King Princess: an ode to the tired, but fighting college artist

Collage by Tina Tona
Story by Irine Le

The first Friday of spring semester back in January, I woke up probably much later than I should’ve, still bleary-eyed and nursing a sore throat that had developed when I was out
with my friends the night before.

I woke up, gave Instagram a good morning scroll-through, and nearly fell out of my bed at Pitchfork’s latest post, promoting a new collaboration single between singer-songwriter Fiona Apple and someone called King Princess.

I’m a huge Fiona fan; I’d just gotten a tattoo on my arm of her lyrics a month ago. Additionally, she hadn’t released any music since 2012, so after almost seven years, this was cause to flip out.

Their collaboration, “I Know,” was actually a cover of Fiona’s song from her 1999
album, “When the Pawn…” I gave it a listen and instantaneously fell in love with both Fiona’s newest work and King Princess, the new voice on a track I had listened to a million times
before, during my freshman year of college when I was going through one of my more severe bouts of depression.

King Princess is the moniker for the recently turned 20-year-old, Brooklyn born-and-bred singer Mikaela Straus. I was impressed at how young King Princess was, and was momentarily struck by how much she reminded me of Lorde, the New Zealand singer that continues to steal the hearts and capture the minds of millions.

I was shocked both times, finding out how young King Princess and Lorde were. I remember an interview Lorde gave where she said she added the ‘e’ in ‘Lord’ to make it more feminine, and noticed that King Princess was somewhat of a feminine titular oxymoron.

But just as Lorde’s music about the suburbs allowed me to relish the melodramatics of growing up, King Princess’s music about the complexities of relationships, emotions, and city life and allows me to slow down and appreciate where I’ve been.

One of my favorite lines of “Upper West Side” is when she sings, “I
can’t stop judging everything you do / But I can’t get enough of you.” Those lyrics, though simple, encapsulated a lot of my lonelier moments of college and being back home in the suburbs. There were more moments than I would’ve liked where I found myself consistently spending time with people who weren’t always the nicest to me, or people who made me question my self-respect.

In “Rolling Stone,” King Princess spoke about how she wrote “Talia,” one of her hit
singles, in her USC dorm’s practice room right before class. She’s talked about how she wrote “1950,” her single that received praise from Harry Styles, while her hair was still wet after a shower. As someone who’s studying journalism and always writing on the side, King Princess’ transparency about being a young artist is absolutely refreshing and honestly, extremely comforting. It made me think of my futile efforts where I told myself to block out a chunk of time to sit down in a quiet spot of the library to write a paper, but never getting anywhere, while sometimes I’d be able to write an entire poem on my phone’s notes app while sitting in the dining hall, not even thinking about writing.

In addition, King Princess’s transparency extends to her sexuality and views on religion in her songs. Her hit single “1950,” pays homage to the history of queer love in the 1950s. She has talked about the necessity for more queer artists and artists of color in the music world. “We need people who are gonna come out there and wreak havoc and make shit crazy. It’s about time that we had some game-changers hoisted up in 2018 from the gay, trans, black, immigrant communities,” King Princess said in an interview with NME. “Just like bisexual people need bisexual role models, gay people need gay role models, trans people need trans role models. Everybody needs their people.”

Her utter outspokenness, demanding representation for all underrepresented communities, sets King Princess apart from many of the musical artists I’ve listened to in the past. She’s
adamant about using her music and status as an artist to bring awareness to LGBTQIA+ and minority experience.

As a woman of color who has been a part of community organizing groups since high school, it’s inspiring and hopeful to see people using their art and sharing their stories to lift up voices that aren’t necessarily always heard in the media. Even more, to see the encouragement for artists from all backgrounds to voice their stories is something I haven’t
heard from a lot of artists, but to hear it from someone young is inspiring.

Even though King Princess is no longer enrolled in college at USC, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own college journey, personal growth, and experience as a writer through her music. She’s less than a year older than me and I’ve only been listening to her for two months, but I can’t help but be amazed with both her musical and activist work so far.

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