Review: King Princess – Cheap Queen (Zelig / Columbia, Oct 25)

Every once in a while, there’s a major label pop album that I just need to write about (incidentally, a year ago today Poppy’s masterpiece Am I a Girl? was released; I hope this occasion inspires you to revisit it). I know these huge record conglomerates don’t need any more business than they already get, but the appreciation for the artist themselves outweighs this (for me at least). I’ve been awaiting the debut LP from New York artist Mikaela Straus, known by her doubly royal moniker King Princess, for quite some time now. Her rich voice graced the pillowy instrumentals of last year’s Make My Bed EP and the “Pussy Is God” single, both of which sidled somewhere between infectious contemporary pop and smooth, silky R&B—I immediately fell in love. On Cheap Queen, Straus’s often achingly bare vocals continue their earnest explorations into and meditations on love, love that for the artist often comes fraught with hardship and oppression as she navigates romantic relationships with women. We already witnessed the pain Straus feels when she has to hide who she is on “1950,” and Cheap Queen doesn’t hold back on her inner turmoil and heartbreak, whether she’s distant from the person she loves (“Ain’t Together”) or being secretly intimate with a friend (“Homegirl”). The latter track is one of the record’s most gorgeous tracks, the production beautifully languid and even subtly orchestral as Straus’s vocals somehow soar despite their quiet delivery. Remarkably, King Princess’s career is still young (and so is she—I’m only four months younger than her!); the struggles, emotions, and personal growth she conveys on these carefully crafted songs is communicated with an amazing wisdom.

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