Who is Chappell Roan, the world’s next pop sensation?

She's probably on your favourite pop star's playlist.

She's probably on your favourite pop star's playlist. Photo: Getty

Introducing Chappell Roan, the singer whose decade-long rise is finally paying off.

Fresh off a successful Coachella debut and a stint as the opening act for Olivia Rodrigo, Roan is hitting the mainstream with her song Good Luck, Babe! currently sitting at No.31 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No.36 on the ARIA Singles Chart.

The part-snarky, part-empathetic message to a closeted ex-girlfriend is a relatively pared-back production for the singer, but still sits in the campy-pop space Roan has made her creative home.

Known for a voice straight from the 1980s, fun yet meaningful lyrics, and a look heavily influenced by drag queens, Roan is the pop singer that mainstream pop stars love.

Long road to success

Born Kayleigh Amstutz in Missouri, US, Roan followed in the footsteps of the likes of Justin Bieber by uploading videos of herself singing to YouTube in her teens.

She didn’t find instant viral fame, but the move sparked the beginnings of her cult following, brought her to the attention of record labels, and earned shoutouts from the likes of fellow quiet sensation Troye Sivan.

Despite growing up in a conservative Christian household, Roan was heavily inspired by the likes of Kesha, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

She signed with major music label Atlantic Records at 17.

Her stage name was inspired her late grandfather’s last name (Chappell) and his favourite song (The Strawberry Roan).

Roan’s first EP School Nights was released in 2017, the same year she toured as the opening act for the likes of Vance Joy and Declan McKenna.

The singer has since declared she ‘‘‘hated’’ all the music from that first EP.

It’s taken a long time for Roan to become comfortable in her work. Photo: Getty

She finally settled into her sound in 2020 when she began collaborating with producer Dan Nigro, who had worked with Kylie Minogue and Carly Rae Jepsen.

In April 2020, the pair released their first collaboration Pink Pony Club, a song inspired by Roan’s first visit to a gay club and becoming comfortable with her queer identity.

Roan was nervous about how it would be received, especially given her label’s reluctance to release it.

Atlantic Records dropped her a few months after the release due to lacklustre results, and her four-and-a-half year relationship ended the same week.

Although Pink Pony Club eventually became a fan-favourite, being dropped by her label forced Roan to move back to Missouri and work at a drive-thru.

Instead of giving up, she saved up money to move back to Los Angeles.

“I felt like a failure, but I knew deep down I wasn’t,” she told The Guardian.

Second chance

Moving back to Hollywood in 2022, Roan linked up with Nigro, who by this time had found incredible success with Olivia Rodrigo’s Drivers License.

After scoring a publishing deal with Sony, Roan set about building herself as an artist on her own terms; making her own costumes, writing her own songs and having her artist friend film the music video for Naked in Manhattan.

In September, she released her first full-length album (doing her own make-up for the cover), The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, a compilation that even had legendary singer Elton John lauding Roan’s “true talent”.

With songs such as My Kink Is KarmaFemininomenon and Hot to Go! (accompanied by a YMCA-style dance), the album solidified Roan’s status as pop’s next big thing.

Between September and April, her monthly listeners on Spotify looks to have risen from 955,000 to 5.2 million.

Despite chipping away at her career for more than 10 years, Roan’s new-found success has been overwhelming for the singer.

“It’s felt like that every day for the past five months … It feels weird because I’ve been getting recognised a lot,” she told Paper magazine in June.

“In LA it’s like whatever. But in Syracuse yesterday, I was crying on the phone to my therapist. I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. This is scary. People are coming up to me and I don’t want to talk to them most of the time, because I’m freaked out. I have nothing else to say’.”

Roan performed at Coachella for the first time this year. Photo: Getty

But she is enjoying being whatever she wants to be as an artist – and representing the queer community through her lyrics, clothing and make-up.

Roan toured Australia last year, and continued her The Midwest Princess tour in America (inviting drag queens as opening acts); dates are also set for European and UK stops.

Topics: Music
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