“Is it so wrong to just want someone else?” asks King Princess on “Tough On Myself”, the opening track of her debut album Cheap Queen.
The 13-track collection sees the 20-year old, born Mikaela Strauss, navigate the highs and lows of heartbreak at the end of a relationship. It’s no new thread, but it’s incredibly refreshing to see an up-and-coming artist unabashedly live out her queerness and run riot over the gender norms we’re used to.
King Princess, who identifies as genderqueer and lesbian, first came into prominence with her song “1950″ last year. The track earned approvals from the likes of Harry Styles and Kourtney Kardashian and established her as a new voice in the queer community.
And while that has clearly been carried into Cheap Queen, as she declares how she would never “act like those boys” on standout track “Homegirl”, a big part of the album seems to be dedicated to normalising queer love. “It’s not about being gay, it’s about being a person who makes good music, and then also happens to be gay,” she remarked in an interview with VICE Magazine.
Just as her 2018 EP Make My Bed showed, King Princess refuses to be bound by any gender, or genre, for that matter. One moment she’s accompanied by a hazy bassline on “Do You Wanna See Me Crying?”, the next she’s serving up euphoric dance-pop on “Hit the Back”. And her signature laidback crooning comes through best on the hauntingly breezy “You Destroyed My Heart”. But it’s on “Watching My Phone” that she’s at her finest, writing about a distinctively modern peril in a relationship. “And I know you can’t bear to see me go but make me leave in the middle of the night,” she sings over a simple guitar line that gradually morphs into a mix of strings peppered with pulsating dance beats.
And as the album draws to a close with the decidedly sombre “If You Think It’s Love”, there’s a sense that Cheap Queen stands not just as an exploration into the dynamics of queer love, but of love as a universal emotion. What is love? Let the Cheap Queen herself break it down for you.