biggest name, not who would be best for the tribute.

      • Colette says:

        Someone who can sing in tune.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Someone with musical talent. There are so many people who would have done a better job.

    • Dhavynia says:

      @jedge thank you! I’m kind of tired of reading negative comments about Madge, yes she’s no Whitney when it comes to voice but I have always liked her and made no apologies about it. She’s in the same industry as others doing whatever to get attention just like the rest who are younger but I think she gets more heat because of her age. Rip me apart all you want because it’s not popular opinion but that’s just my observation

    • serena says:

      I agree +100

    • Eleonor says:

      Those three in the ’80s were the HUGEST superstars around

    • JRenee says:

      Agreed.
      It was the wrong song for her, but I understand why she was asked.
      I expect the BET awards to have more artist like Shelia E. The Time, Chaka Khan, Larry Graham etc. as a part of their tribute.
      Fyi, Linda Perry can have several seats.

    • Julie A says:

      True.

    • FingerBinger says:

      @Jegede This. Those 3 were the 80s. It was fitting for Madonna to honor him.

      • belle says:

        @fingerbinger on Prince & “transcending race”
        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9kxsP215IR0

      • Almondjoy says:

        Belle, that was amazing and sooo true. Prince didn’t “transcend” anything, he was black and proud and stayed that way his whole life. This fact shouldn’t be ignored. Thanks for sharing. I hope everyone here watches this video. Going to start following her channel.

      • FingerBinger says:

        @belle and Almondjoy Transcending race means he had fans of all colors and nationalities. He appealed to everybody. He wasn’t just a black musician he was musician. He did all genres of music. Despite what you think he did transcend race. Nobody’s saying he wasn’t black and proud. I have a problem with somebody implying only black people would know how to honor him. That’s just not true

      • Almondjoy says:

        But did you watch the video? I’m aware of what transcending race means and how the phrase is used. I also never said that only black people would know how to honor him. But it IS sad that those who were most important to him were left out of this tribute. The words “transcending race” are rarely if ever used for a white musician and it’s also very rare that a black musician gets to do a tribute to a white musician. Just some interesting things to think about… Valid issues were brought up in this video and I think it’s worth discussing.

      • Paige says:

        Just because Madonna and Prince’s hits made the 80′s does not mean she should have done a Prince tribute. Prince was a musical genius. The man played how many instruments? Madonna can barely sing. The tribute should have been done by several artists, not just Madonna. It should been done by someone he’s worked with. Madonna may love and respect Prince as an artist, but her performance was a hot mess.

      • Susan says:

        By this theory then should MCHammer do a Nirvana tribute? They both rocked 1992 like nobody’s business, lol.

        PS After posting this, it occurred to me that Kurt was white and Hammer is AA. My sassy comment and apparent bad sense of humor did not take the racial implications of that into account. I was just thinking back on who I loved in 92. ;)

      • FingerBinger says:

        @AlmondJoy Madonna is a white artist who has transcended race. She has black,white,asian, gay and straight fans. She appeals to all nationalities as well. So did Prince. Black artists pay tributes to white artists all the time. Lenny Kravitz did a tribute to Led Zepplin. Musicians pay homage to each other. Music is universal and race shouldn’t be a prerequisite.

      • Dangles says:

        “Those three were the 80s.”

        Only if all you listened to was mainstream music.

      • belle says:

        but @fingerbinger
        “He wasn’t just a black musician he was musician. He did all genres of music.” He was a black musician though. A black musician who was loved by many people of different races & nationalities (& who can be honoured in tribute by artists of varying races with good vocals-not madonna). But he was still a black musician. & his blackness played a pivotal part in his journey as a musician, including not being played on certain stations early in his career. Bowie actually called out MTV for that racist nonsense. & your definition of “transcending racism” whether you see it or not is less like what you state (thus being loved by all) & more like what was described in the video. Thus you follow you statement of him being more than black by saying he did many genres. As if when black musicians do a certain genre of music theyve ‘surpassed/ overcome’ their blackness. All im saying is no one says this about Eminem. (Because in society whiteness isnt seen as something one has to overcome because no one boxes or limits whiteness nor does whiteness have to disassociate itself from an artist in order for that person to be considered appealing in the mainstream). The video explains this better than me. Basically your genre comment seems off base if we use your supposed definition of “transcending race”. Why is it there? it adds nothing to the statement. But if we use the definition in the video then we see the implication that is brought by the genre comment is to say he didn’t just do music we stereotypically associate with black artists thus “transcending race” again problematic cause white artists don’t get this.
        Also I agree with everything almondjoy said including the fact that black artists hardly get asked to pay tribute to white artists. Hardly & rare are different to never.

      • FingerBinger says:

        @belle You have my sincerest apologies for looking beyond Prince’s race and only enjoying his music.

      • amunet ma'at says:

        @Belle I want to just hug your post. I feel as if transcends race is one of those microaggressive phrases. It’s generally only applied to black artists who appeals across populations.

  7. DanaG says:

    I can see why they chose Madonna but I think someone else could have sung the songs way better and given it more feeling. Madonna tried and it wasn’t as bad as Lady Gaga.

  8. paolanqar says:

    Well at least she covered up and she didn’t do anything gross on stage.

    • tracking says:

      Though at least Prince would have had an appreciation for @ss-revealing clothing. They both broke ground in terms of sexuality, would have been better to have some of that in there.

