In these times of royalty gone rogue, Mikaela Straus, aka King Princess, is shattering the traditions of the pop monarchy.
On Jan. 19 at the Roseland Theater, the 21-year-old Brooklynite pranced onstage as if interpreting a one-woman dance battle between a ballerina and a kung fu fighter. She went on to play her genre-bending spectrum of three-minute pop songs about sex and sadness—soft odes to ex-girlfriends and campy anthems about making grown men cry—to a crowd of girls shouting, "I'm gay as hell!" and "Thank you for being gay!"
King Princess' sound is often labeled "queer pop," a sweeping categorization Straus greets with distaste. "I'm not just gay," she told the crowd at Roseland. "I also give you good music, because…I don't want [orders from] some little white man on a keyboard."
While Straus is signed to Mark Ronson's label and counts Led Zeppelin and Jack White among her key influences, she embodies her own boss man. Onstage, Straus played the part of the pompous heartthrob rock star, swigging beer from red cups and calling the crowd "bitches" until it sounded like a term of endearment.
Her hip-gyrating, performative arrogance might have been obnoxious had it not felt like a middle finger to the music industry's "little white men" and behaviors they have gotten away with—and been celebrated for—for decades.
In her biggest hit, "1950," Straus sings, "Tell me why my gods look like you." At her Portland show, the Roseland held a sea of people whose rock gods looked like her, and she knew it. Before launching into the song, King Princess made it clear she intended to continue her reign, turning to the audience for solidarity: "Can we all work collectively to build my empire?"