Sorry King Princess You’re Just Whining
Known best for her queer love anthem “1950”, King Princess writes intense songs about love, and pain. She is akin to the singer songwriters of the 1990s such as Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, and Tori Amos mixed with girl-power folk of Ani DiFanco. King Princess fits this crowd well, with confessional songs about relationships – both partner and friendship relationships – and the difficulties we bring upon ourselves. Unfortunately, the latest King Princess effort, Hold on Baby doesn’t hold a candle to these grand dames of indie folk and pop.
Nothing on Hold on Baby stands out enough to excite an audience. There isn’t any of the deep deep pain or joy that tugs at the soul. None of the songs are like Amos’ “Cornflake Girl”, where the pain hits so hard that you can’t stand it. Nor are they like DiFranco’s “Sorry I Am” where the self-reflection keeps Ani from seeming critical of everyone and, hence just a complainer. On the other hand, a complainer is how King Princess comes across here. “For My Friends” is a great example of what can only be described as whining. King Princess says “Loving me takes patience/Will you think about us as I’m leaving?/Think about us as I’m coming home/You hate it, but loving me takes patience.” I’ll say it does. “I hate Myself and Want to Party”, “Cursed”, “Winter is Hopeful” and “Hold on Baby Interlude” all talk to how difficult it is to be a lover or friend, especially with someone like “me”. And that’s only halfway through the album. It’s a pile of unrelenting self-pity and self-loathing.
At some point the “mea culpas” and “you make me sad” start to seem disingenuous. It’s all about “Oh, look at my pain!” Everyone knows a person who says “I’m such a bad person” just to get sympathy and this is what Hold on Baby sounds like. By the time we get to “Change the Locks” the message has evolved into narcissist proportions with the lyrics “You’re starting a fight just to even the score/Ooh-woah, woah/And changin’ the locks on your heart ’cause you’re bored” while admitting that the narrator is “hardly sober anymore”. It’s not as if this is what the narrator is hearing; It’s what they are saying without a hint of irony. Told from this perspective, a song that could be about leaving a toxic relationship breaks down into whining about someone not wanting to put up with your crap.
All the complaining and whining would be more tolerable if the music was better. In fact, it’s the worst kind of music imaginable: bland. There is nothing that sticks in your head; No killer hooks let alone earworms. Even worse is that so much of the music and lyrics are clearly designed to appeal to young teen girls, especially queer ones. Breathiness, vocal fry, slow beats, and occasional F-Bombs are obviously contrived to hook in angsty teens. I can’t decide if it’s lazy or manipulative. With no exciting music to give it structure, I tend to think both are true.
King Princess has received a lot of traction as an up-and-coming queer icon. I always felt that was unfair. Until now, the combination of beats, synths, good tunes, and deep lyrics are what have made King Princess special not queer sensibilities. Hold on Baby, however, has none of the elements that make King Princess worthwhile. As an artist, King Princess has failed to deliver what her subjects deserve. Instead, it looks like someone was phoning it in during the pandemic. Let’s hope this is an anomaly and not the trend.