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Chappell Roan’s music is queer, campy fun

Dance-pop artist is redefining the genre with her over-the-top aesthetic

Chappell Roan’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert is like no other. Posted on March 21, the live concert opens with “Casual,” a relationship drama-fraught song full of slow drum beats and soft but passionate singing. The reason it’s so stand-out is because of Roan herself.

She’s dressed in a hot pink, a puffy princess dress, has lipstick deliberately on her teeth and wildly exaggerated makeup. Her dramatically red wig is almost twice the size of her head with cigarette butts, butterfly clips and a sparkly crown laid on it.  

It seems like a stark contrast to the slow rock ballad she’s singing. But when the song ends and she proclaims that this is her “Superbowl” in a preppy valley girl accent, when she giggles and brandishes a disposable camera to take pictures of the audience and her bandmates, when she whips a fluffy pink fan out of nowhere and starts the next song, things start to click into place.  

From “Pink Pony Club,” a tune about wanting to become a go-go dancer in a Los Angeles gay club, to “Red Wine Supernova,” a raunchy song about being unapologetically queer, it becomes abundantly clear that she is the epitome of camp.  

Chappell Roan is a dance-pop artist currently redefining the genre. She humbly began releasing music in August of 2017 after years of posting covers and songs on YouTube and put out singles and EPs for the next six years before her career took off after her debut album, “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess.”

Since 2017, she’s toured with Vance Joy and Declan McKenna, performed at Coachella and even opened for the first leg of Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour.  

Through this rise in fame, Roan has accrued a cult following on social media sites such as X, formerly known as Twitter. She’s been hailed by some as “this generation’s Lady Gaga,” a statement which is as much of a compliment as it is an understatement.

Roan’s synthy rhythms and drag-inspired aesthetic are unparalleled by any other artist, even someone as big as Gaga.  

Even if her music isn’t your style, Roan’s vocal talent is apparent through every chorus, bridge and verse, her smooth annunciation, impressive vocal control and almost yodel-like riffs reminiscent of the legendary singer Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries.  

Her sheer energy is enough to make you smile and her sing-along choruses are always irresistibly catchy. The peppy synth-pop beats, like those of the band MUNA’s, that weave through her songs make them perfect to jump around and dance to.  

Roan puts an absurd spin on the over-the-top aesthetics she’s adopted. In the music video for “Casual,” Roan takes home and later makes out with a man-eating, emotionally unavailable mermaid.

In the video for “HOT TO GO!,” she runs around Springfield, Missouri, aggressively doing a dance not unlike “the YMCA” at a gas station, a mini-golf course and a monster truck derby.

In “Red Wine Supernova (Magician’s Cut),” she thirsts over a magician and turns an old lady with a “God hates magic” sign into a rabbit.  

If it wasn’t clear from her Tiny Desk, Roan has a flair for wild fashion. Inspired by drag culture, she’s usually dressed in bedazzled dresses, blinged-out crop tops, bright pink go-go boots and the occasional hot pink dirt biking gear. She even looked flashy in a lab coat when she spoke at Harvard Med School.  

Roan’s fame has skyrocketed since she opened for Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour and there’s nowhere for her to go but up. Her insanely danceable beats, clever lyrics and pure commitment to spectacle will put her down in history as one of pop’s best. 

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