A high-profile tribute to Prince that was supposed to be the climactic moment of Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards left many Prince fans with a bad taste in their mouths.
At the center of the controversy and outrage is Madonna, who sang Prince’s “Nothing Compares to You” and recruited Stevie Wonder to join her onstage for a chorus of “Purple Rain.” A number of Prince fans were offended by the choice of Madonna to perform the tribute, presumably because Madonna and Prince for decades carried on an on-again, off-again feud after they reportedly dated briefly in the 1980s.
Other observers were just turned off by Madonna’s performance. The U.K. publication The Telegraph declared that Madonna picked the wrong Prince song to try to cover.
“Whatever emotion Madonna was attempting to convey wasn’t making it out of her mouth in the way she intended,” The Telegraph reported. “Hauling Stevie Wonder onstage for a closing chorus of Purple Rain went some way to repairing the damage that had been meted out to Prince’s memory but this was another night in Madonna’s gradual evolution into Your Mum’s Cringey Friend Who Doesn’t Know When She’s Embarrassing Herself.”
The Atlantic, which called the ceremony “the most soul-crushingly cynical of the soul-crushingly cynical music-awards shows,” called Madonna’s performance a “pitchy but pious rendition” and added: “The performance was, at its most basic level, a tribute to Prince, but like so much of the evening it felt like a statement of futility: Something’s gone forever, and the only, imperfect thing to do is sing about it.” (Click on the link to The Atlantic to see a video of the performance.)