Social media exploded as angry viewers accused the 60-year-old singer of talking about herself and not Aretha.
Madonna took to the stage to pay homage to the Respect singer who died last week aged 76 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
She said: “Thank you Aretha for empowering all of us. Our R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Long live the queen.”
Madonna told the audience that it was a performance of Franklin’s song that launched her music career.
In the 10-minute eulogy, Madonna recalled living in Detroit with only “$35 in my pocket” and being rejected from auditions for “not being pretty enough”.
She added it was at an audition when she sang Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman that kick-started her career.
Madonna said:”I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer but I went for it. I got cut and rejected from every audition — not tall enough, not blend-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough. Not enough.
“So I showed up for the audition and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theatre, daring me to be amazing. The dance audition went well.”
She continued: “I had to think fast, my next meal was on the line. Fortunately one of my favourite albums was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out You Make Me Feel… silence. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
“I could see that they did not take me seriously — and why should they?
“Some skinny a*** white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived? And a cappella … I said, ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna.’ No, I didn’t, I didn’t say that. ‘Cause I wasn’t Madonna yet.”
She concluded: “So you’re probably all wondering why I’m telling you this story. There’s a connection, because none of this would’ve happened – could’ve happened – without our lady of soul.”
Furious viewers took to social media to criticise the singer’s tribute and complain that it did not focus on the “Queen of Soul.”
Some of the biggest names attended Monday night’s award ceremony in New York.
There were performances from Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez,
Camila Cabello picked up two awards on the night, scooping both Artist of the Year and Video of the Year.