Following a flurry of internet rumors and cryptic teasers, Florence Welch and her Machine have finally returned with their new first single in two years, “King.” The song, which appears to be the lead single from the as-yet-unannounced full-length follow-up to 2018’s High As Hope, arrives with a stunning video by photographer and filmmaker Autumn de Wilde.
The new song takes a similar sonic approach to the material on High As Hope, using a relatively sparse instrumental set-up until it builds to its soaring peak at the song’s center, but takes a step in a new direction thematically. Where the previous record operated from a place of (cautious) optimism, “King” sees Welch barely holding her fury back, pulling anyone who dares cross her up by the scruff of their neck as she floats above them all. On earlier projects, she might have gone straight to howling the repeated refrain of “I am no mother / I am no bride / I am king,” but here, she lets the line sit at the back of her throat, delivering it through gritted teeth. In a way, the restraint is more terrifying, warning the song’s subject who asks, “How much is art really worth?” to run before the bloodshed starts. Mirrored in the ring of girls who let out a silent, agonizing scream right before the song’s explosive climax erupts in the video, the song captures the rage that so many like Florence feel, keeping quiet for fear that opportunities will be snatched out from under you if you speak your displeasure aloud.
Welch talked about the inspiration behind the single in a statement:
As an artist, I never actually thought about my gender that much. I just got on with it. 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 modelled 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.
You can check out the video for “King” below.