June 10, 2010— -- If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Madonna should feel sincerely flattered watching Lady Gaga's latest video.
Since the video for Gaga's most-recent single, "Alejandro," premiered, fans and music writers have been divided over whether Gaga was trying to flatter the Material Girl or rip-off her best-known videos.
Madge has yet to weigh in on the debate. Her rep did not respond to ABCNews.com's request for comment. But if her remarks at last Sunday's MTV Movie Awards in which she called Gaga "beautiful" are any indication, then Madonna is most likely flattered.
The nearly nine-minute video in which Gaga pays homage to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and "Vogue" videos, has been drawing controversy for other reasons, too. Gaga swallows rosary beads while dressed as a nun in red latex, and simulates having sex while in the presence of a crucifix.
Singer Katy Perry, for one, was offended. "Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke," she wrote on her Twitter page.
"It may be her first kind of misstep," MTV News rock editor James Montgomery told ABCNews.com. "In the two years since she's burst on the scene, she's had a series of right steps. Maybe she's set the bar so high even she can't top it. The casual fans and some of the music critics are saying, 'I'm a little disappointed.'"
For one thing, the song "Alejandro" is a relatively light pop concoction reminiscent of Madonna's "La Isla Bonita." It was voted No. 1 in MTV's summer jam poll. But the video, dark and dramatic, with images of death, bondage and androgyny, is the complete opposite.
Kyle Anderson, MTV News' blog editor, agreed that fans who loved the video for "Telephone" may find this one a bit strange.
"This is probably the first thing she's done that really has a darkness to it," Anderson told ABCNews.com. "It's not fun."
It's easy to spot the Madonna references in the video. The black-and-white photography, sparse set and iconic blond hairstyle are reminiscent of "Vogue." The Catholic references and flames in the background of one of the dance scenes could have been at home in Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video. Gaga even wears a bra with gun barrels attached, a clear nod to Madonna's famous conical bra she wore during the Blonde Ambition tour.
Gaga More than Madonna?
Lady Gaga has been compared to Madonna since she first hit the scene. No surprise that she looks up to her too.
"Madonna is a wonderful, wonderful person," she told the website SHOWstudio. "She is so full of the most wonderful freedom and spirit, and she is so kind. We have shared some wonderful, honest moments together. She comes to my shows, I ask her questions, she's given me advice."
In her latest video she seems to be embracing the comparison to Madonna.
"This is the first time where she seems to be actively cultivating that salute to the woman who came first," Anderson said. "This is the best appropriation I've seen."
But Montgomery believes the video is more than just an ode to Madonna. It's Gaga's artiest video, with references to 1920s Weimar, Germany -- the same era depicted in "Cabaret" -- expressionism and Marlene Deitrich, all of which probably once influenced Madonna.
Even though the video was directed by photographer Steven Klein, who has worked with Madonna in recent years, Montgomery, who spoke to him, said the director did not set out to make an homage to Madonna. Klein told Montgomery he was influenced by cinema and theater and a woman's desire to resurrect her dead love.
"Regardless of what you think of the video, to me it's commendable that Gaga and Klein put so much into a video," Montgomery said, "to have a huge artist pushing the envelope and inspiring dialogue. It may not be the best thing, but I saw a bit of art and a lot of ambition."