Savannah Brooks ’26
In her debut album, Chappell Roan (pronounced “chapel”) is coming in hot. The 25-year-old from Willard, Missouri has been floating around the music scene with well-received singles and EPs since 2017, but this is her first full album. Roan, who has the same co-writer as Olivia Rodrigo (Daniel Nigro), released “Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess” on Sept. 22, 2023. It has been (deservedly) generating a large amount of press; Roan was featured on Elton John’s “Rocket Hour” and has been called a “queer pop superstar in the making” by the LA Times.
From the opening rocker “Feminominon” to the closing erotic pop piece “Guilty Pleasure,” “Rise and Fall” is a head-bopping masterpiece that may even see its listeners shed a few tears. “Rise and Fall” encapsulates and, ultimately, celebrates the queer female experience. “Casual,” a repurposed single from 2022, is a slow ode to the frustration of a queer situationship while “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” is a high-intensity club hit that proposes a new planet of girls like her with no men. Roan’s album is clearly inspired by decades of queer culture – her overthe-top concert outfits and the absurdity of her songs echo prime Elton John and she references The Mamas and The Papas as well as Lana Del Rey directly in “California” and “Naked in Manhattan” respectively (while neither Cass Elliot or Del Rey are LGBTQ+ themselves, throughout their careers they have been celebrated as gay icons and have heavy influence on modern queer culture).
Roan’s powerful and unique voice can speak for itself, but her creative and thoughtfully-crafted lyrics carry “Rise and Fall” to another level. Her unapologetic eroticism is a refreshing comfort in a society that either rejects or fetishizes female sexuality. “Red Wine Supernova” contains a reference to the female orgasm right in the title and celebrates a female love affair throughout the song. Several of her songs also contain call-and-response verses that allow for Roan’s favorite aspect of live performances: audience participation! “HOT TO GO,” another anthem about love and sex, even has its own dance as well as a section that imitates high school cheerleaders (in a loving way) by spelling out the title of the song.
The high-energy pop anthems of “Rise and Fall” dominate the album and are perhaps Roan’s signature style, but her slow ballads pack their own punch. “Kaleidoscope” evokes the desolation of a lost relationship, “Coffee” describes the frustration of a surface-level toxic relationship, and “California” serves as a love song to the South. Roan’s identity as a Southerner is a theme that comes up again and again in her music. “Pink Pony Club” tells us about the loss of family pride after coming out while “California” expresses the regret of a girl who misses her childhood and the “seasons in Missouri.”
All in all, “Rise and Fall” is an intimate, loving, and extraordinarily strong debut that puts Roan’s songwriting chops on display for all to view. On her upcoming “Rise and Fall” tour, Roan will be visiting the College Street Music Hall in New Haven on April 3, 2024. She will also be opening for Olivia Rodrigo’s “Guts” tour from Feb. 23, 2024 to April 2, 2024.