Madonna & Stevie Wonder Pay Tribute to Prince at 2016 Billboard Music Awards

The announcement that Madonna would be paying tribute to Prince at the Billboard Music Awards caused no shortage of controversy  perhaps understandably. After all, Prince was probably the greatest musical genius of his generation; while Madonna is a phenomenal talent at many things, her chops as a musician are maybe not at the top of that list.

Madonna performed “Nothing Compares 2 U,” in Sinead O’Connor’s arrangement  accompanied by a string quartet, two singers, two keyboardists and a vaguely trap drum machine playing it safe and nailing most of the notes. Tears were visible in her eyes by the end of the first verse.

She finished the song and then, in a surprise, Stevie Wonder joined her onstage for a coda of the chorus from “Purple Rain.” Purple spotlights criss-crossed the arena as the crowd waved illuminated purple wristbands in time with the song, with Wonder leading a gospel-inflected a cappella breakdown of the chorus as the cameras panned to audience members, many of them in tears.

Stevie thanked Madonna, Madonna thanked Stevie, and then said, “And most of all, thank you Prince Rogers Nelson, for all that you have given us.” It was a perfect ending to a moving tribute.

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