A blinding flash of white light, fade in a sweet and sorrowful tune. The music preceding her, Mikaela Straus, but known to the stage as King Princess, steps into the wings. Nearly unseen, lurking there for a moment before jetting out on stage to the looming roar of applause, she grins, looking across the crowd. Her nearly natural face seems to glow as her short, luscious curls thrash around her. Matching her fellow musicians, the 20-year-old sports an all-white jumpsuit with red lining and an off-centered “Cheap Queen Revenge” displayed in a glittering metallic gold scrawl across the back. Each jumpsuit (aside from KP) sports the name, astrological sign, instrument played, height, and age of the musician adorning it on the front pocket. As she turns, you can see the “6” and “9” outfitting each of KP’s back pockets, glittery letter-jacket style. She greets the crowds with a quick “Houston!” and jumps right into her set, dropping onto the bench of a stunning navy blue upright piano.
Every musician strives for a stage presence that shows off who they are; a staple to each show and King Princess didn’t miss a beat playing White Oak Music Hall in Houston on October 8. Known for her “idgaf” attitude, KP delivered what she always does – a mellow, chill performance with a twist. Even with her nonchalant attitude, it’s clear that her performance was also very calculated; every fluid movement, every facial expression, every shrill note executed at a precise moment.
King Princess was joined on stage by Melody Ector on keys, Logan McQuade on bass, Jonah Feingold on guitar, and Antoine Fadavi on drums. Performing songs both from her EP, Make My Bed (2018), and her first, yet to be released, LP, Cheap Queen, she sheds a little light into who she is. Though the vibe can vary by performance, which was shown by the attendance of her show at Stubbs in Austin the next night, the underlying tones of KP’s stage presence stays the same; a subtle nervelessness with calculated bursts of passion and raw emotion. This was increasingly evident as she began to transition into her unheard tunes. “This one…” she says, nodding to Cheap Queen, “is a break-up album.”
A lyric genius, King Princess puts all of herself into her music. “We say, “I love you”, but we ain’t together/ Do you think labels make it taste much better?“ The look on her face as she sang this song, you could tell that it was all from a real deep-in-the-heart kind of place. The instrumentals and acoustics really shine through, with interludes and a crashing bridge. “Ain’t Together” evoked a subtle hush, as the entire crowd swayed together to the music. There was such a euphonious sound that the crowd just soaked in the beauty of what they were hearing, despite this being a previously released track.
“Hit the Back” pulls out that sad-girl attitude as well, with low somber tones and an almost slam-poetry type first verse. The song seemed to just roll off her tongue, as she strutted from side to side, posing and moving fluidly with the purple hues encompassing the stage. Even in performance, this song is as sensual as the lyrics suggest. “Hit the back / Tell me you need respect / ‘Cause you know that I’m around/ I’m your pet.” This breathy ballad speeds up and pulls in more and or layers of sound as it goes on. Overall, this sad tune comes across as anthemic, with confidence and self-respect seeping from the edges of a yearning heart.
Initially written as an interlude, “Cheap Queen” is the song the album was named after. It is soft and sensual, yet bursts with this aura of confidence. It’s “feel-good” sense was hyperbolized with KP’s carefree movements and facial expressions. The crowd was pumped, singing along to every word. The melody draws you in, but the chorus in conjunction with the energy of the tempo and drums keep you there. It’s one of those “dance in your car like nobody’s watching” kind of songs.
Played live for the first time at the tour kickoff, this was the second crowd to get to experience unreleased tracks from the new album. “Trust Nobody” really stood out as a crowd-favorite. Utterly catchy, most of the audience had caught on by the end and the room was filled with the echoes of everyone singing. The drums start to take over, complemented by a brassy piano. In combination with the already released tracks, this song continues to prove that Cheap Queen is an ode to the dissolution of romance.
The largest difference found between performances was the crowd’s energy. Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin is a lot larger than White Oak Music Hall in Houston, therefore it fit a lot more people. King Princess matched that extra energy with increased engagement, speaking about how she has been sick. “I’ve had a Z-pack and a B-12 shot to the ass,” she proclaimed, as concert-goers cracked up. “I don’t give up!” Another notable difference was every sound was magnified within White Oak. White Oak Music Hall is an indoor venue, so it was rather intense with the echo so close, yet Stubb’s was somehow a calmer experience. Of course the music was audibly louder because it was outdoors, but without a barrier to the bass, the music was better able to flow organically through the crowd. Houston’s beg for an encore was lacking demand and passion than it was for Austin’s audience. Immediately after KP zoomed off the stage with a sharp wave and wink, people began shouting “K. P.” in an attempt to bring the band back to the stage, but at White Oak, the insistence was weak. She let this chant build into a cacophony at Stubb’s, until ears were ringing with her name.
King Princess is a Brooklyn-born, LA living, singer/songwriter making a name for herself in the whirlwind of gender bias in today’s society. She hit the pop music scene with her debut single “1950” in early 2018. KP has driven her career towards creating the image of a positive role model for general queerness and the LGBT community. Growing up around her father’s recording studio, KP’s love of music blossomed quickly as talent oozed from every part of her. After denying a record deal at age 11 due to the fear of being controlled by a label before defining her image and what she wanted her music to represent, KP was determined to find her own sound before constricting herself. KP is skilled with the piano, guitar, bass, and drums. She succeeded in releasing Make My Bed in summer of 2018, still unsigned. King Princess was the first artist to sign to Mark Ronson’s Zelig Recordings, a label under Columbia Records. Cheap Queen is set to be released on October 25 (presave the album here) as a debut with the label.
Whether you’re looking for a rocking night out, a chill vibe, or queer-friendly date night, a King Princess show is where it’s at. Watching KP rock out and feeling her music flow through you will leave you dancing and wondering how you got lucky enough to have the pleasure of experiencing it live. The Cheap Queen North American tour kicked off in Dallas on October 5 and goes through February 14 in Kansas City. It will make stops across the nation and will even include a few dates in Canada and Mexico. Check out the full tour schedule here.