King Princess Comes To Terms With Her Rapid Success On 'Cheap Queen' Mikaela Straus had a breakout hit last year as King Princess. Now, she's released her first full-length album, Cheap Queen, which reckons with a fame she wasn't necessarily prepared for.
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King Princess Comes To Terms With Her Rapid Success On 'Cheap Queen'

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King Princess Comes To Terms With Her Rapid Success On 'Cheap Queen'

King Princess Comes To Terms With Her Rapid Success On 'Cheap Queen'

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Mikaela Straus practically grew up in a music studio. Her father made a living recording musicians in Brooklyn. He began recording her as a little girl and into her teens. Those sessions led Straus to become King Princess. Her lyrics are deeply personal. Last year, she shared them in the song "1950." It takes inspiration from a novel about two women in love at a time when it was strictly taboo. The song was a breakout hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1950")

MIKAELA STRAUS: (Singing) I love it when we play 1950. It's so cold that your stare's about to kill me. I'm surprised when you kiss me.

I read "The Price Of Salt," which is a Patricia Highsmith novel. And it's brilliant. It's, like, I think, one of the best queer texts we have available. And, like, so kind of, like, compelled by the story and how she wrote it. And it kind of pops into my head that playing "1950" could be a metaphor for unrequited love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1950")

STRAUS: (Singing) So I'll wait for you, I'll pray...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now King Princess is out with her first full-length album. It's called "Cheap Queen."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEAP QUEEN")

STRAUS: (Singing) I can be good sometimes. I'm a cheap queen. I can be what you like.

It's basically a journal of the last year of my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEAP QUEEN")

STRAUS: (Singing) I'm getting too cocky since everyone wants me. It's harder to be myself.

It was really important to me that I wrote about what happened after I put out "1950" because I was kind of thrusted into a career, like, asked to do things I've just never done before. I was asked to go on tour. I was asked to be in photo shoots. I was asked to, like, be public and, like, also in turn, like, be public with my romantic life. And I think that it's, like - the only way that I could see myself getting through it was by writing about it, like, as if these songs were my journal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUGH ON MYSELF")

STRAUS: (Singing) I'm so bad with attention, so my good intentions get bad when you hold me.

I'm so proud of this record. It's a full heartbreak record - full heartbreak, honey. Start to finish.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUGH ON MYSELF")

STRAUS: (Singing) Sitting alone, making fun of myself.

I wrote 40 songs over the last year. When I picked the songs, I realized that they weren't heartbreak songs to begin with. They started as love notes or kind of expressing my feelings. And then when the relationship ended, it was clear to me that the record was going to be the trajectory of this entire relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOMEGIRL")

STRAUS: (Singing) They stare when you walk in the room like they're looking at heaven. Oh, you know that those boys will do more than just look if you let them.

Love - that song is called "Homegirl." And it was very much so, like, a reactionary song to, like, I was not worth being in public with (laughter), which is, again, like, kind of like "1950" - this feeling of being gay. And the way that the world perceives queer love in public is - can be brutal. Like, men can be really nasty and, like, disrespectful.

It's sad, but it's - there is kind of a moment of empowerment within it where I realize and recognize that, like, regardless of how I'm going to be treated in public with you by men, I'm not going to act that way towards you. And I think that's a really - that was the strength of that song - is figuring that out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROPHET")

STRAUS: (Singing) You call when you want it. Everyone wants something from your soul on the molly.

I think that it's really easy to be like, yeah, you're writing songs about gender identity and sexuality. But for me, it's like, what else would I do? I'm going to lie to you. I'm going to tell you, like, I'm going to write songs about men and, like, not express the fact that I don't feel like a woman. What I love about authentic queer music is that people are trying to understand it as though it's a subgenre within the music community. And what I'm so proud of about this record is that when I listen back, I feel like my gender queerness is just woven into the tapestry of the music. I hope that people start to see identity in music as just a fact. Like (laughter), you know, it's like - because it makes it seem like straight music is the norm. And I'm bored. I'm bored of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROPHET")

STRAUS: (Singing) I can only think about you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Mikaela Straus, also known as King Princess, talking about her new album "Cheap Queen."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROPHET")

STRAUS: (Singing) Why they like to talk about you.

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