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Why Stevie Wonder couldn’t save Madonna’s lackluster Prince tribute

Stevie Wonder_Madonna

Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/BBMA2016/Press Images

Madonna’s heart may have been in the right place. She may have wanted to show the world how much Prince will be missed and how his untimely death touched us all. The moment that it was announced that Madonna would lead a tribute to Prince at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, immediate backlash followed on social media and a campaign rallied against the idea.

However, the producers of the Billboard Music Awards ignored the naysayers and stood behind Madonna’s idea to perform the tribute. With only minutes remaining in the show, the lights at T-Mobile Arena turned purple and the attendees waved purple lights that were given out shortly before the performance. While sitting on a large purple chair that rotated until she was within view of the crowd, Madonna, dressed in purple and holding a cane, began singing Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” It may have been a sincere attempt, but Madonna’s rendition lacked the emotions and vocal depth to make it a memorable performance. She couldn’t save herself.

So in a final move to rescue the tribute, Madonna called on an artist that is often untouchable. Stevie Wonder can rarely do wrong and stands as a living legend who inspired artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson. But standing next to Madonna while singing “Purple Rain,” even Wonder could not salvage the moment. The hole that Madonna dug for herself was too deep and all who were involved would succumb to its failures.

After the show, BET took the opportunity to jab at Madonna and the Billboard Music Awards by posting a video clip to promote Prince’s upcoming tribute at the BET Awards. The video clip ended with the caption, “Yeah we saw that. Don’t worry. We got you.”

It was a subtle jab that eventually hit harder than a knockout punch. Questlove, who opened with a touching speech before the tribute, went to Twitter in an attempt to calm the emotions of those who hated the performance.

“Every Prince rendition will not be a life changing orgasmic experience. Just to sing his work is brave enough. Again feelings are on high,” he tweeted.

He had an interesting perspective, but the fact that he had to defend the tribute speaks volumes.

Here’s how others responded on social media:


  1. FuZ on May 23, 2016 at 8:12 am

    It didn’t make sense for her period. It wasn’t the best song. Stevie needs to take a seat. I know that he’s getting up there, but his act is old.
    Billboard shouldn’t have allowed any of this to happen.

  2. guest on May 23, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Who didn’t know this was going to be an epic fail. I’m not a BET fan but you know they will knock their Prince tribute out the park.

    • Bo Lotus Derek-Smith on May 23, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      U mean like they did, when Trey Songs butchered his tribute of “Purple Rain” ??(while Prince was alive!!)

      • chickennoodlesoupz on May 23, 2016 at 5:43 pm

        Jesus Christ. I am so mad about this story. What sucks is so many people don’t know the real story. Prince organized his own tribute. He hand picked all the LADIES that he wanted to do his tribute! Trey Songs decided on his own to do Purple Rain! That’s why Prince was so pissed! Because it was out of order. Also, a tribute is one part of the show, its done all at once! When Trey did that it wasn’t even around the time for the tribute. Even go on twitter right now. One of the BET staffers said: “Patti, Janelle, Esperanza, Alicia was us. Not the others….”

        • Lahela Way on May 23, 2016 at 9:33 pm

          And Patti was suppose to sing it. She came out later and showed him and everybody else how it should be done but it was still a mess that BET let it happen

      • Lahela Way on May 23, 2016 at 9:31 pm

        ???how the heck did BET let trey sing Patti’s song!???⬅️how Prince looked??

  3. Rhonda Smith on May 23, 2016 at 11:04 am

    This was horrible. Shame on Billboard for pulling such a stunt in the name of Prince

  4. anastay007 on May 23, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    WHEN an entertainer can’t sing, isn’t it best to dance or at least distract the audience with a fast number? WTH was that Billboard? Didn’t the Prince fans warn you? Such disrespect for someone that gave us 40 yrs of music…It’s a wrap take your awards and go home, don’t ever come back. E.V.E.R.

  5. britishrose on May 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    i disagree she did good hell it was not meant to bring him from hhis grave but a lot of blacks detest madonna for parenting 2 black kids whites turned her too prince actually praised her for it and if charlis thornton and sandra bulluck can she can too those kids were poor and she is offering them what black folk are jealous of riches so good for her she is no less of a legend then tina turner and blacks detested her too whites embraced her at her age she was still performing so why all the madonna hate prince wasnt friends with any of the COMPLAINERS SOOOO WHY NOT TAKE SEVERAL ASPRINS!!!

