The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess

The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess

Chappell Roan is not afraid to tell you—or, really, sing at you—about how she's feeling, in vivid detail. On her debut album, the Missouri-born upstart, who has been making waves since the 2017 release of her intense debut single “Good Hurt,” collects tales of debauchery and despair as it chronicles her realization of being queer and coming into her own. The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess opens with Roan singing mournfully about a dastardly ex-boyfriend over trembling pianos and starlit choirs; an insistent beat rises up gradually at first, then overtakes the song as she realizes she needs to be part of a “Femininomenon” that demands pleasure and respect from anyone lucky enough to be in her orbit. Left turns like that abound over the next 13 songs. Take the synth-pop “Casual,” which dissects a friends-with-benefits relationship in brutally specific detail, or the euphoric club cut “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl,” an insouciant dismissal of “hyper mega bummer boys” that opens with a sardonic mini-monologue and closes with a triumphant sing-along. Roan still traffics in ballads, too: “California” grapples with homesickness and frustration, Roan dipping down into her voice's low reaches, while the plush “Coffee” examines the idea of fully closing the loop with an ex, with the reality of its impossibility closing in as the music swells. There's a hunger that drives Roan's music, even in its more introspective moments. It isn't just sexual, although songs like the smirking poison-pen letter “My Kink Is Karma” and the flirty electro-psych come-on “Red Wine Supernova” show off how Roan's erotic awakening has helped her whole outlook on life come into sharp relief. Her willingness to take pop in unexpected directions, combined with her frankness about the tangled feelings that arise even when good things seem to be happening, make her debut compulsively listenable.

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