Arts and Entertainment

Chappell Roan: A Wand, a Rabbit, and a Queer Pop Princess

Chappell Roan claims to be “your favorite artist’s favorite artist”, and she’s just getting started.

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“You’d have to stop the world just to stop the feeling,” or, for anyone who’s opened their phone these past few weeks, to stop hearing about Chappell Roan. These are the lyrics of Roan’s most recent single, “Good Luck, Babe!” Chappell Roan is the stage name and persona for Kayleigh Rose Amstutz. She began releasing music in 2017, gaining significant recognition with her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess (2023). Her songs tend to feature relatively simple and cheerful electronic backing tracks with earworm choruses, making them easy for listeners to memorize. In particular, “HOT TO GO!” is essentially this generation’s “YMCA,” with thousands grabbing their pets or significant others and forcing them to join in on the letter-signing dance on TikTok. The dance itself is quite simple: you lift your arms above your head and form the letters H-O-T-T-O-G-O in quick succession, adding to the upbeat atmosphere of the Chappell Roan universe.

Most recently, Roan released her newest single, “Good Luck, Babe!” The song uses a danceable synth beat to starkly contrast Roan’s heart-wrenching portrayal of her experiences with internalized homophobia. Roan belts during the bridge: “You know I hate to say / But I told you so,” showing the listener that despite how much this denial of requited love is hurting Roan, it pains her even more to express this frustration. Still, she warns her ex that “[she’d] have to stop the world just to stop the feeling,” knowing that it’s impossible for her former partner to truly deny her queerness and that it will always be a part of her. It’s a sentiment that is close to heart for her many queer fans, both closeted and out. Perhaps this is why, though it was released just over a month ago, “Good Luck, Babe!” has already garnered over 75 million streams on Spotify, affirming Roan’s presence.

Roan’s sudden explosion in popularity is no coincidence. In the past four months, not only has she opened for Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts US tour, but she also headlined Coachella, which has skyrocketed her following to just over a million on Instagram in a matter of weeks. Many fans have also gravitated towards her “Tiny Desk Concert,” a series run by National Public Radio, appreciating the glimpse of her personality that the relaxed environment and acoustic performance provide, as well as clearer vocals that showcase her range beyond that of the studio recordings. However, the most notable detail from Roan’s “Tiny Desk Concert” was her visage. Roan’s get-up was an intricate combination of various stylistic eras, with a hairdo so elegant it might as well have been designed by Marie Antoinette herself, a thrifted prom dress reminiscent of a 1990 middle school formal, and an intense ‘80s trad-goth-esque make-up with clear drag influences.

Roan has been very open about taking heavy inspiration from drag queens, an integral part of queer culture; in fact, she claims that Chappell Roan is her drag persona. She heavily encourages her fans to dress up in the most camp outfits they can muster when attending her shows, further developing a safe environment for self-expression at her concerts. Moreover, Roan tries to hire a local drag queen to open every live show of hers to further pay homage to a quintessential aspect of queer history that many young LGBTQ+ people might not be aware of. Roan is bringing light to the oft-forgotten stories of queer elders to the mainstream with a modern twist that has captured the nation.

Chappell Roan’s vulnerability throughout her discography does not just extend to being queer, but also shows her owning her sexuality, a topic that still remains deeply taboo for women. The wonderfully frank lyrics in “Femininomenon” question why female pleasure is never something men seem to care about, asking: “And you know what you need / And so does he / But does it happen? (No)”. This honesty about her sexual experiences bridges together her sapphic and heterosexual female audiences, as they both acknowledge the ridiculous stigma they face on a song with an eight-bit club beat blasting bass in the background. This intersection between female sexuality and queer culture is further explored in “Pink Pony Club,” with lyrics such as “Oh mama, I’m just having fun / On the stage in my heels,” showing how defiance of heteronormative gender roles and queer joy are linked together. 

Sometimes, there needs to be room for the simple pleasures in life. In this case, it’s silly songs about liking girls. Moreover, Roan’s often lighthearted songs are creating a much-needed safe space for young queer people while additionally platforming queer creators at her shows. Roan may not have “invented gay pop” like Jojo Siwa, but she’s the first lesbian pop princess—and she was elected by the people.