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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

The Dizzying, Groundbreaking World of Chappell Roan

Chappell Roan is the name on everyone’s lips. The bejeweled singer and songwriter has proven herself formidable, but who exactly is she?
Jason Martin
Perhaps it is fitting that Chappell Roan’s fame came slowly, then all at once. Her sound is similar; it quietly builds up and then releases in a cathartic burst, faster than you can say “rom-pom-pom-pom.” (Photo Credit: Jason Martin, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

“My name is Chappell Roan. I’m your favorite artist’s favorite artist. I’m your dream girl’s dream girl.” 

Her hair blazes a fiery red. Her makeup is perfectly over-the-top, accentuated by the bedazzled butterflies that she adorns, and she exudes charisma, with a hand placed gently on her chest as if in prayer. 

She grins, and Coachella goes wild.

Chappell Roan was born as Kayleigh Rose Amstutz on a cold February 19th, 1998 in Willard, Missouri. She was the oldest of four children, all of whom grew up in a trailer park, in a conservative, Christian household. Her childhood proved difficult: in an interview with Variety years later, Roan said, “I was diagnosed bipolar [II] when I was 22, but as a child, I think my parents just thought I was being a brat, so I had such a difficult time.” Thus, she explains, her childhood was “very depressed.”

This inherent struggle of being herself in spite of her environment contributed to some of the angst she drew upon for inspiration. She continued, “I snuck out a lot, but I still went to church three times a week, you know what I mean? So [life] was just this dichotomy of trying to be a good girl, but also wanting to freaking light things on fire.”

Meanwhile, music provided a safe haven from her inner tumult. Hip-hop, a surprising divergence from her current sound, pulled Roan from the confines of her mind. She would tune into artists like Drake and Rihanna, discovering inspiration along the way. As Roan recalled, “It was just a brand new world that I had not been exposed to ever. Hip-hop made me feel really cool, and was a place where I could put all these angsty feelings. It still makes me feel that way. The song that sparked me writing music was ‘Stay’ by Rihanna. I was like, ‘I want to make songs like this.’”

Though Roan never did make her way into the hip-hop industry, music still called to her. Under her name Kayleigh Amstutz, Roan posted YouTube covers of popular songs throughout her first two years of high school. Then, in 2015, while Roan was still in her junior year of high school, Atlantic Records offered her the opportunity to produce with their label. At just 17, she had the chance to trade her small town in Missouri for Hollywood.

But first, she decided to change her name.

Her grandfather, Dennis Chappell, was dying of cancer when she was first offered this opportunity. She decided that in his honor, she “was going to be Chappell.” His favorite song was ‘The Strawberry Roan’ and thus, Chappell Roan was born. She signed with Atlantic Records and moved to California in a whirlwind of a few weeks, an experience that quickly proved overwhelming. As she said, “It’s so cliché, but one weekend I was playing coffee shops and the next weekend I was signed to Atlantic Records. It was very, very unhinged and really scary. I just genuinely didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t feel like I had a lot of help.”

She released her first EP entitled School Nights in 2017 at 19 years old, much to her own chagrin. She “hated all that music” in it; it simply did not match her. School Nights was folk and quiet, but for better or worse, it threw her into the spotlight. She began touring as the opening act for artists such as Declan McKenna and Vance Joy, breaking 100,000 streams on her song ‘Good Hurt.’ 

Roan knew, however, that this sound wasn’t sustainable. And so she set out to find a producer that could help her bring to life the music she truly wanted to create. As 2020 rolled around, Chappell Roan left Atlantic Records and began working with Dan Nigro, the producer and songwriter best known for producing Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR and GUTS. 

And in April of 2020, Roan finally created her music. She released her breakout song ‘Pink Pony Club,’ kickstarting her true debut as Chappell Roan. This new song was nothing like her previous melancholic acoustics. It was breathtakingly raw, paired with an intoxicating pop beat. ‘Pink Pony Club’ begins with the singer lamenting to her stubborn, conservative mother as she unravels the magic of the club, ultimately reaching a cathartic rhythm where she decides that she’ll “keep dancing.” Atlantic Records dropped her soon after, likely because they disliked ‘Pink Pony Club.’ 

Chappell Roan is a force to reckon with, largely because of her electric stage presence and fun songs. (Photo Credit: Jason Martin, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The song was intensely relatable to young queer people who were caught between being themselves and pleasing their family. Though ‘Pink Pony Club’ began with slow streaming numbers, it was no wonder when Roan went viral in 2022, following her song ‘Naked in Manhattan.’ ‘Naked in Manhattan’ was her first song that covered Roan’s queerness, as she identifies as a lesbian. 

The saccharine, fun pop that Roan promised pulled fans in. As Kaci Rose Goldberg ’24 said, “Chappell Roan’s music perfectly encapsulates the wildness and fun nature of 1980s music, while bringing in the softness of more of the indie music that I like to listen to today. Her lyrics aren’t always straightforward, but against a great beat and a perfect voice they’re always enjoyable.”

Just as School Nights had pushed Roan into the spotlight years prior, ‘Pink Pony Club’ and ‘Naked in Manhattan’ awoke the world once more. Except this time, Roan was creating music that she loved. She was selected as the opening act for Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Tour and Fletcher’s Girl of My Dreams Tour

In the midst of her overnight fame, nearly two years after finding her sound, Chappell Roan was hard at work. The bones of her upcoming debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, were finally beginning to come together. The picture was finally forming: it would be an album full to the brim of 80s-inspired disco-pop, cheeky lyrics, drag-queen references, and above all else, it would be true to her. 