      • paolanqar says:

        I’m just very grateful she didn’t show her ass or her lady parts this time. It’s not ground braking any more. it is just gross and passè

      • InvaderTak says:

        But Prince knew when to use it and when not to. He always had style, and signature looks, which took a lot of creativity. Madonna is just all about the shock value these days. She lacks creativity about it to say the least.

      • Christin says:

        Hadn’t he toned that down during the past few years?

        I think the purple paisley suit was a nice touch.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I was really scared she was going to be in butt exposing pants.

  9. Lindy79 says:

    Her face really doesn’t move anymore, it’s horrifying.
    I don’t like it nor do I hate it, she can’t sing well enough to carry it off and there’s zero emotion, but it was at least respectful

    • me says:

      Yeah all I noticed was the amount of fillers in her face and the frozen forehead. She didn’t sing the song well at all…but yes it was at least respectful…no half naked costume for once.

      • wood dragon says:

        Seriously, she needs to leave her face alone. Nothing she has done is helping. It’s only magnifying her age.

  10. tracking says:

    M was a poor fit with Nothing Compares, but I enjoyed Purple Rain well enough.

  11. Dangles says:

    I’ve noticedthe music stores are really trying to cash in on Prince’s death by having his best of CDs and Purple Rain DVDs displayed in prominent areas. It seems more like a cash grab than genuine mourning over his passing.

  12. Ann says:

    Too bad Sinead isn’t doing well – that was, is and always will be her song. I would have loved to see her sing it instead.

  13. Kk says:

    It was ok. Not terrible, but not great. Madonna’s voice isn’t that good, but I do understand why they chose her and it was a heartfelt tribute. I really liked her suit.

    • Julie A says:

      I didn’t think she sounded any worse than Rihanna, who allegedly had one of her best vocal performances ever.

  14. NeNe'sWig says:

    I didn’t get to watch the whole tribute, I just caught the end – but seeing all those people in the audience singing along together to Purple Rain really made it hit home for me that Prince is really gone. Still so sad.

  15. Colette says:

    It was disappointing and disrespectful to his artistry and legacy IMO.Madonna should have introduced the tribute and let people with stronger voices sing.I wanted to cry when I watched that mess.It was one of the worst tributes I have ever watched of a major artist.She was off key.The duo with Stevie seemed to be slapped together at the last minute.

  16. Terri says:

    I know Prince wrote the song, but it is a Sinead song, so I don’t think it was an apropriate choice for a tribute. I think Madonna did “alright” but wasn’t stellar. The choice of Purple Rain was a good one.

  17. molli3 says:

    She’s earned the right to do it even though her voice is faltering. They were tight in the day.
    It was respectful.
    The thing was, as soon as they panned the audience and they showed RiRi I thought “OH MY GOD I WISH RIRI had done Purple Rain instead”

  18. willful ignorance says:

    Funny. I was so glad Madonna if she was going to do the song let it be understated.

    Can’t wait for the BET tribute. It should be great.

  19. Kri says:

    My cat put his ears back and humped the sofa pillow.It was all bad.

  20. nicegirl says:

    I cannot get over her Gucci suit. LEGIT. Prince would have loved that.

    • Carol says:

      That outfit was to die for. The best part of her performance I think.

      • mary simon says:

        Agree. Nice suit and refreshing to see her covered in something non-cringy and flattering for a change.

  21. colleen says:

    I found it surprisingly not tacky. I liked the tribute, despite Madonna’s voice. I thought she was appropriate and modest and the Legend Wonder was great too.

  22. Joannie says:

    Sinead would have been great but Madonna did alright. Stevie was a big NO.

  23. Nik says:

    The singing was flat. Above all she seemed very nervous. Maybe if her butt cheeks were showing she will have felt more at ease. Not a good tribute very slow. She should not have knocked at the door. I was ready to party.

  24. rudy says:

    The moment the chair started turning around with Madge poised in place like a sculpture I was outta there. All Madonna all the time. THat is NOT a tribute. That is NOT about Prince. It has nothing at ALL to do with her career/kids/money/place in history. Stevie Wonder ALONE would have been so much better. He is an amazing musician with a career that far surpasses Madonna. What where they thinking?

    Maybe they did not have the guts to just say no. It is a shame.

  25. MAC says:

    David Gilmour’s tribute was best

  26. Jwoolman says:

    She was dressed right for it, was of his generation and had worked with him. No reason why she shouldn’t do a tribute. There will be many others.

  27. megsie says:

    Madonna and Prince are polar opposites in every way I can imagine. Crossing my fingers BET does it right.

  28. Detnow says:

    It was reported that after he died Madonna approached the Billboard producers to do a tribute to her friend Prince. Originally it was said she alone would do the tribute so I was thrilled to see Stevie come out there. Stevie adored Prince and loved him as an artist.

    Madonna’s vocals were what they always have been. I didn’t expect anything more. She is not a strong singer. I do think it was touchy and obviously hard for her to sing that nothing compares to you, because nothing compares to Prince. She was crying and shaking trying to get through it. It’s also never easy to be the first of anything.

  29. Tessa says:

    She murdered nothing compares 2U

  30. holly hobby says:

    I don’t really hate it. It was respectful and she didn’t do anything vulgar. However if you want to hear a really good version of Nothing Compares to U, go to Youtube and search for the Dixie Chicks’ version. Now that is real singing.