After years of putting out singles and EPs, rising artist Chappell Roan finally released her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, on Sept. 23, 2023. Hailing from Willard, Missouri, Roan has started to make a name for herself in the queer pop scene. Roan first caught public attention with her 2020 single “Pink Pony Club.” Since then, Roan’s initial label dropped her, which prompted her to start releasing music independently with songwriter and producer Dan Nigro (mainly of Olivia Rodrigo fame) and reconcile herself to releasing The Rise and Fall.
Most of The Rise and Fall is dedicated to high-energy, danceable songs. Some of their subject matter concerns Roan’s disappointment in men, clubbing, and falling in love with eccentric strangers. One of the most ear-catching is “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl.” It begins with a monologue of Roan describing a drab first date with a man who “wouldn’t even dance” and was “wearing these fugly jeans.” It has all of the elements of a perfect pop hit — an anticipatory pre-chorus, exciting and snappy lyrics (“Not overdramatic / I know what I want”) and more. Another one of Roan’s best upbeat songs early in the album is “Red Wine Supernova,” a raunchy tale of meeting a wild girl and Roan’s deep desire to hook up with her. Roan has been vastly praised online for the bridge, which contains a swing-danceable beat under clever lyrics such as “I heard you like magic / I got a wand and a rabbit!”.
A few slower songs are sprinkled throughout The Rise and Fall as well. “Casual,” which remains Roan’s fourth most streamed song on Spotify, details a complicated situationship with a partner who insists on keeping things casual while treating Roan like a girlfriend. “Casual” displays Roan’s knack for brutally honest songwriting: “Knee deep in the passenger seat and you’re eating me out / Is it casual now?” takes the listener aback upon first listen. Deep cut “Picture You” stands out in the album’s second half. In this sultry ballad, Roan croons about a crush she frequently imagines and wonders if they ever think of her in the same ways. This one took me by surprise upon first listen, as Roan’s romantic and lustful confessions are rarely slow and emotional. These slower songs also feature some of her most impressive vocal moments on the record, displaying her range and rich lower register.
The Rise and Fall demonstrates Roan’s vast knowledge of queer and pop culture and a commitment to tongue-in-cheek, campy lyrics and aesthetics. She references singing a Lana Del Rey anthem to a lover, a sex scene in Mulholland Drive, and, once again, those “fugly jeans.” Roan does not shy away from embracing a fluid identity. In “After Midnight,” she exclaims, “I kinda wanna kiss your girlfriend if you don’t mind … I kinda wanna kiss your boyfriend if you don’t mind.” A song that has always stuck out to me is “Pink Pony Club,” an ode to The Abbey in Los Angeles and finally feeling found at the queer parties of Los Angeles. In the song, she remarks that she’s finally found a place “where boys and girls can all be queens every single day.” “Pink Pony Club” is a vibrant and meaningful tribute to the community that Roan is a part of and the one that has latched onto her work with such enthusiasm.
After years of primarily depressing queer female media written by men and/or focused on oppression, voices like Chappell Roan are finally emerging to make art that represents a more vivid experience. In the year of Emma Seligman’s queer fight club film Bottoms, the rise in popularity of indie pop band MUNA, and the return of supergroup Boygenius, Roan adds another important narrative of joy, rawness, and the complexity of queer life to the culture.
Sofia Nolfo is a senior communication management and design major with a love for queer pop culture. You can reach Sofia at [email protected].