Arts & Entertainment

ARTIST REVIEW: The ‘Midwest Princess,’ Chappell Roan

Singer, songwriter and artist Chappell Roan embodies the joys of being a queer woman through her synth-pop hooks and drag-inspired style. 

This past month, I’ve made it a personal goal to explore new artists and genres that I am not as familiar with. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some hidden gems along the way, and I’d love to share one of my recent finds with you all. This amazing artist is named Chappell Roan.  

Kayleigh Rose Amstutz – also known as Chappell Roan – is a singer, songwriter and artist from Willard, Missouri. At 10 years old, Roan learned to play the piano and began experimenting with musical arrangements. She later put these skills to the test at the age of 13, when she made her first public performance. Here, she made her own arrangement to “The Christmas Song” and pleasantly surprised her family members who had not known Roan would be so skilled at such a young age. 

During her teenage years, Roan began to record herself singing covers and uploading them to YouTube. By the age of 17, Roan uploaded her first original song titled “Die Young,” which caught the attention of the record label Atlantic Records. She was later signed in and released her first EP “School Nights.”  

Roan described this era of her music as “messy,” as she wrote this album during her high school experience. Despite this, critics praised Roan for her maturity, vulnerability and impactful vocals. However, Roan has recently disclosed how this era doesn’t define who she has grown to be and better relates to the music she put out after 2018.  

Roan’s move to Los Angeles marked the beginning of her queer-centered music journey, as she dropped her summer hit “Pink Pony Club” in 2020. Despite the positive impact that this song had on queer communities and its undeniable catchiness, the song did not gain enough critical acclaim to keep her afloat. Roan was dropped by Atlantic Records. She later parted ways with her collaborator Dan Nigro, after he began to focus his energies entirely on Olivia Rodrigo and her newest album “Sour.” 

To top it all off, Roan and her partner also split around this same time frame. So, Roan made the decision to move back to Missouri to focus on her music independently while also working odd jobs. Two years later, in 2022, Roan made a comeback after moving back to Los Angeles and reconnecting with her past collaborator, Dan Nigro. She earned a publishing deal with Sony and was able to drop her first single “Naked in Manhattan,” a song that NPR described as “queer girl pop.”  

Chappell Roan showing off her drag-inspired look for the live Tiny Desk performance. Photo @chappellroan via Instagram.

In 2022, Roan dropped two more singles, “Femininomenon” and “Casual.” Roan began revamping her image and sticking to a signature style. She took part in fun photo shoots for each of these singles that encapsulated the synth-pop sound that she was known for. In 2023, Roan set off on her “Naked in North America” tour, in which she created themes by encouraging fans to style their outfits based on whatever theme their location was designated with. Online, she created makeup tutorial videos to inspire fans to get creative.  

After signing a new record deal with Island Records in late 2023, Roan released her most popular single to date, “Red Wine Supernova,” to announce her upcoming album. She went on to open for Olivia Rodrigo on her “Guts” tour. On September 22, 2023, she dropped her debut album “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.” Here, she re-released some of her past singles while also dropping four new songs.  

It was only last month that Roan concluded her worldwide “Midwest Princess” tour which helped her reach a wider audience. Roan’s iconic drag-inspired look, 80’s slumber party pop and unapologetic queerness has already made her one of the world’s most beloved pop princesses of the decade.  

To further show her support for the queer communities, Roan invited local drag performers to open for her during her entire tour and donated $1 of every ticket sold to For The Gworls, a collective organization that helps Black transgender people pay for their rent, gender-affirming surgeries, smaller co-pays for medicines/doctor’s visits and travel assistance.  

When Chappell Roan first popped up on my timeline, I was immediately hooked on her unique, fabulous appearance and beautiful vocals. She is a bubbly, charismatic person and a natural performer that has yet to reach the height of her popularity. Fans and critics alike have agreed that this is only the beginning for Chappell Roan, as she is meant for stardom. I for one could not agree more.  

I’d like to encourage readers to check out the entirety of Roan’s newest album “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess,” as I personally enjoyed every single song. It’s back-to-back, banger after banger. The most accurate description I can give Chappell Roan’s music is catchy, campy and fabulous. Roan likes to have fun. Think “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with the emotional vulnerability of modern artist such as Phoebe Bridgers, Lizzie McAlpine and Hemlocke Springs.  

Chappell Roan’s entire discography is currently out on all music streaming platforms.  

Chappell Roan posing for the cover photo of “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess” album. Photo by @chappellroan via instagram.

Chappell Roan at The Vogue Theatre, November 10, 2022. @Jason Martin via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by @Jason Martin via Wikimedia Commons.