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August 21, 2018 at 12:21 AM EDT

With this year’s MTV Video Music Awards falling just four days after the death of Aretha Franklin last Thursday, a tribute to the legendary soul singer was in order for the show.

Madonna (whose 60th birthday also happened to be last Thursday) was on hand to present the award for Video of the Year at the end of the ceremony, and MTV called on the Queen of Pop to honor the late Queen of Soul during her moment onstage.

Before awarding the Moon Person statuette to Camila Cabello for the “Havana” music video, the Material Girl told a long-winded story about the early days of her career. Struggling to make it as a dancer, she took a musical theater audition with a group of French producers. “Why not?” she thought at the time. “The worst that can happen is I can go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint, and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third-floor walk-up that was also a crack house.”

She nailed the dance portion of the audition but panicked when they asked her to produce sheet music and sing. “I had to think fast. My next meal was on the line,” she said. “Fortunately, one of my favorite albums was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out, ‘You Make Me Feel!’ Silent. ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman!’”

Long story short, Madonna sang the Aretha classic acapella, and the French producers called her a few weeks later to tell her she hadn’t gotten the job, but they wanted her to go to Paris to become a star, which she did. Then she said she left Paris because she felt like she hadn’t earned it yet.

She concluded the convoluted tale with a promise that, yes, the whole thing really was about Aretha and not just entirely about Madonna. “There is a connection!” she said. “Because none of this would have happened, could have happened without our Lady of Soul. She led me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight. I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Twitter was not amused by the pop star’s self-serving half-tribute to the late legend.

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