Aug 02, 2022
By Mariel Fechik
Since King Princess debuted in 2018, she has come to represent a new breed of pop star. Hyperfemininity has given way to explorations of gender and androgyny. A preference for more natural voices has replaced crystalline, AutoTuned vocals. King Princess (the stage name of Brooklyn’s Mikaela Straus), in many ways, is the anti-pop star. And yet it’s hard to describe her music as anything but.
Straus’ sophomore album, Hold On Baby, is one of exhaustion. As a global pandemic rages on, there is a pervasive attitude of malaise across the U.S., and many artists have mirrored this in their recent music. Hold On Baby details the struggle of a person coming back to themselves amidst isolation and the fallout of a relationship, battling to stay afloat. Straus projects a grimy, boyish sex appeal that, combined with her soft-edged, airy voice and Britney Spears-style vocal fry creates a magnetic kind of performance. Early singles such as “Cursed” and “Too Bad” show Straus’ clear knack for a hook and sounded like they could slot right into an early 2000s teen movie soundtrack. They are subtly nostalgic but modern and fresh.
Unfortunately, Straus may have played her entire hand too early; Hold On Baby’s first four singles are perhaps the best on the album, save for its final song. Much of the middle is sleepy, providing too much sonic sameness amidst the already melancholic subject matter. What’s lacking most clearly is energy, like the kind on the string of singles she released in 2020. Among those was “Ohio,” a searing, guitar-driven heartbreak ballad. The fire that “Ohio” has is what’s missing from Hold On Baby, and it’s disappointing that this new direction isn’t one King Princess decided to follow.
Regardless, Hold On Baby certainly has its hits, and Straus’ star power is no less evident even when the music doesn’t measure up. While her sophomore record is somewhat of a slump, King Princess’ talent still reigns. (www.kingprincessmusic.com)
Author rating: 6/10
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