When Mikaela Straus appeared, a vision in red Jordan 23 jersey, the sold-out Riviera crowd was ecstatic—and out of breath, after several moments of cheer-screaming to friend of the band/drag performer Henry Metcalf, who amped everyone up. The 21-year-old queer pop icon from Brooklyn, better known by her stage name “King Princess,” has burst into stardom at lightning speed. Her 2018 single “1950” was met with a million streams in the first week, and she already has Lollapalooza and Coachella gigs under her belt. Mark Ronson was an early fan who saw the spark and tweeted about the debut video after adding King Princess to his new label, Zelig Records: “…a prodigy in the making…self produced, self-penned & strumming all the instruments…only a hint of what’s 2 come.”
There’s inarguably something very special about King Princess. She’s got a penchant for writing and producing deeply catchy hooks and an innate confidence that makes performing them look like a chill walk in the park. A gal of many instruments, she smoothly glides between harnessing a shiny green electric guitar to perching behind a sky-blue piano all while exuding a beautifully raspy vocal range. Even the way she holds a microphone looks like the coolest thing in the world. Bottom line, she’s got that it-girl swag and it’s a lot of fun just watching her be. Especially when she’s playfully locking eyes with girlfriend Quinn Wilson, Lizzo’s creative director, who enjoyed the show from the balcony. “We’re gonna have some fun. I can already tell you some nasty b***ches!”
Backed by a four-piece band, King Princess—or, “Ms. King,” as she requested to be called midway through—covered the bulk of Cheap Queen, her first full-length record that dropped in October. The title song began early in the set but was delayed by a technical hiccup. While the electronic glitch was sorted out, Straus cracked jokes about lip-syncing and at some point was handed a rainbow-colored folding fan that still had the price tag (“Rude! You can’t leave that on!”) A deeper cut, “Trust Nobody,” capped off with a killer guitar solo and fit the setting (“She’s a saga and we’re in a theater.”). Later, Straus tore into heartbreak single, “Talia,” after asking the crowd who’s had an ex-girlfriend, and then, who drinks four adult beverages and is on the floor?
Like her moniker, King Princess is a mashup of paradoxes and effortlessly pushes boundaries of self and sound. A powerful party anthem rolls in one minute, a quiet love song the next. Hers may be a queer voice, but there’s a relatability to the music that breaks down walls and brings a whole bunch of happy people together. I’m strapped in for Ms. King’s ride and can’t wait to see “what’s 2 come.”
Fellow Brooklynite Lakisha Robinson (“Kilo Kush”) kicked off the night with a high-energy rap-electronic set. She performed from new EP REDUX, including the memorably spicy “BITE ME.” Local artist Regina Rodriguez (“Irregular Girl”) came and went too fast but slayed an emotional solo rendition of FKA twigs’ “Cellophane” that involved dramatically breaking free from a tangle of ropes. Irregular Girl regularly performs in drag shows at Scarlet Bar, Berlin, the Burlington and the Hideout.
All photos by Juan Montano