KiNG MALA knows how to tap into her dark side. The alternative-soul singer, born Areli Castro, has a sound that’s intoxicating and villainous all while prancing through themes like lust, sexuality, and devil-may-care impulsivity.
Her latest single, “cult leader” is no exception to the singer’s curated brand. The single is a whirring of fantastical elements and outlaw sentiments. To put it simply, “cult leader” is the song you play when you want to feel like a badass.
“I wrote this song after a long period of feeling down on myself. It seems super backward but I was just lacking confidence and needed something to pull me out of that,” KiNG MALA tells American Songwriter. “So I woke up one morning and decided to write the most insanely confident (if not a little bit toxic) song I could, just to try and bring myself back to equilibrium and so I wrote about being a cult leader. Despite not actually feeling super confident, this song just kind of poured out and really brought me so much confidence. I was so stoked on it that I posted it the day after I wrote it and it kind of snowballed from there.”
It makes sense that the L.A.-based artist would lean into her songwriting in low moments. KiNG MALA tells American Songwriter that she’s “been obsessed with music and songwriting” since she was a kid. “I just wanted a career in something that brought me joy,” she continues. “As cheesy as it is, I really feel like we only have one life and might as well go for your wildest dream.”
And while “cult leader” isn’t necessarily joyful, it doesn’t hold anything back either. The song is supercharged with confidence and an edgy swagger. “I think my favorite thing about the song is the fantasy of it,” she says. “It seems so unrelatable in nature, but because it’s such a delusional fantasy of confidence that somehow made it relatable. I wasn’t sure if anyone would really connect to what I was trying to do with the song, but I think a lot of people need that delusional confidence boost once in a while.”
As far as what makes the lyrics of “cult leader” so intense, KiNG MALA has a few insights. Her excitement when writing lyrics like If I wasn’t a narcissist, I wouldn’t like me either and Grim reaper looking for my cheerleaders solidified the song’s message for the singer. “I think I just want people to feel confident more than anything. I want people to give themselves permission to feel like the most unabashed version of themselves… even if just for 2 and a half minutes,” she says.
“Also, I’m just proud of myself for finding so many words that rhyme with cult leader.”
Listen to “cult leader” by KiNG MALA below.
Photo by Conner Landers Sorensen