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The Rise of Chappell Roan

Chappell Roan by Alec Conwell
Chappell Roan by Alec Conwell

She’s your favorite artist’s favorite artist, your dream girl’s dream girl, and she is serving CUNT! Chappell Roan has blasted into the scene with catchy queer music reminiscent of both the 80s and the early 2000s. Paying tribute to those who have come before while also creating a new, fresh sound that is sorely needed. This Femininomenon isn’t stopping anytime soon and reminds many of the early days of Lady Gaga or even Cyndi Lauper. While she grows larger every day, Chappell never forgets to give back and donates to queer charities while also inviting local drag artists to open her concerts. She never wants to forget where she comes from and wants to help those communities thrive. As a lesbian from the Midwest, seeing her gain a level of success that only continues to grow is very exciting. Her songs have given me a confidence that I didn’t have before, and can do this for so many other lesbians as Chappell is unapologetically queer. I hope to touch on her music in this article and what makes it so worthy of success and being the new music for your hot girl summer.

Her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, starts with a punch, with Femininomenon. While the lyrics may be a bit nonsensical, “Get it hot like Papa John” comes to mind. The song is very fun and upbeat, exactly what a lot of pop music has been missing, and Chappell is bringing back fun pop in full force. The follow-up song, Red Wine Supernova, has very fun, danceable lyrics as well. The song is also unapologetically queer and sexual, something all too often shied away from, especially in combination. With raunchy double entendres like “I heard you like magic. I've got a wand and a rabbit!” Chappell is open about sex and is often specifically lesbian-coded about it. This is quite important, as many lesbians often see a lack of representation in every form of media, and being this explicit means so much to all of us in the community. After Midnight comes next, an ode to clubs and getting into trouble late into the night. It is also an ode to the freedom the club can sometimes give you to follow your inhibitions and just get a bit messy. With lyrics about kissing both your girlfriend and boyfriend, this is another ode to exploring sexuality, and it has fun with it.

The next two songs on the album are a little slower and more emotional. They include discussions of failed casual situations as well as failed romantic relationships. Coffee is a more emotional ballad about how hard it can be to meet with an ex after a breakup that you’re still slightly in love with. The feeling of how difficult it is to meet anywhere because every place you’ve been together holds such deep memories. How difficult it is to not cave in and go back to their place simply because you know them and they’ve always been there. It is one of the emotional hard hitters on the album and is quite a switch-up following the more upbeat pop songs. The follow-up song, Casual, is a bit angrier and explicit. It chronicles the tale of meeting the parents, storing stuff at a partner’s house, and they still claim it's a casual relationship. It displays the anger surrounding that situation and how it makes you feel crazy. The song also raised questions over what “knee deep in the passenger seat” really means, with Chappell once again willing to get explicit with lyrics, even in her more emotional songs.

The next three songs are all very fun tracks that chronicle the need for more than just a man, the desire to go home with someone at the club, and how karma can get your exes back for you. Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl is one of my personal favorites and such a good one to scream along to. The beginning is iconic, and the lyrics explicitly state how a man isn’t enough for her and how she needs a super graphic ultra modern girl, just like she speaks to sexuality on the whole. Hearing such an explicit rejection of a man for a woman is so important to so many lesbians, and it is such a switch-up from what is normal in pop music. The next song, Hot to Go!, might be the most silly and entertaining song on the album, even if it's not my personal favorite. Chappell even made a dance to it, which gets people engaged at concerts. She’s simply singing about going home with someone, and it is just so fun, nonsensical, and still amazing. Chappell seems to have the ability to make even the oddest lyrics truly magical when sung to a crowd. My Kink is Karma is another one of my favorite songs. It tells the story of all the bad things that happen to an ex after a bad breakup while you’re thriving. The song is so soothing to sing while remembering an ex or even a bad friend's breakup. It truly is an anthem to those who’ve had the worst relationships but are now thriving. 

For the next three, I’m going to skip around a bit and pull the other three slower songs together. While Picture You doesn’t seem to explicitly state what gender she’s singing about, it heavily implies it is another woman. She sings sensually about taking off her dress and touching herself while thinking of this person. Another song where Chappell freely discusses sexuality and sex in general, a beautifully sung sensual song that I appreciate, is included in the album. The follow-up song, Kaleidoscope, follows a love that wasn’t meant to be. It hits me particularly hard, as I’m reminded of both ex-relationships and ex-friendships. Chappell sings about lost love but still wishes well for the person. She discusses not fully how love works and maybe never knowing but still allowing it to come into your life and stay for however long it does. For me, it is the most emotional song on the album and hits hard after all the earlier upbeat pop songs. Finally, I want to discuss California. This is another personal song for me, as I know the feeling of leaving the Midwest for new, different places. However, I chose the East Coast, while Chappell chose the West. She sings about how difficult it can be to transition to a new place and how you can miss home but not at the same time. She sings about how sometimes plans don’t pan out and life doesn’t always go how you want it to. However, she could never have imagined in 2020 that in 2024 she would be the next rising star. It is very interesting to see where she came from and how she’s come from there.

The final three songs to discuss are more upbeat pop anthems. Guilty Pleasure once again seems to be another song about a woman. About how she feels both guilt and pleasure towards her sexuality. I feel like a lot of lesbians, especially depending on where they’re from, feel this when they first come to terms with their sexuality. I love how she sings the song not as a confession but more of an admission. She wants this pleasure to continue, and she doesn’t care about the consequences. It is nice to hear a song like this. Naked in Manhattan is another explicit song about the first time with a woman. Another song that is so important to hear as a queer person. She sings about how the first time would go in the city and calls for her partner to touch her. She also states in the beginning how boys stink, and she finally wants to try women. Such a refreshing take from the all-too-often boy-obsessed pop music that is on the radio. Finally, I want to discuss what, to me, is the most defining song on the album, Pink Pony Club. This is an anthem to being yourself, no matter who you are. It truly feels like a queer album and a fuck you to those who try to put us in a box. How we shock our hometowns in the midwest and south with queerness and eccentricity while still stating that these things exist everywhere, even in the towns that don’t want it. This is a defining song for Chappell, and seeing it sung even on a screen at Coachella was awe-inspiring. The crowd looked so explicitly queer, and everyone is stating that they are different and proud, and I love this so much. Chappell does inspire so many queer people to be open and free.

Overall, it is so exciting to see a lesbian pop gaining so much popularity. Her new song, Good Luck Babe, even got pretty high on different charts. She inspires others to be open and free while supporting local drag queens and queer communities throughout the Midwest. She calls back to her roots while still moving forward and changing. Community is important to her, and so is inspiring others to be their authentic selves. It is very interesting to hear her discuss how she sees Chappell as a drag persona and what she means for the industry in general. I am so excited to see where she goes next and know she’ll go far.

Written by Kat Reed

Illustration by Alec Conwell

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