One of my greatest shortcomings, as a person, is that I do not know how to drive. I grew up in a city, then I moved to an even larger city, and so there’s never been an impetus to learn except for the fact that I am now almost 30 and face the regular humiliation of being virginem quae non eiciam. Translation: a virgin who can’t drive. As such, I’ve tried to dedicate a lot of energy into being the perfect road trip companion. Sure, I can’t take over when you get tired, but I will come up with rhetorical car games to keep you entertained.
Recently, while on holidays with three female friends, I came up with a game called The Queen of Pop is Dead. The concept is thus: Madonna is no longer the Queen of Pop. The ring has fallen from her finger, and must be caught by only one. You are a foot soldier in their army. Who do you fight for?
An obvious choice! Beyoncé is the Roman Empire of pop culture: her reach is so vast, so organised, so impressive, that to join it feels as natural as breathing. Beyoncé’s army descends on your city and endless quadrants of soldiers march in perfect unison. Drums bang, reverberating in the base of your chest. Armoured elephant cavalry crush villagers under their feet. Reams of archers, each with a flaming arrow pointed at the city walls. They are coming. They are coming. They are coming.
Surely, Beyoncé will steal the throne before nightfall.
Deathless. Magical. In possession of a deep and ageless sorcery, of thick and cruel wisdom. Speaks in riddles, fights in verse. Her connections to the Old Palace run deeper than blood. She calls upon all the deceased spirits to join her, whispers their names like spells. Janis Joplin. Dusty Springfield. Mama Cass.
The point isn’t just that Cher is the most powerful witch in the world: it is that she is also the most powerful politician in the world. Beyoncé has the numbers, that’s true. But compared to Cher, Beyoncé is young, untested. When someone attacks a Beyoncé territory, Beyoncé thinks: end this, immediately. When they attack a Cher territory, Cher thinks: why am I being distracted?
Britney Spears is being carried on a litter, wincing her eyes into the morning sunlight. Her followers have been steadfast, though they are losing hope. From their queen comes only a silence they choose to interpret as strength. “Your Majesty,” her advisor protests meekly. “If we don’t act now, we risk losing our place entirely: surely an allegiance, of some sort, at the very least?”
“I’m waiting,” Britney says, with a touch more shrillness than she intends. “I’m waiting to see.”
An arms dealer. She sourced those elephants for Beyoncé and she knows where they can get more.
A single blade flies through the air and into Rihanna’s litter, missing her head narrowly. Her ladies scream; Rihanna is unbothered. “Stop,” she says quietly, and somehow, the entire 10,000-strong caravan stops. News of the spear travels fast. Rihanna leaves her litter and locates the assailant: a 12 year-old girl quivering with guilt. Rihanna holds the girl’s chin in her hand, one sharp nail hovering above the throat.
“You’re hungry, aren’t you?” she asks.
The girl only nods.
“Join me, then.”
Her ladies gasp: there is no telling when Rihanna will offer profound mercy, and when she will drive her nail straight through a human throat.
Pleads pacifism; invests heavily in chemical warfare. “Just to be safe.”
Our gentle summer princess doesn’t have the numbers yet to make her own claim to the throne, but is a powerful ally, and knows it. She quietly becomes influential, and seems to be the third person in the room whenever a treaty is formed between two other parties.
No interest in making a claim: instead, runs a deeply secluded all-female cult from the inside of an ice cavern. She appears to lone, injured travellers and offers them a wooden bowl of steaming water. It cures them instantly. “They say you possess some of Cher’s power,” they stutter. “They say you know her secrets.” Lorde only smiles, and disappears behind a veil of silver rain.
Her army are small in numbers, but feral, and not to be underestimated. They live like hyenas in only the harshest of deserts, preying on their enemies in guerrilla attacks. Their queen is seen rarely, and often rumoured to be dead. A more persistent rumour is that, after the rest of the world blows one another to pieces, Kesha will emerge as the sole survivor.
Powerful, but spending is a problem. The court’s coffers are almost empty: something almost everyone knows, but isn’t saying. Gaga will spend a lot of money and time seeming like a threat, but will eventually broker a powerful alliance, probably with Beyoncé.
Her army is large, but young, and many not old enough to hold a sword. She has a powerful beginning but after the Gaga/Beyoncé treaty is formed, is hankering for a similar alliance of her own.
The lone 12 year-old blade thrower was Selena Gomez. Gomez leads a militia of ex-Disney warriors who are driven half-mad by cruelty and are thirsty for blood. She will be Rihanna’s right-hand… for a price. “Your majesty, a warning,” her advisor warns. “You do not so much as lead a Disney army as you hire them. And we’re running low on funds.”
Rihanna wrinkles her brow. Can she afford to hire a Disney army? Can she afford not to hire a Disney army?
Forms an alliance with Cher. Considers herself the natural successor: Cher allows her to think so.
Britney Spears, again
“Your Majesty, we simply must do something. Your people! You must think of your people!”
Britney squints at a map. “Which way is Christina leaning?”
A pause. Britney considers a treaty with Beyoncé, but sees that all the places of influence are already taken up by Gaga and Ariana Grande.
“We ally with Rihanna.”
Our young queen is about to surrender a major territory to Beyoncé. A messenger enters the litter, for Rihanna never stays in one place: her palace is a mobile one.
“News from Spears,” the messenger breathes. “She will support you.”
A slow smile. “Find me Gomez.”
“Which… which Queen do the gays like best?”
“Bring me the heart of Demi Lovato.”
Is brought the heart of Demi Lovato.
Beyoncé, the night before storming the castle
A single arrow shoots through her litter. She catches it in one hand. A note is tied to it: we have Solange.
They have found Beyoncé’s single weakness: her sister.
Who will you join in the War for The Queen of Pop? Join us next time when the story continues!