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Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The rise of the musician Chappell Roan

The Midwest Princess, a.k.a your favorite artist’s favorite artist

The Midwest Princess is on the rise, and, once again, she is leaving it all on the stage. While for many albums, a listener picks out one or two tracks to listen on repeat, in the case of Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, better known as Chappell Roan, it feels impossible to only listen to one song without completing her entire album. Though many songs vary from heartbreak and yearning to confidence and individuality, they all flow together in cohesive harmony. 

With its release in September 2023, Roan’s album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess has captivated her audiences and has taken control of modern “queer pop.” Roan’s vocal versatility adds a unique, vivacious spunk to each of her songs, all mixing together to convey an eccentric, bubblegum feel.

With the opening track “Femininomenon,” Roan seemingly tests the loyalty of listeners, rooting out those who can’t handle her vibrance. The piece starts off as a slow, heartbroken ballad, as Roan softly sings, “Same old story, time again // Got so close but then you lost it,” sharing her repetitive dissatisfaction with male relationships and her overall boredom with finding love. She goes on to express her detest for modern, shallow relationships with the line, “He disappeared from the second that you said // ‘Let’s get coffee, let’s meet up’ // I’m so sick of online love,” and her yearn for a deeper connection than one a man can, or has, given her. It is after her initial heartbreak that the song starts to pick up, especially after Roan’s abrupt demand, “Um, can you play a song with a f*cking beat?”, creating the tone for, virtually, the rest of the album. With the sound of a dirt bike revving after this shift, many new sounds are added, creating a wild atmosphere of confidence and in-your-face femininity. In an interview with Earmilk, Roan explains that “[she] wants to see if [she] can get away with being as ridiculous as [she] possibly can.” She says, “I wanted a dance song. Something people could do drag to. A Queer anthem that had a sad undertone of what really happened to me, but with a beat,” highlighting her talent of turning her sadness into a shimmering, danceable pop song. 

Following is “Red Wine Supernova,” continuing the upbeat momentum, but this time only somewhat less striking. Opening with a strong strumming of an acoustic guitar and a feel of childlike excitement, Roan introduces a former fling, and begins the tale of her infatuation with a new woman. “She was a playboy, Brigitte Bardot // She showed me things I didn’t know,” juxtaposing her naivety with the experience of her crush. Comparing this potential partner to a playboy shows the thrill of the relationship, both glamorous and daring. Roan views her lover as a red wine supernova, one that shines brightly and brings new light into her life, though can be overwhelmed by the power of her emotions. “I just wanna get to know ya // Guess I didn’t quite think it through (Nuh-uh, girl) // Fell in love with the thought of you // Now I’m choked up, face down, burnt out,” shows the quick pace that their romantic and sexual relationship has progressed, and now, Roan is in too deep with both her love and lust. Though this lyric shows Roan’s disappointment, its combination of hopefulness, potential disappointment and playfulness work together to create a complex image of attraction and reality versus romantic illusions. With the overall lighthearted feel of the song comes Roan’s trademark humor: “Well, back at my house // I’ve got a California king // Okay, maybe it’s a twin bed // And some roommates (Don’t worry, we’re cool),” adding to the innocent excitement of the song. “Red Wine Supernova” outshines other songs on the album, with over 73 million streams on Spotify. Business Insider named it best song of 2023, Rolling Stone marked it at 18 of the top 100 songs of 2023, and it has received numerous other national accolades (but you get the gist). Behind her 2024 single, “Good Luck, Babe!”, “Red Wine Supernova” reigns most influential in the hearts of her fans.

“After Midnight” is one of the most danceable songs on the album, with a steady and distinct bass line in the background, sharing the stage with the recurring glittery feel of Roan. Though the opening lyrics convey Roan’s tense relationship with her parents and growing up queer in a small town — “My mama said, ‘Nothing good happens // When it’s late and you’re dancing alone’ // She’s in my head saying, ‘It’s not attractive // Wearing that dress and red lipstick’” — Roan claps back with a response of “This is what I wanted, this is what I like // I’ve been a good, good girl for a long time // But baby, I like flirting, a lover by my side // Can’t be a good, good girl even if I tried,” showing her freedom and comfortability in her own skin, despite what her family thinks. The song explores Roan’s activities and her love for nightlife, claiming that “Everything good happens after midnight.”

