Whether you actually watched the MTV Video Music Awards last night or were just assailed with the ensuing commentary once you checked social media, it's clear upon a glance who the big names in mainstream music are at this point in time. It's also clear who the queens are. Which is why a little thrill goes through the collective social media spine when, say, Beyonce gives Nicki Minaj a diamond "Flawless" necklace backstage at the VMAs. It's also what makes the general relationship between Beyonce and Minaj — and those two and the rest of us — so fascinating.
Minaj has made it clear since the "Flawless (Remix)" dropped: She's damn excited to be working with Beyonce. Who wouldn't be? She's Beyonce. Here's how Minaj describes getting "the call" to work with her:
I think a month or two ago, [my manager] Gee [Roberson] called me when I was on my way to Vegas and he said, ‘Beyoncé wants you to remix ‘Flawless.’ And after I got proper medical help and started breathing again, I was like, ‘What?’
In a similar vein, here's the caption to Minaj's instagram describing the moment Beyonce gave her her pricey present:
If Beyonce didn't walk into your dressing room and give you a diamond "FLAWLESS" necklace, then there's no way you could be having a better week than me. Lol. Awwwww thank u QUEEN. ur just a precious gem. I could never thank you enough for your influence on powerful women all around the world. #WeFlawless
It's the way this adoration interacts with each of these women's public persona that has me captivated. Ego plays a big part for both, there's no denying: Both put on these impenrtrable, powerful personas when they're performing — the message seems to be that you can't get near enough to touch them (witness: "Anaconda"), or that that magnetic thing about them is so natural it can't be emulated (witness: "Flawless"). It's modern mainstream music's visage of female empowerment — and it's usually a pretty solitary activity. It's usually them, proclaiming, and us watching.
Which is why it's been interesting watching one queen (remember that "Monster" verse: "You can be the king, but watch the queen conquer"), submit to the power of another, more powerful queen. Minaj is in no way demeaning herself by palling up with Beyonce — I'm all for female collaboration breaking up the daily grind of hyped-up "feuds" — but it's clear who the boss is here.
They're both still reigning queens of their genres, as was evidenced Sunday night at the VMAs. What this shines a light on, really, is something we already knew but are getting more and more proof of every time a new headline or SNL sketch surfaces: Beyonce's in entirely her own league now. She's submissive to almost literally no one: Her industry, her audience, the media. It's her world, and the rest of us — even Nicki Minaj — are just living in it.
Images: Getty Images; Nicki Minaj/Instagram