Madonna has defended herself amid growing criticism surrounding her tribute to Prince at the Billboard Music Awards.

The Material Girl singer began her performance to her former flame, who died last month, with a touching rendition of his Nothing Compares 2 U, which became a huge global hit for Sinead O'Connor.

Madonna, wearing a lavender suit and ruffled shirt like the ones Prince often performed in, was then joined by Stevie Wonder for a take on the tragic star's Purple Rain anthem.

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Critics were quick to take a swipe at the 57-year-old, with many feeling someone from today's generation of pop stars should have been given the honour.

But on Monday the star took to her Instagram account to hit back at her haters.

"Anyone who wants to do a tribute to Prince is welcome to," she wrote alongside a snap of herself in a patterned purple ensemble. "Whatever your age Gender or skin Color. If you loved him and he inspired you then show it!!!! I love Prince 4 ever (sic)."

A few minutes later, Madonna posted a short video clip of her dancing and added the defiant message "Deal with it!"

This is my " I'm not your bitch don't hang your shit on me" Dance 💜💜💜☔️☔️☔️

A post shared by Madonna (@madonna) on

Madonna briefly dated Prince in 1985 and the pair collaborated on Love Song. While they had their differences over the years, she was clearly emotional after her performance, hitting social media to share her thoughts with fans.

"An Epic Moment for Me to sing in honor of Prince with Stevie Wonder. #luckiestgirlintheworld," she wrote alongside a snap of herself and the Superstition star.

"Such an AmaaaaaaaaaaIng (sic) Moment for Me! Thanks to all who made it happen!!! His Purple Heart was there in spirit. Long may He Reign!

Such an AmaaaaaaaaaaIng Moment for Me! Thanks to all who made it happen!!! 💜☔️🙏🏻.

A post shared by Madonna (@madonna) on

Prince was found dead in an elevator at his Paisley Park home on 21 April.

- WENN