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The Mid Year Report launched in 2016 with the intent of spotlighting 10 artists within the realm of music who share and represent the adventurous, independent spirit of NEST HQ. Similar to our end-of-year superlatives, the Mid Year Report recognizes those musicians who are outpacing their contemporaries due to fearless creativity and deliberate integrity, and this week, we’ll be discussing 10 artists who we believe are pushing their genre forward in 2018.

Read below for our Mid Year Report on King Princess.

In February, Mark Ronson announced the debut release to launch his new Zelig Recordings imprint would be a single called “1950” from a then-unknown 19-year-old singer-songwriter and producer called King Princess. KP, or Mikaela Straus, has a voice and perspective revealed in her songwriting that is well beyond her mere 19 years on this planet. “1950” captured the attention of the music industry from Harry Styles of One Direction to Pitchfork and served as the ultimate introduction for her. Elegant in its stripped-down simplicity, the song is suspenseful with lyrics simultaneously heartfelt and eerie about pretending the taboos of queer love still exist in modern society. With that first release, she flexed her raw talent and made us fall in love while subtly reminding us that not everyone everywhere is free to love whoever they want yet. Not only did the song blow so many new listeners away, but it also solidified the notion that she has an important message.

Beyond signing, producing, and championing her, Mark Ronson is a King Princess fan first and foremost. She’s reportedly been on the major label since she was in middle school, but turned down a record deal to finish school. Hailing from New York City originally, as her debut EP Make My Bed explicitly refers to, Mikaela studied at USC’s Thornton School of Music for one year before she dropped out to pursue music full time and landed in Mark’s universe. He’s worked with everyone from Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars to Amy Winehouse and Paul McCartney as a producer and composer, but King Princess is the first new artist roll-out he’s been able to have his creative genius hands in throughout.

Her second single release through Zelig was for “Talia,” and it’s also the second track off Make My Bed. Much more of a brooding ballad than “1950,” again her perspective is so unique you can hardly classify “Talia” as your standard-issue sad, lost love song. There’s a certain amount of resignation in her lyrics and voice, like she’s accepted heartbreak and graduated to a highly relatable acknowledgment of self. She sings her guts out with words of wisdom about how she’s processing her feelings, meeting her own angst and despair in her own lyrics from the perspective of an observer. She has a refined ability to feel her feelings, observe them poetically, and transmute them into timeless, heartfelt pop songs. This direction seems like just the kind of fantastically authentic interpretation of reality that could make her a queer pop icon with the potential to appeal across a vast generational spectrum.

The EP’s title track “Make My Bed” is a short intro tune of stripped down vocal harmonies and a lone piano where KP introduces herself and sets the tone for the rest of the songs to come. On “Holy,” her vocals are pitched up to make for a straight-up angelic sound. It’s seductive, poignant, and empowering, yet simultaneously subtle and simple. I saved my personal favorite “Upper West Side” for last, which I love because its salty lyrical content is just cheeky enough to be endearing. It has a more lush production factor than the other tracks, and the melody reminds me of every badass female indie-folk singer-songwriter I loved from the ’90s. If Linda Perry heard this song, I feel like she might be mad she didn’t write it 25 years ago.

King Princess has made so much noise and gained such momentum already in 2018 with a single EP release within the industry and amongst tastemaker fans and blogs, and she’s only just begun. This Mid Year Report playlist contains all five tracks from Make My Bed in order of their release, but three of the five songs are only available on SoundCloud Go, so we highly recommend listening to the EP as is on your streaming platform of choice. Check out our Artist Spotlight on King Princess to learn more about the music that got her signed (which is a grand total of two tracks uploaded to SoundCloud while she was at USC) that were unique enough to communicate the scope of her potential to an ear like Mark’s, one that’s trained to scan for diamond-in-the-rough genius. She’s kicking off a run of sold-out US tour dates in Seattle tonight, check them here and catch her if you can. Stay tuned for more updates about the rapidly expanding KP empire.

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Words: Molly Hankins