Chappell Roan’s debut album ‘The Rise And Fall Of A Midwest Princess’ begins with cinematic, swooning strings – the kind of arrangement that indicates an epic story is about to be told. Over the trembling piano of ‘Femininomenon’, the rising pop star reflects on a seriously disappointing ex. “Same old story, time again / Got so close but then you lost it,” she begins. Gradually building the melodrama with lush, layered vocals, as the track gears up to the chorus, you hear her audibly eyeroll: “Can you play a song with a fucking beat?”. That she certainly can, diving headfirst into the tune’s serious earworm of a chorus.
This introduction paves the way for the rest of ‘The Rise And Fall Of A Midwest Princess’, an album that combines Roan’s electrifying pop stylings with her funny, irresistible songwriting. Four years in the making, the artist born Kayleigh Rose Amstutz recently explained in a statement that the album is: “stories of unearthing my true self and fearlessly embracing queerness”. Growing up in the conservative Midwest and moving to LA in 2018, the record mirrors her coming-of-age experience, which includes penning a record deal with a major label at 17, only to be dropped a few years later. Yet Roan never gave up, meeting with nine labels before she signed again.
The lush ‘California’ explores the complicated feeling associated with leaving one home to find another. “I miss the seasons in Missouri / My dying town” she sings, adding: “Thought I’d be cool in California / I’d make you proud”. Similarly, ‘Pink Pony Club’ – which was a major breakthrough moment for Roan upon release in 2020 – tells the story of a woman relocating from Tennessee to work as a dancer at the titular Santa Monica establishment. The heroine both celebrates her new job (“On the stage in my heels / It’s where I belong”), and tries to dissuade parental anguish from her mother.
The vocal style may borrow from modern country crossover heroes like Kacey Musgraves (‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Red Wine Supernova’), but there’s unadulterated pure pop too. ‘Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl’, lands somewhere between Confidence Man, Lady Gaga’s ‘Chromatica’ and ‘Ray of Light’-era Madonna. The bratty chorus of ‘Hot To Go!’, meanwhile, can be read as a cousin of Olivia Rodrigo‘s recent hit ‘Bad Idea Right?’; incidentally, producer and songwriter Dan Nigro – a longtime collaborator of Rodrigo – also worked on this album.
These sharp pop moments shine brighter than some of the weaker ballads that pad out the lengthy tracklist. Yet ‘The Rise And Fall Of A Midwest Princess’ is a display of Roan’s bold and brazen pen, where she places searing revelations alongside some deliciously cheeky choruses.
- Release date: September 22
- Record label: KRA/Island