Lady Gaga has become one of the biggest stars in the world with her creative songs, bizarre outfits and free-thinking spirit. Many have compared her favorably to pop music icon Madonna.

But Madonna has been the queen of pop music for three decades now, constantly reinventing herself and re-writing the record books.

Is Lady Gaga better than Madonna? Let’s examine their respective talents to find out.

Songwriting skills

Madonna was not initially a songwriter, but she grew into the role. By 1989’s “Like a Prayer,” the album that transformed her from pop singer to respected artist, she was co-writing every song.

Gaga began as a songwriter right out of the shoot, co-writing every song on her debut album “The Fame,” including hits “Paparazzi,” “Just Dance,” “Poker Face” and “LoveGame.” She has also penned tracks for artists as diverse as Jennifer Lopez, New Kids on the Block, Adam Lambert and Michael Bolton.

Music videos

Madonna was a video visionary. Her clips for “Material Girl,” “Like a Virgin,” “Like a Prayer,” “Open Your Heart” and “Papa Don’t Preach” made her the greatest female artist of the MTV era.

Gaga has already developed a reputation as the most exciting music video star since Madonna. “Bad Romance,” “Telephone” and “Born This Way” captured almost as much attention for their promotional video clips as for the songs themselves.

Other talents

Lady Gaga is a talented pianist. Madonna didn’t play an instrument until the late ‘90s, though she did eventually become proficient on guitar. Gaga also has a stronger voice than the young Madonna had. The Material Girl had to work hard to strengthen and mature her voice and, to her credit, she did just that.

Both women have strong backgrounds in dance. Both also excel in pushing the envelope, although Madonna went a lot further and broke down a lot more barriers, from being free about her sexuality to kissing a black Jesus in the “Like a Prayer” video. Gaga causes some minor controversy with outfits like her meat dress, but nobody pushes the envelope like Ms. Ciccone did.

“Born This Way” and “Express Yourself”

Many fans and critics expressed outrage that Gaga’s latest #1 single “Born This Way” seems to borrow part of the melody from Madonna’s hit “Express Yourself.” But that discussion was overblown. Melodies are borrowed all the time. There are plenty of far more egregious examples of melody theft in pop music (check out Nelly’s “Just a Dream,” which swipes the entire chorus melody from Wyclef Jean’s “Sweetest Girl.”)

Gaga’s body of work shouldn’t be downgraded because she wrote a song that happened to slightly resemble an old Madonna track. If anything, the song is an homage to the queen.

Does it matter who’s better?

We probably shouldn’t make a big deal about this, since Gaga and Madonna seem to have a cordial relationship. They appeared together on an episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 2009 in which they jokingly made fun of each other. Gaga said, “Guess what, Madonna? I’m totally hotter than you!,” while Madonna teased, “What kind of name is Lady Gaga? It sounds like baby food!”

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter who is better, because both women are fantastic. But fans enjoy the debate nonetheless.

Is Lady Gaga better than Madonna?

The verdict? It depends on how you perceive their careers. If you look at her singing, songwriting and instrumental abilities, she’s definitely ahead of where Madonna was at the same point in her career.

But, when it comes to overall career achievements, Gaga still has a long way to go to catch the Material Girl. With 37 career Top 10 hits – more than the Beatles, Elvis, or anyone else – Madonna is still the undisputed queen of pop.