Photo: Vince Aung
Brooklyn has given birth to been countless iconic cultural figures. From Jay-Z to Barbara Streisand the city is veritable epicenter for culture-shifting talents. One of these contemporary Brooklynites to ultimately influence a generation may be the up-and-coming Mikaela Mullaney Straus, better known as King Princess.
Following the viral success of "1950" and subsequent fan-favorite "Pussy Is God," the anticipation for the 20-year-olds debut album has rapidly been building to a boiling point. Cheap Queen does not disappoint. King Princess describes the notion of a "Cheap Queen," as an individual who is "resourceful, crafty, and still fierce," all items highlighted throughout the album's 13 track run. Cheap Queen is a sexually-empowering, genre-fusing, and relationship-exploring piece that brings to the mainstream a number of themes that have been sorely lacking from the public consciousness. The openly queer artist has absolutely no restrictions on her debut album, making it clear to the world there is no need to hide one's love and self.
Musically, the album incorporates elements of contemporary pop, country, and various hip-hop tropes. It opens with "Tough on Myself," a dreamlike song full of angelic background vocals, twangy guitar, powerful lead vocals, and a message of understanding that feelings are always valid. With a clear knack for musicality, King Princess' performance goes far beyond her rich vocals. Her ability to show the world that one should trust their own emotions in a track like "Tough on Myself" or in the album's closer, "If You Think It's Love," is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.
Throughout Cheap Queen, King Princess brings notions of love, lust, relationships, and desires, all of which are with women, to the forefront. The beauty in this is that it means absolutely nothing to the greater picture of the album. For the most part, the album is heavily focused on love and relationships. With this being said, the album is not one about lesbian love, lesbian relationships, or lesbian issues, it is simply about love, relationships, and issues. It is the voice King Princess has that allows for these topics to be normalized and for the masses to realize the two ought to be indistinguishable.
"Ain't Together" and its Golden Hour - evoking guitar arrives as a notable highlight, complemented by one of the best choruses of the year. King Princess' delivery on the track is rich and soulful, her diction is refreshingly crisp and the message is undoubtedly relatable. As she echoes, "We say I love you but we ain't together," it is not hard to imagine fans across the country echoing the words right back at her. Her voice is able to exist as a most lovely oxymoron; her voice is gentle and powerful.
Then there's "Trust Nobody," a track imbued with the overflowing sentimental importance of having one special person to rely on and confide in. Despite being standoffish to most individuals, there is the one that makes everyone "Get dumb when [they] start talking." When King Princess' vocals kick in, we are welcomed with a few thudding bass hits and a gorgeous use of crescendo before the track climaxes with the line, "When everyone starts calling for me," to which King Princess gently and euphoniously responds, "I only pick up for you."
The first full-length album for King Princess is filled with tracks of this nature. Her message of acceptance, self-love, and the exploring of relationships come across as wholly relatable and necessary. Her ability to shamelessly tell her story through charming melodies is what the world needs to be hearing. Using her gift to normalize queer relationships and all their trials, tribulations, and triumphs is a testament to the times and the strength of this young woman from Brooklyn.
Listen to Cheap Queen below: