By Lexi Ashbury
Let me preface this doctoral dissertation by saying I am a King Princess superfan. Seeing her set this year at ACL was something I can only describe as a spiritual experience. Let’s cut to the chase, 20-year-old Mikaela Straus, known by her stage name King Princess, came back Oct. 25, 2019 with her first full length album titled Cheap Queen. The album features 13 tracks that stay true to King Princess’ authentic and relatable nature, while sending listeners on an emotional rollercoaster.
Cheap Queen begins with the track “Tough on Myself,” a break-up anthem where King Princess is beating herself up for wanting a change in companionship. This one is a powerful song that evokes the question, “And is it so wrong to love someone else?” This leads to the next one-minute track “Useless Phrases.” This song makes a strong point that there will be no romantic reconciliation by repeating the lyrics, “You say you want me back and I don’t usually entertain such useless phrases baby.” Ouch. I guess we all know not to mess with KP anytime soon.
The third song is the title track “Cheap Queen,” which was one of five songs on her EP released earlier this month. It features dialogue from movies in the background while the singer talks about her career that’s on the rise and how it can sometimes be hard to be herself. She sings: “I’m gettin’ too cocky since everyone wants me, it’s harder to be myself.” This song exposes her self-doubt and anxieties while trying to make sense of her life. The openness that she wrote this song with, paired with the captivating drum beat in the back, creates a groovy, sweet melody that makes it a staple on the album.
The next song (which was also released before the entire full album) is “Ain’t Together.” This tune mixes 60s/70s tones and background vocals while focusing on the longing for another. The lyric video for this is one of my favorites because it plays with masculine and feminine roles, something so prevalent in King Princess’ songwriting.
While “Do You Want to See Me Crying” is a quick song, it summons the essence of a situation about moving on after heartbreak perfectly in its 1 minute 46 second runtime. KP repeats the lyrics: “I think it’s cuter when I dance now, I’m nicer to my friends now, I think I’m working through my stress now.” Do not let the timestamp fool you, it definitely gets its point across.
In “Homegirl” she is drawn to a woman who gets male attention as well. This is one of my favorites on the album because it features her lower, deeper vocal range that is so effortless it could literally make a grown man cry. “Prophet” is a sexy song that makes the listener swoon at the very first beat drop. Her breathy voice saying, “I can only think about you” creates a breathtaking vision that is only made better with the guitar runs in the back.
This next song… “Isabel’s Moment.” The power, the lyrics and the instrumentals are all strung together perfectly. The track features Tobias Jesso Jr., which makes for a beautiful ballad. It features my favorite lyrics from the entire album: “Your clothes in my drawers, like you’re haunting my home.”
I am seriously considering walking to a tattoo shop right now with just those lyrics in mind. The harmonious jump that is added right when that part hits will send chills up the listener’s spine. I know I sound like a broken record, but she has absolutely laid out her heart and soul in this album and I am so grateful she did. It takes a real artist to expose old wounds and not knock any topic off the table.
Track number nine is “Trust Nobody” which has the sort of beat and lyrics that you’ll aimlessly be dancing in your bedroom to for hours. While this one may be more pop-y than the rest, it still stays true to King Princess’s raw roots.
“Watching My Phone” is another personal favorite, and not just because of the title that I know we can all relate to. The song subtly tells the story of an ex who threw everything away without considering everything that was being left behind. Being such a simple topic, it could’ve been hard to make this song the masterpiece that it is, but her vocals exquisitely do just that.
“You Destroyed My Heart” is a sassy song that takes multiple digs at an ex. It’s more of a laid-back track that is provocatively perfect. She is so different from modern pop stars because she is not afraid to be arousing and seductive in her music; that is a large part of what her brand as a musician is, and we all applaud her for it.
The second to last song on the album is “Hit the Back,” which was released before Cheap Queen dropped (and rightfully so). This is already a staple in my friends’ and I’s books, coming on as soon as we sit in the car. The lyrics feature sad undertones, while the beat creates a song to start a flash mob to.
She shared a video of herself learning the dance routine to this song and encouraged her audience to learn it as well, which we may or may not have already. It’s crazy how this song has the energy to make you dance for hours while also aching to cry in the corner by yourself, but I guess that’s really her entire album.
The record closes with “If You Think It’s Love,” which spends the majority of the time repeating the lyrics: “If you think it’s love, it is.” After everything we just went through in the 12 tracks before this, she decides to twist the knife a little harder and break our hearts one last time.
This album blends retro, vintage tones with sweet authenticity perfectly. I think we can all agree that her voice is nothing short of powerful. She gave us a piece of her soul that is vulnerable, beautiful and keeps us yearning for more. Personally, one of my favorite debut albums by any artist and I cannot wait to see what the Brooklyn-born artist has in store for us next.
Thank you, King Princess, for being the current highlight of pop music for me and for making me cry in a coffee shop as I write this.