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Chappell Roan: The Queer Pop Icon of Our Generation

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

Twenty-five year old singer-songwriter Chappell Roan is a pop star on the rise. With her glitzy, high-femme aesthetic, unabashedly queer anthems, and the imminent release of her debut album, Chappell and her music have caught my attention. With this week’s announcement of her Midwest Princess Tour, my Chappell Roan obsession has gained more fuel than ever.

The first song I heard of Chappell’s was her 2022 release “Pink Pony Club.” It tells the story of her move to Los Angeles from her Midwest home, and her dreams of being a go-go dancer at a West Hollywood gay club. It imagines a world where “boys and girls can all be queens” and Chappell herself is free to dress up and perform. It delivers an important storyline for contextualizing the rest of Chappell’s discography: the story of a young woman moving from her conservative town to LA, and experiencing a much, much wider world where flamboyance, sensuality, and queer joy are foregrounded. “Pink Pony Club” sparks my own love of dragging myself up and performing; as I sing along in my car, I want to join Chappell on stage, illuminated by the mirrored reflections of spinning disco balls, screaming that I too want to keep on dancing at the Pink Pony Club. 

Chappell released four more singles last year, including “Naked in Manhattan,” which I’ve been playing on repeat since January. “Naked in Manhattan” captures the feeling of falling for someone and hoping something will happen; more specifically, it explores having a crush on a girl and navigating mutual feelings that you don’t know how to act on because of a preexisting friendship. With lyrics like “When I sing that Lana song it, it makes you cry” and “I’ve never done it, let’s make it cinematic / Like that one sex scene that’s in Mulholland Drive,” Chappell balances a niche intimacy with almost humorously relatable situations. As a huge Lana del Rey fan and a movie-enjoyer (though I don’t particularly like Mulholland Drive), it feels like these hyper-specific lines were written for me.

In addition to her music, Chappell’s artistic visions really speak to me. Her costumes and makeup for performances and music videos are often elaborately rhinestoned, glittered, and tasseled — her looks encapsulate a camp, ultra-glam aesthetic reminiscent of drag or burlesque performers. In her “My Kink is Karma” music video, Chappell transforms into a cherry-red lingerie-clad devil with horns sprouting from her hair and a fabulous face of makeup: red paint outlining her whitened face in the shape of a heart, complete with sparkly blue eyeshadow, big lashes, and a red lip. It’s completely over-the-top, a little freaky, and I love it. Dressing up is one of my favorite things to do, and Chappell’s style is a big inspiration for me; I always look forward to the new visual style she employs in her storytelling.

Chappell’s new single “Red Wine Supernova,” which was just released this week (!!!), is maybe my new favorite of hers. It’s another lesbian-yearning pop song (not that I’m complaining) with an upbeat, anthemic chorus that showcases some of Chappell’s strongest vocals. In classic Chappell Roan fashion, it’s fun, flirty, and feels so genuine. Along with the song, she released a music video of footage from three different visual concept shoots: magic, vampire, and Playboy bunny (all of which are themes encapsulated in the lyrics). Chappell is constantly raising the bar and “Red Wine Supernova” has me in a chokehold. 

Raised in Southern California, currently studying English Lit at UC Davis. Banana pudding enthusiast and aspiring corgi owner.