Courting controversy has been in Madonna's bloodstream since the genesis of her career. From the iconic 1984 VMA performance of "Like a Virgin" that found her writhing seductively in a wedding dress to her much-maligned foray into soft-core with the release of the aptly named 1992 coffee table book, Sex, she's been ruffling feathers and challenging social conventions throughout her three decades as a pop idol.
Lady Gaga is much newer to the game, and while nobody could accuse her of being a wallflower, she seems more inclined to get attention for wild wardrobe choices (meat dress, anyone?) and arty publicity stunts (her 2011 Grammy red carpet entrance in a giant egg comes to mind) than acts of moral provocation.
And yet, it seemed deliciously inevitable that two of dance-pop's most media savvy divas would eventually butt heads. We're all for world peace, but we admit to being totally titillated by what may yet become one of the most memorable music catfights since Lily Allen vs. Katy Perry.The story goes that Madonna was initially flattered by some of the more obvious parallels between her career and Gaga's—the relentlessly naked ambition, visual allusions to the Catholic Church, and so on. But that was when Gaga was still relatively unknown, and not an obvious successor to the title of pop music's biggest female extrovert.
By the time Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" came out, the song was immediately greeted with criticism that it sounded remarkably similar to Madonna's 1989 mega-hit "Express Yourself." While Gaga apparently didn't hear the similarities at first, plenty of blog-savvy listeners begged to differ. To make matters worse, Gaga's first performance of the song on TV found her outfitted with a high blonde ponytail, a style any Madonna fan will tell you was a signature look during the singer's landmark Blonde Ambition Tour.
Daaaaaamn!Twitter wars ensued between Madonna and Gaga fans (with most Gaga fans strangely taking aim at Madonna's age), but the Material Girl remained mostly silent until the time came to promote her latest album, MDNA. It was then that Madonna, in a master stroke of dignified shade, told GMA that she found Gaga's song "reductive" (all while sipping a cup of tea) and went on to make headlines when she added Gaga's song to her live set list in the form of a mash-up with "Express Yourself" and another Madonna song appropriately titled "She's Not Me."
So far, Gaga has opted for a strategy of avoidance on the matter, telling a recent concert audience that she doesn't want to launch a grand scale war with Madge (although she didn't mention her by name). From where we sit, it just goes to show how much of an upper hand Madonna still holds when it comes to staying in the limelight, and just in the last week treated us to a strategic flash, a swastika controversy and an onstage gun to the head.
Whoever comes out on top, we're relishing this epic battle between two generations of dance-floor queens, and we're dancing gleefully to both of their albums while doing so.