“Welcome to the party, we’ve been waiting for you.”
This was rising pop star Chappell Roan’s response when asked about her boom in popularity following the release of her debut album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess in September and her current Midwest Princess Tour. After attending her show at The Beacham in Orlando, I can confirm that it is, in fact, a party. Rotating costume themes, drag performances, and campy pop anthems have shaped Chappell Roan’s live shows into celebrations of queerness, sexuality, and self-love.
Chappell Roan, age 25, wasn’t always the glitzy pop princess she is today. Born Kayleigh Amstutz and raised in a small, conservative town outside of Springfield, Missouri, it took time and discovery to lean into her larger-than-life persona. Her aesthetic stems from burlesque and drag, contributing to her extravagant costumes and striking makeup.
Recently, Her Campus at FSU had the opportunity to chat with Roan. When asked how fans can embrace their inner selves, she suggested, “Look back at what made you so happy as a little kid. Whether that’s drawing or crafting, doing makeup or playing dress up or dancing, look deeper than who you are right now. Look at the version of you that wasn’t allowed to be who you wanted to be.”
Much of Roan’s music centers around showcasing the aspects of yourself that society often forces you to suppress. Her 2020 single “Pink Pony Club” was inspired by a night at the famous L.A. gay bar, The Abbey, where Roan discovered that spaces exist where people can be whoever they want to be. One of Chappell’s most resonant lyrics, “I heard that there’s a special place / where boys and girls can all be queens every single day” retells her experience of finding a safe space for self-expression.
When asked about any turning points in her career, Roan explained, “The ‘Pink Pony Club’ music video switched something inside my brain. There was a moment at the end of the video where I was dancing on the stage and being lifted up by the leather daddies and spun around. I had tears in my eyes because I never moved my body like that before. I’d never twirled and headbanged, and smiled and danced so freely…”
These are the kinds of experiences Roan creates for her listeners through her music and live shows. She transforms her tours into nationwide (and soon-to-be global) dance parties, where listeners can find a safe space to dress up, sing their hearts out, and embrace tacky extravagance. As someone who loves showy outfits and over-the-top makeup looks, I was beyond thrilled to attend her Orlando show on Oct. 26, fully decked out in a bedazzled body suit and light-up halo. However, I was still a little apprehensive about strutting around in such a flamboyant getup. As soon as I approached the venue, all my doubts melted away. I found at the show what Roan found at The Abbey: a space where you can be whoever you want to be.
At The Beacham, an intimate nightlife venue nestled in downtown Orlando, there was a line of angels and devils wrapped around the building, hoping to score a good spot for Chappell’s show. Each show is themed around a lyric from the Midwest Princess album, and Chappell encourages fans to go all out. Orlando was dubbed angels and devils based on the line “some good girls do bad things too” from the song “Guilty Pleasure,” and they did not disappoint.
As with every show on the Midwest Princess Tour, Roan sourced local drag queens to perform as her opening acts. Three Orlando-based queens — Myki Meeks, Dominink, and Georgia Up in Space — performed stunning routines that were packed full of iconic pop hits and all the death drops you could ever want. Myki Meeks closed the opening act by lip-syncing to a few of Olivia Rodrigo’s new songs from GUTS, as Chappell will be opening for half of the GUTS World Tour in 2024.
When the lights went up to ring in Roan’s set, she appeared on stage in a white mini-slip and life-sized angel wings. She opened with her outrageously catchy pop zinger “Femininomenon.” She kept the energy up with queer party anthems “Red Wine Supernova” and “After Midnight.” It’s impossible not to dance to these peppy hits, and the audience delivered Roan’s energy right back to her. The show slowed down with the sultry melody “Picture You” and the heart-wrenching “Casual,” a ballad centered around a strung-along romance and unrequited love.
Just as the crowd had been lulled by the dreamy lighting and Roan’s rich vocals, the energy came right back up with the campy, out-of-this-world earworm “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl.” Next, she performed “HOT TO GO!” a pep-squad-inspired number complete with its own cheerleader-esque dance which Roan made sure everyone, including reluctant boyfriends, knew before performing the song.
Finally, it was time for “Guilty Pleasure,” the song that inspired the Orlando show’s costume theme. Roan noted that it was her favorite song off her album, and you could feel the crowd’s excitement and pride that they got to adorn outfits inspired by a personal favorite. She brought the energy back down once more with the longing lament “Coffee.” She proceeded to pay tribute to her younger, angsty self by performing “Bitter,” a single from 2018, noting that she no longer identifies with this side of herself but felt obligated to honor her. As a surprising bonus to her setlist, Roan performed a phenomenal cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” showcasing her incredible vocal prowess. She finished the show strong with slumber party pop hit “Naked in Manhattan” and campy power ballad “My Kink is Karma.”
After disappearing backstage, the audience swelled, chanting Roan’s name in hopes of an encore. After a few minutes of anticipation, she returned to the stage to perform the hauntingly self-reflective “California” and topped off the night with the iconic “Pink Pony Club.” You could hardly hear Roan over the crowd passionately belting along, especially after the venue’s four disco balls were illuminated following the line “blacklights and a mirrored disco ball / every night’s another reason why I left at all.”
After experiencing the magic of Chappell Roan live, I can honestly say that this was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. Her setlist truly brought you along the rises and falls of the Midwest Princess’s journey. Her vocals dazzled, and the venue’s moody atmosphere only added to the campy glamour of it all. Roan kept her audience hanging on to every word, and there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t dancing. If you are looking for a space to liberate every longing and desire you’ve felt the need to suppress, you are guaranteed to find it with Chappell Roan.