There's something fresh about the sputtering drum machines of "Vegas," "Thinking Of U" and "Crybaby." Sure, it's all still written and recorded by Abra in her bedroom in Atlanta, but now the rhythms are more complex, more forceful. What was hip-hop before is now freestyle with its distinct strut and slam, coloured with the bluish grey of tinted windows rather than the sunshine of '80s Latin freestyle. (She calls herself the "darkwave duchess" for a reason.) But she keeps the instrumental parts, working "Vegas" into a mechanical sweat in its extended breakdown.
Even more than the production, though, Abra's vocals stand out. They're still drenched in reverb, but now she uses the effect to bolster her vocals rather than keep listeners at arm's length. Her hooks are stronger, too. She winds around complicated phrases with ease and dips in and out of melisma. Her performance on "Crybaby" is something to behold: her verses sear with pain and her usual braggadocio turns inside out on the chorus when she howls, "You call me a crybaby / But you're making me cry." By the time the song reaches its "banging on the floor" coda, there are about ten discernible hooks in the mix.
As sharpened as Abra's attack is on Princess, her music remains defiantly DIY. There's a hazy atmosphere, like weed mixed with perfume. The music turns growling and bass-heavy on "Big Boi," a collaboration with Awful rapper Tommy Genesis, where Abra's vocals waft like smoke in the background. Then it's stripped back on "Pull Up," where a delicate arpeggio is undergirded by a bassline so heavy that it sounds like it might upend the whole thing. "Pull Up" exemplifies the deceptive heft of Abra's productions. They're homemade jams that will destroy any dance floor in their path, whether with a sly wink or a tear.