“Cheap Queen” review


Audrey Blaine

20 year-old Mikaela Straus, better known as King Princess, released her debut album “Cheap Queen” Oct. 25 2019.

Mikaela Straus, known to the world as King Princess, perfectly blends an 80s-inspired keyboard and electric guitar with the emotions of a gut-wrenching break up on her debut album “Cheap Queen”.  While Straus continues to utilize her familiar rich, classic vocals reminiscent of fan-favorite hit “1950”, there has been evident growth in her music capabilities since the release of her 2018 EP “Make my Bed”.

 To go with the “Cheap Queen”, Straus even put her humorous personality to work in the release of a 6-minute satirical documentary “King Princess: Deep Inside Cheap Queen”. Co-producing the entire album, Straus created a storyline about a relationship blooming and dying. Having just made her U.S. television debut on Steven Colbert’s “The Late Show”, Straus has accomplished more in 20 years than many have in a lifetime. With “Cheap Queen”, Straus produced a uniquely fresh collection of songs to dance to, cry to, or sing to in the car with your friends.

Tough on Myself

The opening track describes the gay singer’s romantic relationship affecting her image of herself. Beginning with an 80s-esque sound, she sings to a slow beat about how her dreams don’t match with those of her partner. Though the song becomes repetitive towards the end, it sets the mood for what is to follow. This is not a happy tracklist, but it cannot be considered simply sad either.  Straus sets up the complexity that will be developed throughout the album by talking about the interconnectedness of how a relationship affected the way she treated herself. I can picture “Tough on Myself” being played as the main character of a movie is at a party surrounded by people but is sitting alone.

Cheap Queen

The title song and the first single to be released, “Cheap Queen” ties references from drag culture to Straus’s current life. In one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, Straus sings about her life and the attention that she has been getting for her music, describing herself at the same time: I can be good sometimes/I’m a cheap queen/I can be what you like/And I can be bad sometimes/I’m a real queen/I can make grown men cry”. According to an interview by Fender, “Cheap Queen” is Straus’s favorite song off the album because it describes her friends, community, and who she is. She also revealed that the sampling in the song of a woman speaking is from an anti-lesbian PSA from the ‘50s. It’s no wonder the song is her favorite–it has so much of her life and humor woven in. With a catchy but mellow chorus, “Cheap Queen” is always easy to sing along to. 

Ain’t Together

We’ve all been there. The ‘what are we?’ phase in a relationship where you’re basically together and everyone thinks you’re together, but no, no, you’re definitely not. Through siren-like sounds followed by the strong but simple strums of an electric guitar with simple synthesizer undertones, Straus describes the state of her love life, “Being chill/Being chill with you/Oh it kills/I ain’t chill at all”. She explains the feeling of how when you really like someone, just being around them makes you crazy. The way that this song flows musically and lyrically makes it one of my favorites. Her honest emotion only increases its relatability. King Princess, I hear you on this one.

Isabel’s Moment

Take notes, people. This one’s a masterpiece. Featuring Tobias Jesso Jr., the piano in “Isabel’s Moment” strikes loudly and Straus’s voice swells as background vocals echo haunting harmonies. I can hear the pain in her voice in this ballad: “And I’m still trying to draw all the lines from my friends and my lovers”. She’s still trying to figure it all out, and doesn’t know if what she had with this person is over or not. At the end of the song, she asks “Is it how it’s gonna be?” We get the idea that she really doesn’t know how it’s going to pan out, which is a feeling that people can relate to after a breakup. There’s a person-sized hole in her life, and she has no idea what to do or feel.


“Homegirl” is composed of a dreamy acoustic and ethereal keyboard accompaniment that compliments Straus’s soft vocals. Throughout the first verse, she talks to a girl she’s interested in who’s scarred from a past relationship. Like the unexpected and bright-sounding chord change to an E from an Em, Straus surprisingly doesn’t care about the obstacles the relationship presents. Straus likes her so much that she will tell people they are friends for her sake (the song is  unclear on whether or not the girl is closeted), even though they are more behind closed doors. The song shows the additional struggle that being in a gay relationship poses. This slower-tempo song shows the variety of Straus’s musicality and adds a more subtly sad and painful tone to the album. The distinct sound of Straus getting up from her guitar after playing makes the song feel personal.

I love “Cheap Queen” because it is cohesive and tells a story, a feat that many albums don’t accomplish. Though Straus had already been in the limelight for her noteworthy EP, this album transforms her discography. Lyrically, creatively, and aesthetically sophisticated, “Cheap Queen” doesn’t just hit the mark in all categories, it slams you in the face. Congratulations Miss Queen, you have created a work of art.