King Princess’ ‘Cheap Queen’ fails to live up to expectations

The debut album shines through its lyrics, even if it falls flat in its production

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King Princess’ ‘Cheap Queen’ fails to live up to expectations

King Princess sings during a performance at Royale in Boston, Massachusetts.

King Princess sings during a performance at Royale in Boston, Massachusetts.

King Princess Boston Close Up / Grenwall 2019 / CC BY-SA 4.0

King Princess sings during a performance at Royale in Boston, Massachusetts.

King Princess Boston Close Up / Grenwall 2019 / CC BY-SA 4.0

King Princess Boston Close Up / Grenwall 2019 / CC BY-SA 4.0

King Princess sings during a performance at Royale in Boston, Massachusetts.

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I must admit, I was excited about this album. And by excited, I mean very excited.

I have been following King Princess’s career since her debut single, “1950,” was released back in February 2018. That March, Harry Styles had tweeted lyrics from the song, which spurred on her popularity with the general public. 

Meanwhile, I discovered her by accident. She came on through my Spotify shuffle one day last year, and, as soon as the song was finished, I had to know who she was. And I’m glad I decided to check her out. 

I still very much enjoy her first EP, “Make My Bed.” In fact, “Holy” was one of my favorite songs of last year. Since the release of that EP, she has been dropping singles periodically, all of which culminated in this album.

First, I’d like to commend her choices on the singles. “Prophet” and “Ain’t Together” are easily the best songs on the album. Throughout the summer, I fell into a routine of talking with my friends about each new song she dropped.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best idea. It raised my expectations to a level of hype that I should’ve known wasn’t going to be easily met.

After listening to the finished project, I am afraid to say that the rest of the track failed to reach the same heights as those first singles. I don’t see this album holding up for very long, but only time will tell.

2019 Zelig Records

The main issue that I have with this record is that it feels incomplete. One example is “Useless Phrases,” which is one of the few songs on here that sounds remotely close to her EP. It clocks in at one minute, and although it seems like it’s building towards something, it ends abruptly.

Other songs, meanwhile, just don’t quite land. This is the case with “Hit The Back;” the chorus falls on its back before the song gets going. 

It feels like she held back on this album. The soft, sultry vocals lose their appeal after a while, and I found my attention drifting as the album progressed.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t anything I liked about the album. In fact, there was much that I liked — but there wasn’t enough that I loved. Every time it felt like a song was about to break the mold, experiment a little, or take the album in a different direction, it retreated back into a safe space.

One thing that I found incredible, however, was the lyrics. Usually, when it comes to debut albums, artists tend to resort to lyrical cliches. However, King Princess writes with a maturity of an already established artist. I could instantly tell from the first song “Tough on Myself” that I was going to enjoy the lyrics, even if I couldn’t say the same for the production. 

“I get too tough on myself / sitting alone, making fun of myself / and is it so wrong just to want someone else?” she sings.

2019 Zelig Records

No single lyric felt out-of-place or clunky. She has fantastic writing flow, best illustrated in songs like “Prophet,” one of the first singles off the album. The song fluidly transitions between the verse and chorus in a way that still manages to distinguish from them both. 

“You’re a prophet, someone’s going to profit, don’t you know I just want it / I can only think about you / and what it’s like to walk around you?” she sings. 

I also noticed in the credits that she made significant contributions to both the writing and producing of this record. I appreciate when artists have creative control over their work. Even if I wasn’t especially fond of the album, I respect her ability to both write, produce, and sing. 

The hooks on songs like “Cheap Queen” were not only catchy melodically, but lyrically as well. 

“I can be good sometimes / I’m a cheap queen / I can do what you like / And I can be bad sometimes / I’m a real queen / I can make grown men cry,” she trills.

It is on songs like these that her signature voice shines through. There are not many other artists out there who would be able to sing those lyrics as effectively as she does. 

This brings me to the arguably most memorable song off the record — outside of the singles, of course — “Trust Nobody.”

2019 Zelig Records

 

The song begins with a muffled piano intro but then opens up like a flower with its energetic chorus. 

“Watching me slip over words / it kind of hurts / for what it’s worth / I just want to be with you, babe,” she sings. 

The album concludes with “If You Think It’s Love,” which sums up the album beautifully. It’s a quiet track, like most others on the album, but the way it builds towards its conclusion brings the album full-circle. 

“If you think it’s love, it is / if you think it’s trust, it is,” she croons. 

Although this album falls prey to having songs that sound a little too similar to one another, I found myself enjoying it throughout. I tapped my feet to “Hit the Back,” bobbed my head to “Cheap Queen,” and hummed the tune of “Prophet.”

This album succeeds as a debut, even if it fails to reach its potential. 

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