    • Thomas Lott on May 23, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      I don’t think people hate Madonna because she’s parenting black kids. Good for her and the kids who now have a better life. But she just came up short with Prince tribute. Maybe dancing to his music and bringing others who he worked with could’ve helped. But she didn’t and it turned out bad

      • Likewaterforchoc on May 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm

        This chick is forever talking out her ass and writing diatribes that make no sense.

        • guest on May 24, 2016 at 2:41 pm

          I feel myself dumbing down every time I try and read one of her incoherent rants. I give up!

    • Likewaterforchoc on May 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Girl, sftu. You are so far off base with this bs rant. You are doing the most to play the victimized white woman race card.

      Why can’t people accept that Billboard sh!t the bed with this selection? Madonna was not the right act, period. Sure she is an icon and Prince’s contemporary, but she was not the right fit and is a completely different type of artist. She’s is limited and is not one of those artists that can just perform “anything.” People protested because they knew it wasn’t going to be good and it wasn’t. So cry your white woman tears elsewhere.

      • eck on May 29, 2016 at 5:56 pm

        “You are doing the most to play the victimized white woman race card.”
        “So cry your white woman tears elsewhere.”
        And you got 4 upvotes, proving my point about this racist POS website.
        It’s all about race with you people. You literally have race on the brain 24/7.
        Black Americans, keep blaming your community/society’s problems on big bad whitey. Nothing will change.

        • Likewaterforchoc on May 31, 2016 at 2:35 pm

          “you people”. You just proved my point. I said what I said.


    • Lahela Way on May 23, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      The fruit roll up are u talking about!?

    • Jae on May 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      Nobody gives a sh** that Madonna has two black children. That is her personal business which is awesome (Even though Mercy’s family says otherwise) She could have a rainbow tribe for all most people care. That has nothing to do with this! and just because she is an icon does not mean she was the best person for this. Nobody is hating on her. GTFOH.

  6. LaAmericana on May 23, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Madonna is just an attention wh*re, every time an actual, gifted artist dies, she rushes to the spotlight, perhaps she thinks some of their genius and talent will rub off on her. Madonna is a shrewd, saavy business woman and provides interesting, outrageous, and scandalous entertainment through her shows, and shes very good at what she does. However, a great singer/songwriter/musician she is NOT and will NEVER be, what an insult to Prince.

    • guest on May 24, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      It always bothers me every time they try and put her on the same plateau as Michael and Prince, just because they are around the same age and sold more records than anyone did at their peaks in the 80s. I’m a Madonna fan but she is not half the talent those two did.

      • Jae on May 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm


      • SeXyWiNkeViLgRiN on May 24, 2016 at 4:09 pm

        I couldnt agree with you more, I think this happens because the music industry doesnt differentiate between the true singer/songwriter/musician and the performers, all they care about is how many albums they sell and how much money they bring in. Being a good performer doesnt require that you be a gifted singer, or that you write your own material, hell you dont even have to play an instrument. As long as there is something entertainingly novel, sexy, shocking, demonic, offensive or controversial about you and your show, you can make a buck. Madonna absolutely MASTERED all of the above, think about it, she was raised Catholic, she all but spit on her religion, went into Kabbalah, named herself Esther, claims shes connected to all religions including islam while she flings rosaries and crosses around as props during her performances. Shes a disrespectful scumbag, who STRIVES to offend, but shes also interesting, crafty, shamelessly self promoting, outrageous and entertaining. And in the end, we will excuse her lack of vocals while we dance to the studio fabricated rhythm of Everybody, Vogue, Hungup, 4 Minutes etc, for it is, great dance music.

  7. Vaughnj TheChameleon on May 27, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    I have huge Respect for ANY ARTIST who gets on stage or in front of Any audience to perform their craft at any level from Newbie to Professional.It takes a lot of strength and courage, but this years BBMA’s sucked in general way before Madonna took the stage with exception of pink’s performance.For some reason most the acts that performed seemed overly staged,dull and out right routine in performance with a lack of genuine energy. Previous years have often had more energy,more heart felt efforts put into the performance.You walked away from the viewing feeling like the Artist really wanted to perform for the fans and crowd.

  8. eck on May 29, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Holy shit black americans have a race problem. It’s like some inferiority complex. Everything is race related. Stevie Wonder, the black one, had to save the performance from Madonna, the white one. I’m seeing a trend on this website.
    Keep blaming your problems on big bad whitey, black America. I’m sure that’ll get you out of the non-progressive slump you’ve been in for decades.