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Album Review: Chappell Roan rewrites the narrative on new album

In the last year, Chappell Roan has slowly gained popularity in pop music for her songs about love and dating as a queer woman, intriguing listeners with her catchy choruses and 1980s-esque vocal style. After multiple single releases such as “Red Wine Supernova,” “HOT TO GO!,” “Casual” and “Naked In Manhattan,” the singer has now developed her first studio album, “The Rise and Fall Of a Midwest Princess.”

With 14 tracks, Roan recently told Rolling Stone that the album follows her story of self-discovery, especially in terms of her sexuality. She said, “When I started the album, I was in a four-and-a-half-year relationship with a man. I was writing about girls and the thoughts of girls. I was like, ‘I’m going to write about the part that I always wanted to feel: just complete freedom and euphoria and sparkles. And I’m going to pretend like this is the only world that it lives in.’”

Now 25 years old, the singer’s sound and voice have only strengthened, allowing her new album to be full of honest truths about being queer, as well as the joy and appreciation that comes with it. Working with Olivia Rodrigo’s producer Dan Nigro, the album has hints of her sound, but also acts as a time travel back to sounds from the 1980s and 1990s.

The album opens with one of the best tracks on the record “Femininomenon,” an anthem about wanting more as a woman in a relationship. Painting a hypothetical picture of being a future 1950s housewife, Roan expresses her fear of being tied down by traditional society, still prevalent even in a more progressive world. Its upbeat chorus and squeals from Roan make it a fun pop record, but one that also holds a deep sentiment.

“After Midnight” and “Coffee” also are major standouts, both vastly different in sound. Following the disco-tech vibe of the album, the first track flirts with the idea of what happens after midnight, tying in many sexual innuendos throughout that Roan teases to listeners. Meanwhile, “Coffee” is a stripped-down ballad where you can hear Nigro’s influence. 

About trying to remove oneself from a toxic relationship, Roan sings, “I’ll meet you for coffee / Cause if we have wine / You’ll say that you want me / I know that’s a lie,” creating a tone full of remorse and sadness even in the midst of joy.

This song builds up to the following track “Casual,” where listeners hear Roan’s confusion about being in a ‘casual’ relationship. A common occurrence for Gen-Z individuals, this song perfectly encapsulates how messed up it is, for women in particular, to feel confined to just sex, no strings attached. It’s a beautiful ballad as well, with Roan’s harmonies and bitter tone striking a chord for all women who have been in this situation.

After wallowing in her sadness, Roan reigns it in on “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl,” using her speaking voice and influences from the 1970s with her production. This song easily replicates past club beats such as Beyoncé’s “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” but is different in the way that her individuality comes to the forefront in its lyrics. One could easily let down their hair and dance to this track, a freeing song about owning one’s confidence.

Another undeniably heartfelt and quirky song is “HOT TO GO!,” a track where Roan just lets go and allows herself to be her most authentic. A call-and-response song, listeners will remember the lines “H-O-T-T-O-G-O / Snap and clap and touch your toes / Raise your hands, now body roll” forever. It’s almost like a modern-day Madonna created this track, and while it may be quirky, its use of experimentation should be noted.

While “Picture You” and “Kaleidoscope” cause the album to lose some of its momentum, “Naked In Manhattan” helps revive Roan, feeling like you’ve been transported into downtown New York City in the rush of the nightlife. Singing about wanting to explore a same-sex encounter, it creates this need for someone’s touch and attention, eminent in the build-up to the chorus, “Touch me, baby (Touch me, touch me, touch me, touch me) / Touch me, baby (Naked In Manhattan).” 

The album ends with “Guilty Pleasure,” the most vulnerable set of lyrics from the singer. Opening up about the shame she felt with her sexuality, Roan takes back these uncomfortable feelings, destroying the stereotypes that many align with being queer. The title addresses these stereotypes, signaling to listeners that who you love should not be tied with guilt. 

All in all, Chappell Roan has produced an incredible first album, and with little flaws, it still feels like the singer’s most diverse and inspiring work yet. 

Ranking: 4/5

@grace_koe

gk011320@ohio.edu

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