There’s something special about the idea of queens. Often thought of as one half of a pair, queens have long captivated the mind as an all-too-rare example of a powerful woman. She might be sweet, beautiful,smart, or ambitious, but, no matter what, a queen is always influential. Queens cannot be pushed aside. They are literally singular, with everyone else required to bow before them. Even with the continuance of monarchies all around the world, the idea of queenhood has a fairytale edge to it, impossible unlike anything else.

The most common image of the queen in modern life is that of the queen bee. Once a pejorative term intended to mock and insult women with influence and those who associate with them, the title has been reclaimed in the last 10 years. As demonstrated by Miryo and Ga-in in “Queen”.

Check your outfit and go in again
I got my nails done, the colors match perfectly
People lined up here can’t get in
But I get in no problem, accept it and treat me
The day has come again, shall I go in?
Who’s the queen b? Everyone’s underneath me
Bling bling though my crown can’t be seen
They all know, I’m the Queen Bitch (light), know your facts

Miryo embraces being the queen bitch, and embodies it wholeheartedly. She’s vain and arrogant; skipping lines, flaunting her looks, and generally reveling in having power. However, the way she presents this is aspirational. She’s confident and calm, reigning supreme over a crazy night out and is beholden to absolutely nobody: her crown was self-placed.

On the other end of every spectrum is Monsta X‘s “Queen”. They see a beautiful woman, and feel the best way to impress her is to declare her their queen.

I’ll be your king and baby you’ll be my queen
Whatever it is, I’m ready
For everything
I’ll make you mine, the end
We can be a painting
Baby call it the finishing strokes

However, their version of queenship is grounded far more in the idea of the queen consort, that the logical reward for being so beautiful is to be married to the king. It’s an idea that wrapped up in male ego, and Monsta X carries that through, more concerned with the pretty picture it creates than if she wants to be in it. At no point do they do anything to prove themselves more worthy than her other suitors, and why would they? Kings don’t woo queens, they pick them.

This is further exemplified by Shinee‘s “Queen of New York”. It’s a classic tale of love at first sight, practically the basis of a new fairy tale: they see a woman on the street and immediately pledge their devotion to her.

In a rainy New York, without thinking
I walked on that street, love is timing
Yes, New York, you’re without a name
but I want to stay with you in New York
I’m a vagabond, a wanderer,
so will you hold onto me for a moment?
If only this city
would become my last stop

Sadly thwarted in their new relationship by the inconvenient press of real life and not being creepy, this girl encaptures Shinee’s thoughts. She embodies what might have been, and becomes almost mystical. Even if they never see her again, she is their Queen of New York.

Of course, these all take the view of queenhood as an example of power and glory. The reality was often much less fun: You have no say in the marriage, limited influence, and your husband was guaranteed to cheat on you. It typically wasn’t a happy life, something IU and Zion.T explore in “Red Queen”. While inspired by the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, she draws a picture of misery that could be shared by many real queens in world history.

Children obviously but adults too
Even the things that don’t have life
Everything fell in love, fell in love with her
Her heart was that beautiful too
Even when she gazed
At the tiniest, poorest of things
Those passionless, depressing eyes
Used to sparkle so bright
Oh red queen

IU spins a tragic tale, bouncing back and forth between the happy, beautiful girl the Red Queen once was, and the loathed, pitied figure she now is. Forced to bear heartbreak and loneliness, with the repeated praised and condemnations ping-ponging back and forth like rumors across a court, it becomes easy to see why the Red Queen went a little nuts. Even now, IU frames her deterioration as a funny, trivial tale not worth finishing. The Red Queen simply does not matter as a person, only a figurehead.

The image of the queen is something that will never fade. We will always look back at those rare, notable women and imagine how they lived, and how to carry those ideas into a much less regal world. Are there any queenly songs that you admire? Leave them in the comments!

(Lyrics via Color-Coded Lyrics [1], [2], [3], [4]. Images via SM Entertainment, APOP Entertainment, Starship Entertainment, Kakao M)