Friday, November 11, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1598: King Princess

I’m just back from a four-day road trip for work. Knowing I’d be having plenty of “airport” time, I rolled an album to listen to while I was away, and review when I got home. This was it!

Disc 1598 is…. Cheap Queen

Artist: King Princess

Year of Release: 2019

What’s up with the Cover?  Big eye makeup! A reclining King Princess gives us a stare down that says, “I’ll put on my face for this photo shoot, but I’ll be damned if I’ll put on a shirt!”

How I Came To Know It: I learned about King Princess through her 2022 album “Hold On Baby”. I was unsuccessfully looking for that in the “Miscellaneous K” section of my local record store when I came across this earlier release. I’d never heard it, but I figured I wouldn’t easily find another copy, so I bought it and hoped for the best.

How It Stacks Up: “Cheap Queen” is for now my only album by King Princess, so it can’t stack up against anything.

Ratings: 4 stars

Settling in on the first leg of my plane ride, the opening few tracks of “Cheap Queen” came as a bit of a shock to the system. This soulful alt-pop, electronic-adjacent sound is not my usual fare. Having just spent a week in the familiar and easy world of Billy Joel I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Kind of like having a fancy meal at a high-end restaurant after a month of burgers and fries.

Once I acclimated this record steadily grew on me with each successive listen. Her vocals were at first a bit too round and soulful (this should be a good thing, but down deep I’ve got a folk/metal soul). After my ears had property tuned in, I realized this is exactly the voice that is needed to encompass the many styles the record explores.

The title track is pure pop genius, fueled by all the things that make that genre successful: funky drumbeat, some hand claps, a distorted organ and just a hint of auto tune – not to correct mistakes, but just to add a fun little echo to the main musical themes developed. This song is slow-dance brilliance or just for snapping your fingers and doing a few head rolls while you wait for the light to change.

This is followed up immediately with a stripped-down guitar strum on “Ain’t Together” which is a by-the-book break up number. This song plays with folk elements, but the chorus blossoms into a full pop song soon enough, ready for the radio if the radio were smart enough to play pop music this well constructed.

Lyrically the record is sexy and vulnerable in equal parts. One of my favourite stanzas is from “Homegirl” from that great subset of songs about the anticipation of taking your lover home at the end of a social event. Here’s a sample:

“And I like the way that you talk,
Spelling my name with your tongue
So you don't have to say it
We're friends at the party
I'll give you my body at home”

This song is all guitar strum and vocal and shows that while King Princess is not averse to the bells and whistles and complex arrangements, the bones of the songs (which she also write) and her vocal talents stand equally strong on their own.

There is a bit of a crooner element to some of the songs that initially put me off as being affected, but after a few more listens I got past my genre bias and realized these songs are genuine reflections of emotion and personal circumstance.

When I set out to write this review, I was going to note that King Princess is in the same style as Samia, Torres, Caroline Rose and “a whole host of artists that are amazing that you may have never heard of because they aren’t Olivia Rodrigo.” Mostly true but turns out King Princess had a hit after all – some song from her 2018 EP debut called “1950” has 20 million Youtube hits – apparently the result of it being the theme song to some popular Netflix movie I haven’t seen.

In any event, if you haven’t tuned in to King Princess since then, she’s still making great music and it is time for you to return.

I should note that I also love Olivia Rodrigo – bought her album in fact – but if you like that kind of thing there are plenty of other thoughtful female pop artists out there worth your time. King Princess is one of them.

Best tracks: Cheap Queen, Ain’t Together, Homegirl, Watching My Phone, If You Think It’s Love

No comments: