Prince Deserved a Better Tribute

There've been lots of people defending Madonna's tribute to Prince at the Billboard Music Awards. They point out that she wore a flashy suit and there was a purple chair. Wasn't that well-staged?

Yeah, right, as if Prince was only about what things looked like.

Her singing was dull and boring. Think about it: would you ever use those words to describe Prince? Not even Stevie Wonder could save the day. Everything disappeared into a kind of artistic black hole and the tribute felt more like a dirge. Madonna might as well have worn full Victorian mourning with a floor-length veil.

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People have defended her in all kinds of ways, like saying she was of the same generation as Prince blah blah blah. Questlove took her sidebig-time, saying "Every Prince rendition will not be a life changing orgasmic experience. Just to SING his work is brave enough."

That's a bogus argument. Would anyone seriously expect to have their life changed at a Prince tribute (or anyone else's tribute)? What they would expect is musicality, excitement, and passion. The kind of passion Prince always had on stage, like when he beefed up "A Love Bizarre", the song he and Sheila E. wrote together and she had recorded in a more laid-back version. Watch that amazing video and dream of what the BBMA tribute might have been....

And since when is covering a Prince tune really about courage for other singers? So Madonna has to get props for showing up and trying? At her age, after her long and starry career? That's pathetic.

I've also seen this kind of argument: "What's the big deal? BBMA isn't going to be the only tribute. Get over it." Besides being rude and dismissive, that's also an argument that has no logical foundation. Who said or believed that this tribute would be the only one? There can be a dozen tributes to Prince and people will be expressing themselves about their merits, just as they have been on this dud. Why shouldn't they?

Now, I know there were fans complaining that Sheila E. and Morris Day would have been better choices. Better than Madonna for damned sure. I myself would have loved to see newer artists show what they could do with something hot of Prince's, singers like The Weekend and Janelle Monáe. That would have been a tribute to Prince's past and it would have shown his influence spreading out into the future.

It sure as hell wouldn't have been boring.

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Lev Raphael is the author of The Vampyre of Gotham and 24 other books in genres from mystery to memoir that you can find on Amazon.