Chappell Roan: Gen Z's Queer Pop Princess
A sea of pink glitter cowboys dawned at the House of Blues in Chicago on October 5th, all in anticipation of Chappell Roan. The pop princess started her first headlining tour this September and has been dazzling her audience ever since. This was the second night of her two-night residency in Chicago. While she had already made her Chicago debut the night before, there was surely no lack of excitement.
Chappell Roan, originally from a small town in Missouri, named her tour, formally the Midwest Princess Tour, to honor her upbringing, which inspired a lot of the themes in her album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. However, Chappell announced to the audience that she has informally named this tour her drag project.
Heavily inspired by drag artists and the culture of drag performances, Roan decided to incorporate drag performers into her tour by inviting three local drag artists to open for each show. She wanted to pay homage to the artists that inspired her to become the vibrant musician that she is today. Along with inviting local drag queens and encouraging tips that go directly to the queens on stage, Roan also took a percentage from the ticket sales to give back to For the Gworls. For the Gworls is a black transgender-led collective out of New York that
fundraises for gender-affirming surgeries, living
costs, and other crowdfunding and mutual aid.
It felt good knowing that attending her tour, you're giving back to the queer community locally and also nationally by attending this concert tour.
It was truly empowering to be surrounded by queer people of all shapes and sizes. Strangers were complimenting each other's outfits, and people were protecting each other's spots like it was their life's mission. The excitement for each of the drag queens and Chappell herself was bursting at the seams. It felt like a
reflection of the work and effort that Chappell Roan and her team put into making this tour something unforgettable.
The show began with each of the drag queens performing a set of their own, starting with Miss Veronica Pop, going to Princess Janelza, and finishing with Kenya J. Sanchez. Each of the queens gave their heart and half to perform for the crowd. Kenya J. Sanchez even went as far as jumping off stage to stir up the crowd, and she looked like she had a blast doing it. Whether it was this particular audience, the energy of the room, or the fact that the queens were incredible at what they did, this was truly the most hyped crowd I have ever seen for an opening performance. Everyone was singing along and absolutely gagged to see what incredible stunt each of the queens would be attempting next. There were insane jumps, death drops, and back handsprings, cartwheels, and the most creative twerking skills.
After the queens exited the stage, it was finally time for Chappell to make her appearance. The anticipation was incredible to see. She and her band joined together, each decked out to match the theme “Pink Pony Club,” named after her song of the same title. Roan put on the performance of a lifetime from start to finish. She performed all 14 of her songs from her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. With a live band, many of her songs that already had drums had a heightened rock influence that totally went above and beyond when performed live. She balanced singing with talking about why she was so proud to be performing the songs to a larger audience.
Before an intimate, heartfelt performance of her song “Kaleidoscope”, Chappell explained the meanings of her different theme nights in each city. She was excited to create a safe space for her fans to dress up as much as they wanted, surrounded by the queer community in their own city. She continuously mentioned how, through this tour and her discography, she is fulfilling something inside her that her younger self would have loved to be able to express. It was easy to see that each of the concertgoers around me had a moment that fulfilled something inside them as well. For some, it was when she spoke about falling in love with a girl for the first time. For me, it was when she performed her cover of Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance" that the entire audience was ecstatic to see Chappell belt out the words of a beloved song from many of our childhoods. To dance without care and see Chappell Roan do the same as she lit up the audience with the energy from her own moves was something I didn't even know I needed.
There were many moments that left me, along with many others, with our jaws on the floor, completely taken aback by the talent of Chappell Roan. Her performance of her song “School Nights” to honor her start in the music industry completely changed the way I view that song and was a refreshing break from the hype of the rest of her show. Her song “Hot To Go,” which quickly gained popularity on Tik Tok after its release, was where I truly could not stop grinning at the joy it was to experience. With its popularity on Tik Tok, people started to make a dance similar to the “YMCA” spelling out the words of the title with their arms during the chorus. Before she started singing, she taught the entire crowd how to do it so that everyone could participate. She smoothly transitioned from teaching to singing and suddenly the entire packed venue had their hands up singing along to the pop beat. It felt like everyone was up on stage there with her. She ended her original set with my favorite songs “Naked in Manhattan” and “My Kink is Karma” both of which had the audience on their feet, so much so the floor of the House of Blues moved right along with us.
After Chappell exited the stage with her band, everyone immediately broke out in cheers, and eventually the entire crowd was chanting “Pink Pony Club,” knowing she needed to come out to perform the song of the night. As she reconvened with the crowd, she started her encore with the song "California,” a powerful ballad that explains her struggles with trying to make a career for herself in California. The song goes into her struggles with missing home, not wanting to have her time in California be a waste, and not wanting to disappoint her family. And wanting to leave California out of struggling to get the career she thought she would be able to get when not in her small hometown. Her vocal performance was impeccable during this intimate performance.
The honesty in the song is what makes it so relatable. “California” was the most
emotional song of the night. It was so inspiring to see that despite all that she lived through in making it, she was now doing exactly what she thought she had failed at doing. It was so beautiful to see how her persistence had accumulated into an experience so moving for everyone in the crowd.
Finally, as her last song of the night, she performed “Pink Pony Club.” As the first Chappel Roan song I had ever fallen in love with, it was truly special seeing her perform this live, and the song itself, being the hit queer anthem, was such a great way to finish the show. Chappell Roan is a force to be reckoned with, and I am so grateful to have gotten to see her on this scale right now because I know that she is destined for stardom. Chappel Roan, a queer pop princess, is a performer who puts her heart and soul into everything she does, and it was a night that I am grateful I got to experience. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend seeing Chappell Roan live; it might change your life.