Florence + the Machine’s ‘King’ Decries Double Standard for Female Artists

Fans haven’t heard new music from Florence + the Machine for four years, but they’re back and with a very powerful song called “King.”

A lot is going on in the new tune, including its music video. Some would say it decries the double standard that female artists face. Do they forfeit their careers or the chance to have a family?

Florence Welch performing with Florence + the Machine in Milan, Italy, 2019.
Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine | Sergione Infuso/Corbis via Getty Images

Florence + the Machine’s ‘King’ decries the double standard for female artists

In Florence + the Machine’s music video for “King,” lead singer, Florence Welch, appears like a vision in a hooded mauve cloak.

She starts singing, “We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children/ About the world ending and the scale of my ambition/ And how much is art really worth/ The very thing you’re best at is the thing that hurts the most.

“But you need your rotten heart, your dazzling pain like diamond rings/ You need to go to war to find material to sing/ I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King.”

Looking at those lyrics, Welch is singing about what female artists have to sacrifice for their careers compared to men. However, there may be a deeper meaning.

Nylon wrote, “‘King’ at first listen appears to be a triumphant anthem, with Welch proudly declaring her title as ‘king’ and decrying other labels such as ‘mother’ and ‘bride.’

“But a look in between the lines suggests more friction underneath the surface of its lyrics. There’s a deeper point to be excavated than seeing Welch as someone who blindly loves her ‘rotten heart’ and ‘dazzling pain’ to make art, as she sings on the track, or snapping the necks of men around her as she does while donning a maroon cloak in the music video.”

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Florence + the Machine’s ‘King’ is about the battle between having an identity and desires

Welch explained that “King” was about female artists’ battle between identity and desires in a press statement.

“As an artist, I never actually thought about my gender that much, I just got on with it,” Welch wrote. “I was as good as the men and I just went out there and matched them every time. But now, thinking about being a woman in my 30s and the future, I suddenly feel this tearing of my identity and my desires.

“That to be a performer, but also to want a family might not be as simple for me as it is for my male counterparts. I had modeled myself almost exclusively on male performers, and for the first time I felt a wall come down between me and my idols as I have to make decisions they did not.”

Nylon wrote, “Welch likens her own creative ambition on ‘King’ to going to war,” and she has her female army with her the whole time. Toward the end of the song, Welch sings, “I never knew my killer would be coming from within.” Wanting a family is suddenly a bad thing that will eat her dreams of a successful career.

Welch shouldn’t feel this way, especially in today’s world, yet she does.

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Will Welch’s career suck her back in or will she settle down like she seems to want?

So, will Welch abdicate the throne for a family? Will she sacrifice all that she’s done with Florence + the Machine to settle down? We’re not convinced yet. Especially considering the ending of “King.”

Welch doesn’t want her desire for a family to take away her career, so she made herself a king. However, the last line in tune may allude to Welch’s future. Florence could end up constantly going around in circles if she doesn’t decide. The last line proves she probably won’t change. Florence’s career will drag her by my hair and “back on with the show.”

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