Much like the beginning of “Femininomenon,” the piano ballad of “Coffee” highlights her wishy-washy relationship with her ex-partner, and not knowing where they stand. “I’ll meet you for coffee // ‘Cause if we have wine // You’ll say that you want me // I know that’s a lie // If I didn’t love you // It would be fine // Meet you for coffee, only for coffee // Nowhere else is safe // Every place leads back to your place.” Typically, coffee is more of a casual, first-date activity, as opposed to having wine, which is more intimate, happening later in the evening. Roan attempts to set up boundaries and move on, but struggles because “Here come the excuses that fuel the illusions // But I’d rather feel something // Than nothing at all,” highlighting her inner turmoil about their relationship and showing that her love, though unwanted, remains. At the last chorus, Roan comes to a different conclusion: “So let’s not do coffee // Let’s not even try // It’s better we leave it // And give it some time // If I didn’t love you // It would be fine // ‘Cause if we do coffee // It’s never just coffee // It’s never just coffee,” believing that the best way forward is alone. 

“Casual,” is the most gut-wrenching and heartfelt track, being, simply, a tale as old as time. In the song, Roan’s attachment to her lover is stronger than their attachment to her, which leaves her to question what they are. Roan wants a relationship and feels ambivalent towards her current situation, as her partner does not express any interest in her other than physical: “I thought you thought of me better // Someone you couldn’t lose // You said, “We’re not together” // So now when we kiss, I have anger issues.” She dreams about their future together and is close with their family, so why can’t they officially be together? Roan tries to detach, but struggles: “And I try to be the chill girl that // Holds her tongue and gives you space // I try to be the chill girl but // Honestly, I’m not.” Overall, “Casual” holds immense emotion, and is a subject that many teenagers can relate to. 

“Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” opens with a comedic monologue by Roan, joking about wasting her time pursuing lame guys, commenting on how “This man wouldn’t dance // He didn’t ask a single question // And he was wearing these fugly jeans (Ew),” which made her stop in her tracks and learn to enjoy her own company. The lyrics “I’m through // With all these hyper mega bummer boys like you // Oh yeah, I need // A super graphic ultra modern girl like me,” promote both self-love and knowing your worth. Taking inspiration from RuPaul’s “Supermodel,” Roan’s “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” is a feminine hype song, to say the least, encouraging people to avoid craving validation from an outside source and instead find that love within themselves.

Some may know “HOT TO GO!” from social media, as, much like the Village People’s “YMCA,” fans find themselves cheering along and spell-singing the title. “HOT TO GO” is the perfect song to scream at the top of your lungs, and Roan does just that. The chorus is extremely catchy, and even the most cynical of listeners will find themselves tapping their feet: “H-O-T T-O G-O // Snap and clap and touch your toes // Raise your hands, now body roll // Dance it out, you’re hot to go.” Roan aspired to be a cheerleader during high school, and, according to her, this chant pays tribute to those days. The fun flirtatiousness of the song has a free, independent nature while also conveying the anxiety of developing a new crush: “I could be the one, or your new addiction // It’s all in my head but I want non-fiction.” In the music video, Roan visits her hometown of Willard, Missouri and teaches the neighborhood the dance, even her own family.

Roan’s taste for vengeance takes the stage in “My Kink Is Karma”, where she wishes her ex the best, but in the worst way. “Ruined my credit, stole my cute aesthetic // Who knew that we’d let it // Get this bad when it ended // It’s comical, bridges you burn // Karma’s real, hope it’s your turn,” shows her messy breakup with a former lover, and how she hopes they get, what she believes, is coming to them. 

