Three million years ago, in the fall of 2016, we congregated around our computers and dared ask the same question that every other person on this planet was asking: What is The Young Pope?
We were so naïve then, with our jokes, our hypotheses, and our collective disbelief that The Young Pope could seriously be a TV show that had been written, shot, and allowed to exist. “He’s not that young!” some of us cried, hours into googling Jude Law’s age and complete filmography. “I mean, he’s young-ish, for a Pope, but Pope Benedict IX was younger!”
And so on and so forth.
But once the series debuted, we began to understand. The Young Pope, whose name is Lenny, was an eccentric. He barely ate, and he consumed Cherry Coke Zero at an alarming rate. He smoked cigarettes. He wore sunglasses. He had a kangaroo. He also had a lot of opinions, most of them terrible. The Young Pope named Lenny ... was a pop star. But which one?
That, dear friends, is what we are here to investigate. Today we determine who the Young Pope of pop is. Crack open those Cherry Coke Zeros and join me.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Drake is not the Young Pope of pop — he only thinks he’s the Young Pope of pop. While he does use his Instagram to paint a picture of divine luxury, it’s far too populated by pictures of mortal friends and celebrities (hi, Nicki!) to stay true to that Lenny life. And yes, he’s dubbed himself the 6 God, but Aubrey lacks the authoritarian nature of a Young Pope to make us really believe it. Besides, Drizzy smiles fairly frequently and has even made fun of his temperamental nature on a TV show. Lenny is the type of person who says, “I don’t even own a TV."
I know we make a lot of jokes about Pope Lenny a.k.a. Pope Pius XIII a.k.a. Pope I-Will-Call-Him-Whatever-I-Want, but dude feels real feelings. The week before last, we were treated to a look at the way his parents’ abandonment of him as a child fuelled the emotional storm that rages below his very even-toned surface (sorry, spoiler alert). The Young Pope feels so many things! And when it comes to feels, Sheeran is pop music’s poster child.
However: Ed would also never make anybody kiss his shoes, nor could anybody picture him flinching at the friendliness of the Vatican cook. (Come on, man, she’s an elderly woman!) True, Sheeran recently spoke about his consuming ambition stemming from years of unpopularity, which is vaguely Young Pope–esque, but ultimately, dude is an everyman. He wears plaid. He wears jeans. He hangs out with James Blunt. The day you can picture Ed Sheeran getting dressed for his concerts like this is the day we’ve lost Ed Sheeran.
Beyoncé is not the Young Pope because she is a god unto herself. That being said, I believe this is how she should be carried around her home and any other place she ventures:
Bless us, every one.
The thing about the Young Pope is that deep down, he seems profoundly unhappy. And the same could be said for The Weeknd, whose music is laced with mentions of how hard being famous is, how flawed he is as a human being, and how he keeps his feelings at bay. But therein lies the difference: The Weeknd may have built a career on his emotional vulnerabilities, but could someone so bad make Selena Gomez so happy? (No.)
Frankly, everybody in The Young Pope seems miserable, especially the Young Pope. I will assume that no one in this show has ever laughed at a viral video in their lives. Any apology issued by anyone has been tainted with an undercurrent of power thirst, and all smiles seem sinister. I mean, The Weeknd may have flaws, but dude certainly wouldn’t encourage fanaticism among his friends. If anything, that would probably freak him out. Ultimately, if The Weeknd even met the Young Pope, he’d pick up his shit and go.
Yes, he is commanding. Yes, like Lenny, he recognizes the importance of style and looks like no less than a million dollars every day. (#Fashion) But where the Young Pope reacts outwardly (see: the way he addresses his cardinals — or most people), Zayn moves inward. We never saw Zayn freaking out onstage at his 1D bandmates even when he was dealing with anxiety, nor does he do anything on the red carpet other than offer a contemplative stare. Even his video for “Pillow Talk” — his one chance to assert himself as a straight-up boss — featured more shots of his girlfriend Gigi Hadid than it did of him. And if you think Lenny would give even a quarter of the stage to Diane Keaton should they perform together, you’ve got another think coming.
You have got to be kidding me.
We have a winner, brothers and sisters, and we all knew it was coming. Here’s why.
Lenny hangs with kangaroos; Bieber has a really weird relationship with animals. Lenny has a very specific meal regimen; Justin feeds ducks barefoot (basically the same). Lenny’s calmness gives way to outbursts, and Baby B is renowned for sharing exactly how he feels, PR nightmare or not. Biebs is also a devout Christian, a man who loves fashion, and was heralded as a prodigy after being discovered as a wee baby boy before emerging as a bona fide teen dream turned twentysomething question mark.
Doesn’t that sound like a Young Pope you've heard of? The Young Pope is the TV show equivalent of a coffee cup at an art gallery where you’re not totally sure it’s art but it might be, so you stick around to see if anyone picks it up. And that’s pretty much where we’re at with Bieber, too. Dude may still have a song on the Billboard 100, but we’ve seen no indications lately that he’s heading back into the studio; in fact, he recently announced another tour in support of 2015’s Purpose. (You know, the album on whose cover our prodigal pop son is praying for forgiveness in the wake of his couple-year rebellion.) But he’s also the type who just might do anything — and so we linger, waiting to see if we’re being led into another Era of Biebs or if it’s just been a coffee cup this whole time.
Or, for the sake of consistency, a can of Cherry Coke Zero.