Could Mikaela Straus — the Brooklyn-born musician who performs under the oxymoronic moniker King Princess — be the most refreshing name in pop right now? The first thing she does when she arrives at the cosy West Hollywood studio that we’re shooting at is to tell the makeup artist not to touch up her eyebags. She likes them the way they are (the rest of her face is equally raw — and porcelain clear).
Through the day that we spend in and about the neighbourhood that she’s called home for the past two years, she’s the same easy-going, unfiltered self. It means that we find out un-Googleable facts about the 19-year-old, like how she spent six years studying Chinese, and can understand and write the language. Or that — despite her uniform of baggy tees and work pants — she’s into fashion, calling it “therapeutic” and cooing over the pieces that she dons effortlessly for this story.
Despite her lineage (her great-great-grandfather co-owned Macy’s) and rising star status (Mark Ronson hails her as a “prodigy” and signed her as the first artiste under his music label Zelig Records), there are no airs. The only attitude that she exudes: that of an utterly chill tomboy who’s as wry as she is romantic, which is also how best to describe her music.
She’s not hit local radio yet, but it’s not hard to see why the five tunes on her debut EP Make My Bed (2018) have each averaged 57.4 million streams as of press time. Much has been written about her poetic, politically nuanced songwriting prowess, with one Harry Styles even Tweeting her lyrics (Google this). “I’m just salty and like to write about it,” she says in jest.
Then there’s her hyper modern sound that traverses genres and decades (her music heroes span David Bowie to Jack White to Lady Gaga).
While they’re fitted with feel-good electronic hooks in all the right places, there’s an old-school quality about them. Growing up in her sound engineer father’s recording studio made her appreciate analog sound, she says. She also boasts mellow, soulful vocals that make her ode to young love sound devastatingly tender, no matter the beat.
“I love that there’s still room for someone to come in through the back door and bring their idea of what pop music is to the forefront,” she says of the industry today. “I like that there’s room for art to be made that breaks barriers.”
Her first full-fledged album will be out this year and she promises that it’ll be “big”. We can’t wait. All hail the new queen of pop.
Photography Cameron Postforoosh, assisted by Barrett Loose Styling Jungle Lin Hair Marina Migliaccio/The Rex Agency, using T3 Micro Makeup Sara Tagaloa
This story first appeared in Female’s April 2019 issue.