In “Picture You,” Roan wonders whether the person she has feelings for feels the same way about her. She thinks of them frequently, questioning, “Do you picture me like I picture you? (Oh) // Am I in the frame from your point of view? (Oh) // Do you feel the same?” This onslaught of questions is then followed by the statement “I’m too scared to say (Oh) // Half of the things I do // When I picture you,” which conveys Roan’s embarrassment of how involved she has become with this person, which can only be salvaged by them being equally as invested in her. Roan continues to inquire about her inside thoughts, showing her desire for more open communication and obvious attachment in a relationship that is unclear and leaves Roan questioning and confused.

“Kaleidoscope” takes on a different tune with its strikingly slow tempo in contrast to Roan’s numerous other fast-paced, upbeat songs. The song creates a metaphor which compares love to a kaleidoscope, in more ways than one. Roan starts the song by reassuring the person she has feelings for, singing, “Whatever you decide // I will understand // And it will all be fine // Just go back to being friends.” Roan’s understanding within such a heartbreaking outcome makes her love for the person only more evident, as she is willing to go with whatever works best for them. Roan then begins comparing love to a kaleidoscope: “Colors shining in your eye // And even upside down // It’s beautiful somehow // It’s never just a shape alone,” which shows her opinion on love, and the beauty she sees in both her lover and the idea of love. To Roan, love is worthwhile even if it is not perfect and confusing, because she understands that no emotional relationship is simple and straightforward.

“Pink Pony Club” switches Roan’s focus from her romantical relationships to her relationship with her mother and her Midwest hometown. The opening line addresses the tension between Roan and her mother when it comes to Roan’s life choices: “I know, you wanted me to stay // But I can’t ignore the crazy visions of me in LA.” The serious tone doesn’t take long to change, as Roan imagines herself dancing at the Pink Pony Club in West Hollywood, an idea that would scandalize her mother, but brings Roan immense joy and confidence. Roan decides that she would rather have fun than listen to her mother, but still addresses her consideration for her and Tennessee in the line “Don’t think I’ve left you all behind // Still love you and Tennessee // You’re always on my mind.” The Pink Pony Club also doubles as a state of mind, representing both her sexuality and dazzling femininity.

Roan’s carefree tone returns in full force in “Naked In Manhattan,” which delves into Roan’s curiosity involving a girl friend who may be equally as curious about her. Together they bond about Mean Girls and Lana songs, and the line “Boys suck and girls I’ve never tried” reveals that Roan is interested in being with women as well. This brings context into a following line “Could go to hell but we’ll probably be fine,” in which Roan discards old stigmas within religion by believing that it is unlikely that they would be punished for having a same-sex relationship. This song is all about trying new things, with the line “Oh, I’ve never done it, naked in Manhattan” expressing Roan’s excitement in being with another woman who understands her desire to do crazy things. The song is also a plea for something to happen between them, with lines like “If I don’t try then it’s my loss // An inch away from more than just friends,” representing the difficulty in bridging the gap between friends and lovers, even though Roan is sure that they feel the same way. 

The theme is brought back to a focus on the place in which Roan lives in the song “California,” from which Roan begs for escape, longing for the seasons in her hometown. The song addresses Roan’s aspirations of moving to California and recalls advice that she received in the line “But people always say, ‘If it hasn’t happened yet // Then maybe you should go.’” While Roan grapples with a lack of success in her career and giving up on her dream, she thinks back to her mother and sings, “Thought I’d be cool in California // I’d make you proud // To think I almost had it going // But I let you down.” Ultimately, this song addresses the fantasies of many songwriters who move to a big city under the impression that their success is imminent, when it may actually take much more time for them to garner any traction. 

The last song in the album “Guilty Pleasure” addresses Roan’s fantasies and remarks upon the shared perversion within a relationship. Another fun, upbeat song, Roan blames her fantasies on the both of them: “So shame on me (shame on me), shame on you (shame on you) // I fantasize what we would do (what we would do).” It’s lighthearted and ends the album with Roan’s signature exuberance and open thoughts.

If you’ve made it this far, clearly you are as obsessed with the Midwest Princess as we are. And anyone who knows will know, her name is Chappell Roan… she’s your favorite artist’s favorite artist… and she’s your dream girl’s dream girl.