A body of work that took four years in the making was worth the wait for Chappell Roan’s debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. With the most fitting album title and a collection of singles that cohesively brought a story worth hearing; it was as real, honest, and in perfect timing for the album to be released, finishing up with a handful of surprise tracks to spare. Signed to a major label at 17 years old and hailing from Willard,Missouri is Kayleigh Amstutz, although you may more notably know her by her stage name: Chappell Roan. ‘Chappell Roan is my drag name. I’m essentially doing Drag and just so happen to be fortunate to also perform my own songs at the same time’, she stated. As you can imagine there isn’t exactly much exposure to Drag queens in Missouri, but it wasn’t until a fun night at The Abbey (a gay bar in West Hollywood) that inspired Chappell to embrace a life of living for herself as a queer woman and inspiring her to write one of of her first exponential growing tracks in 2020, “The Pink Pony Club”, with notable music producer, Dan Nigro. The single was ranked third by USA today in “The 10 Best Songs of 2020” and created a cult-like following for others to join as they are. However, even with a cult-like following and anticipated listeners yearning for more, her major label claimed the project to be not as profitable, subsequently dropping the artist shortly after. You can say this was the rise and fall, but another rise was just getting started.
With two years of no releases and an independent standing, Chappell drops “Naked in Manhattan” an upbeat-queer anthem that my sibling hears to the reminiscence of the 2013 CW show, The Carrie Diaries. It’s sophisticated, flirty, and fun. Another single to come was the tongue twister that is “Femininomenon," a more aggressive and proclaiming track that sends a message of simply being tired of being with men. With the sample of a dirt bike revving up, partnered with an electric guitar synth and hi-hat throughout the pre-chorus and chorus, I couldn’t help but rave before she drops with the scream of, “Uhm, can you play a song with a f***** beat?” Tracks that may resonate for Pink Ponies old and new are “My Kink is Karma” and “Casual." “My Kink is Karma” is the pleasure of knowing how one’s ex may be suffering after a break-up with the greatest of lyrics of "no need to be hateful in your fake Gucci sweater," while “Casual” brings this sort realization and slow sadness of knowing your relationship with another isn’t as serious to them as it is to you - a gray area that I can feel everyone’s experienced. Meanwhile, “Picture You," has verse chords and vibes reminiscent of Radiohead’s "Creep." As of 2023, Chappel has signed to Dan Nigro’s Amusement Records, an independent imprint under Island Records.
With my favorite singles being “My Kink is Karma” and “Red Wine Supernova," my favorite new tracks upon album release are “After Midnight” and “Coffee." “After Midnight” is like a successor to “The Pink Pony Club,"a new foundation of confidence, comfortability, and sexual exploration that was built up to take on at the club ‘cause everything good happens after midnight’. It’s an upbeat 80’s/tumblr 2015 feel with a noticeable infectious bass line that makes you want to dance. Now, “Coffee," as contradicting as it is to “After Midnight," is this gut-wrenching piano ballad of meeting an ex-lover for coffee and avoiding every other situation to meet anywhere else in the idea that you’ll give in to restarting an already broken relationship. It’s the contradictory feeling of loving someone and trying to keep your feelings safe.
With the release of this album, Chappell Roan has become one of my favorite songwriters and artists to watch. Some recent articles may state “the depression of breaking in new pop stars”, but have yet to realize the power of Roan, her creative team of friends, and the Pink Pony Club. Viralities aside, this Midwest Princess is on another rise with a near sold out North American Tour this Fall, international shows following after, and opening for Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS Tour this Spring. One listen straight through this album and I know you won’t forget it because I’ll ‘know what you tell your friends… ‘ You’ll say you’re a Pink Pony. Welcome to the Club.