Wednesday, January 20, 2021

MEET... King Princess

Mikaela Mullaney Straus, better known by her stage name King Princess, is an American musician hailing from Brooklyn, New York. Growing up in the music industry – her father was a recording engineer – Straus learned how to play multiple instruments, produce music, and cites classics such as Led Zeppelin and T Rex as early influences.

Taking mainstream pop by storm, King Princess found recognition in 2018 for her singles ‘1950’ and ‘Talia’, and was awarded Pop Breakout Artist of the Year by Vivid Seats. Only a year later, at 20, Cheap Queen was released.

An icon in the LGBTQ+ community, the title of the album, Cheap Queen, refers to the drag community. Like her previous work, the album is a lot of love songs. Her work manages to resist clich├ęs, as it covers aspects of queer love not represented in much of mainstream pop. 

In ‘Homegirl’, KP sings about masquerading gay love as friendship; ‘We’re friends at the party, I’ll give you my body at home’. Similarly, ‘1950’ explores how queer love has been forbidden in the past. KP, analysing the song for Genius, said ‘I wanted to pay tribute to that point in history, in an empowering way’.

 It’s worth noting that Cheap Queen caters less to the mainstream than her previous EP. It’s more confident, slicker, groovier; it verges on funk-pop. Such a mature and well-produced (largely by herself) debut album must be, in part, down to her musical upbringing. 

‘Prophet’, a song about the music industry, is one of the strongest on the album, and is demonstrable of the growth as an artist in between the release of pop earworms like ‘1950’ to the slicker, smoother tones of a seemingly unassuming track. Listening to it only once isn’t an option.

The seductive penultimate track ‘Hit the Back’ is a catchier, more polished older sister to queer anthem ‘Pussy Is God’, from the Make My Bed EP. The title track, ‘Cheap Queen’, covers Straus’s relationship with her own femininity, and the performativity in this (‘I can be what you like’), as well as her self-awareness of the changes in her life since becoming famous (‘I’m gettin’ too cocky since everyone wants me / It’s harder to be myself’).

Her latest track, ‘Only Time Makes It Human’, a song about unrequited love, seems to draw on disco and dance-pop. Its accompanying music video is furnished with ‘90s tech, as well as a surreal waxwork-cum-robot iteration of KP herself, which falls right into the uncanny valley. It’s a departure from Cheap Queen, but an exciting one at that. At only 21, KP is still developing her sound, and ‘Only Time’ is a very exciting hint at what is to come.

Song recommendations: ‘Prophet’, ‘Cheap Queen’, ‘Only Time Makes It Human’

- Tallulah Roberts


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