Seemingly as soon as I start complaining about a lack of new music, King Princess decides to bless me with her new album Cheap Queen. As her first LP, the album builds off her previous work and includes whole new sounds and themes.
Mikaela Straus, better known as King Princess, is a prominent queer singer-songwriter. Her song “1950” first introduced me to her music and I quickly became obsessed with her work. It should probably be noted that her work can be pretty explicit, but it’s still really good. Her music falls in the realm of indie-pop and she’s somewhat similar to Lana Del Rey or Conan Gray if you know them, while also having her own unique sound within the genre.
In a video on her YouTube channel, King Princess explains that her inspiration for this album was heartbreak and betrayal, so most of the songs pull heavily on the idea of messed up relationships and pining for someone even if you know they’re not good for you.
My favorite song on this album is definitely “Hit the Back.” Out of all the songs on the album, this is the one I’ve been relistening to constantly. Its playful tone is more upbeat than the rest of Cheap Queen. The line “I’m a star, but you’re an icon” always manages to get me. The whole second verse, in general, is really captivating because of the way it plays with a specific type of power dynamic in a relationship.
“Cheap Queen” is another great song off the album. In an interview for Vulture, King Princess calls it an “ode to [her] friends” and an homage to [her] community,” something that becomes immediately apparent when you listen to the song. Considering how vocal she’s been about her support of the drag community, it’s no surprise that she pulls some of the aesthetic for this song from drag culture. It also explains why the album cover features her in drag-inspired makeup. This song out of all the others on the album has a feeling of community to it that heightens its appeal of also being a really good song.
According to a video she did with Genius, “Ain’t Together” is about the stress of being in a serious relationship without any real commitment. As one of the best songs on this album, it shows off King Princess’ amazing voice and her incredible knowledge of the intricacies of music. Despite the tone of the song seeming calm, the lyrics are a bit manic if you look at them by themselves.
“Homegirl” is one of the songs on the album with a sad, acoustic sound. It’s mostly guitar under King Princess’ powerful singing. The drowsy feel to it isn’t unique in her music, but “Homegirl” has some sort of quality to it that enhances that feeling to be more present than in the rest of her music. Despite the overall sweet sound, the song’s meaning is actually pretty sad. It builds off of how a lot of queer people feel the need to hide their relationships in public.
Another one of my favorites off of the album is “Prophet” which has a more dark, twisted tone. It’s also a perfect example of how King Princess uses religious imagery in her lyrics for dramatic effect. The music video for this song is so buckwild with her embracing a full-on hypermasculine look. The imagery of masculinity and capitalism amplifies the themes of exploitation that “Prophet” explores. For example, the end of the music video shows King Princess getting fed to a bunch of rich men by her crush. In this instance, there are both themes of emotional manipulation on a more personal level and social exploitation by the rich and powerful. I’d highly recommend checking out the “Prophet” music video because it adds a lot of meaning beyond just taking the lyrics at face value.
In typical King Princess fashion, her music videos for her new songs are insanely surreal. She brings this tornado-like chaotic energy to her work that contrasts with her more chill tunes. Describing her music as chill seems ironic when she describes herself as “someone with no chill.” Her videos give her a chance to really show off her tomboyish, butch style, especially in the “Prophet” music video.
One reason why I’m so obsessed with King Princess is that she just seems like a really crazy person. If you watch any interviews with her or any of her videos on YouTube, then you’ll see how she shifts from being ultra chill to a force of chaos in seconds. Additionally, her dedication to making good art that also helps people in her community is admirable in my eyes because it feels authentic.