By Riley Dauber
On Sept. 22, up-and-coming pop singer Chappell Roan released her debut album titled “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.”
The album’s 14 song tracklist contains many of her prior hits that she advertised on Instagram and TikTok before releasing. One of the album’s first singles, “Pink Pony Club,” went viral on TikTok when it came out in 2020, according to NME.
However, the album also includes some new favorites, and paired with the familiar tracks, creates a coming-of-age story for Roan to discover who she is and what she wants out of life and her romantic relationships.
“I feel that the project has really allowed me to explore parts of myself that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t chosen this specific path,” Roan said in an interview with Vanity Fair.
One of the new stand-out tracks, “After Midnight,” aptly fits into Roan’s self-discovery journey over the course of the album. The song starts with her mother’s voice in her head, criticizing her decisions to go out and dance at a club. But by the time the pre-chorus starts, Roan sings in a silky voice: “This is what I wanted / This is what I like / I’ve been a good, good girl for a long time.”
The song is not only relatable for listeners trying to find their place in the world, but also upbeat with the perfect production for dancing the night away. Listeners will feel like they are right next to Roan in the club, flirting with anyone she sees and starting a bar fight.
The slower ballads, including “Coffee” and “Casual,” offer a nice respite from the over-the-top campiness found on other songs. They also give Roan an opportunity to show off her impressive, soulful vocals and heartbreaking lyrics.
“Casual” tells the story of a relationship that Roan views as serious, but her partner sees as just a hookup. While each verse is emotional on its own, the song really shines during the bridge and final chorus when Roan decides she does not want to be with this person anymore.
“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,” Roan sings.
Listeners may then witness a type of whiplash after “Casual,” since the follow-up track “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” is a psychedelic, sci-fi trip in which Roan realizes the type of person she is looking to date.
“Not overdramatic / I know what I want / we’re leaving the planet / and you can’t come,” Roan sings.
From there, Roan dives into “HOT TO GO!” a cheerleader-inspired pop song with plenty of chanting and a synth beat. Roan’s deeper vocals shine on the verses, while the over-the-top sexuality of the lyrics make for a fun and flirty dance track.
“Baby, do you like this beat? / I made it so you’d sleep with me,” Roan sings.
The album’s closer, “Guilty Pleasure,” is another highlight. The song starts slow, with Roan trying new things with a partner. Then the chorus picks up and features a memorable metaphor: “I want this like a cigarette / can we drag it out and never quit?”
The track also successfully wraps up the album and Roan’s journey of self-acceptance and her exploration of different romantic relationships.
Despite many of the album’s fantastic songs, a few of the tracks do not live up to the others.
“Kaleidoscope” is another chance for Roan to show off her vocals, but the song is a bit boring. “California” sounds like her attempt to imitate Ethel Cain, and the album’s opener
“Femininomenon” leans too far into the theatrics with some particularly cringe-inducing lyrics — “Get it hot like Papa John,” for example.
But even with some less-than-stellar songs, the album is the perfect opportunity for Roan to show off her new, smutty style of songwriting and varying production styles. Many of the tracks stand out on their own, but still work together in the album’s overarching story.
In Roan’s debut album, she throws spaghetti at the wall in an attempt to see what sticks — and to the enjoyment of her listeners, most of it does.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Roan has released music since 2017, but signed with Amusement/Island Records in 2023.