As she finished song after song, Roan began releasing them as singles to tease the album ahead. She released ‘Femininomenon,’ a pop jab at an ex-boyfriend’s incompetence, and female liberation, in August 2022. She commented, “I wanted a dance song. Something people could do drag to. A Queer anthem that had a sad undertone of what really happened to me, but with a beat.” 

Her song ‘Casual‘ was released soon after in October 2022.

‘Casual’ questioned Roan’s relationship with an unseen partner as she prodded: after so many milestones, were they really still “casually” dating? In the middle of a tumultuous dating scene (dating app burnout, situationships), ‘Casual’ reflected the common sentiment. It was no wonder when it went viral on social media soon after it was released. Today, there are more than 31 million posts with the song on TikTok.

Chappell Roan’s style evolved with her sound. Her powdered face, sharp eyebrows, and colorful makeup became synonymous with her persona. She cites drag queens as a heavy influence, and it makes her memorable in the best way possible. As Anna Buinski ’24 said, “I absolutely love her style. It’s so intricate and bold, which I feel is unique for many artists, especially in our current era, where minimalism and being natural is favored, for example, with the ‘no makeup makeup-look.’ It’s refreshing to see her use makeup as a form of expression, given that it’s usually used as a way to enhance natural features.”

In February 2023, Roan began her Naked in North America Tour. Since Roan is heavily inspired by drag culture and queens, she decided to book drag queens to be the openers for her tour. The tour lasted until early spring 2023, and this marked only the beginning. 

Summer Smith ’25 said, “I’m obsessed with the way that Chappell Roan carries herself on stage, but mostly I think she just seems like such a kind person – she gives back to the queer community so much and shows so much kindness and gratitude for those who came before her.” (Photo Credit: Briana Nikci ’25; used by permission)

In a few months, Roan released her song and accompanying music video, “HOT TO GO!inspired by her desire to be a cheerleader as a teenager. The song came with a catchy choreography reminiscent of the YMCA dance or a cheer routine. The dancers would raise their arms above their head to form the letters H-O-T-T-O-G-O to the beat, a perfect way to bring the audience into the craft.

And finally, after months of development and years of self-discovery, Chappell Roan released her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess in September 2023. It consisted of 14 songs, and is Roan at her best. Throughout the album, she’s comfortable and makes it known. She’s finally allowed to be her colorful self, and she glows. 

She also began her second tour, the Midwest Princess Tour, which ended in spring 2024. $1 from every ticket sold was donated to the nonprofit For The Gworls, and just like her first tour, the tour was opened with drag queens. 

It was in 2024 that Chappell Roan accelerated. She was the opening act for Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour from February to April 2024, and saw her streams increase by 32% in her very first week as opener. In March 2024, she appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, which had seen stars like Taylor Swift and Hozier, sporting her signature extravagant makeup.

In April 2024, Roan went viral on TikTok once more after teasing and releasing her song ‘Good Luck Babe! In it, Roan wishes an ex-girlfriend luck with battling her compulsory heterosexuality. She sings, “You can kiss a hundred boys in bars / Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling / You can say it’s just the way you are / Make a new excuse, another stupid reason.” The song gained 7 million streams in its first week, quickly climbing Spotify’s Top 10 and Billboard’s Hot 100. Her impressive vocal ability and biting lyrics struck home for many frustrated queer women, and it was no wonder that so many related. 

Near the same time, Roan performed at Coachella, where she paid homage to drag queen Sasha Colby through her memorable “favorite artist” opening. In early June 2024, Roan performed at Governors Ball Festival (commonly referred to as Gov Ball) to thousands of listeners. She was even referred to as “the biggest story out of Gov Ball” by the AV Club. Soon after, Roan appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and has had stars like Sabrina Carpenter and Laufey cover her songs. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Carpenter commented that she had Roan’s songs “on loopty loop.”

Her monthly listeners on Spotify increased by 500% from February to April 2024, an incredible growth in a matter of months. As such, the majority of her listeners have just now discovered her. When I interviewed seven Bronx Science students, five out of seven had begun to listen to Roan in 2024.

As for now, Roan is still rising. She has broken record after record at a record-breaking pace, and she has shown incredible promise. With her distinctive style, formidable vocal ability, and exuberant stage presence, Chappell Roan is the future of pop. 

And if there is one thing that she has proven, she is only going to climb from here. 

With her distinctive style, formidable vocal ability, and exuberant stage presence, Chappell Roan is the future of pop.

About the Contributor
Krisha Soni, Staff Reporter
Krisha Soni is a Copy Chief and Social Media Editor for ‘The Science Survey.' She loves storytelling and journalistic pieces that bring their subject matter to life; in her opinion, there’s nothing more valuable. Journalism, and its ability to depict aspects of the world through different lenses on paper, has intrigued her since she was young, and she hopes to create pieces that live up to that standard. In addition, Krisha finds photography essential for journalism, as she believes that it fully fleshes out an article and is the final step to bring the reader into the shoes of someone experiencing the subject matter. Outside of school, Krisha enjoys reading, baking, and playing badminton. She can be found making brownies and listening to podcasts in her home in Queens. Although she is still looking through possible career options, she loves astrophysics and history and wishes to eventually work in either of those fields.