The phenom is wise beyond her years and writing music that should be well outside her 19-year-old grasp.
With her debut EP School Nights making waves and all of her exclusive premieres being snatched up, it appears we're a bit late to the party when it comes to Chappell Roan. Raised in Willard, Missouri, the 19-year-old phenom began singing and performing when she was 12, playing Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac covers. She was signed to Atlantic Records before she started her junior year of high school.
The music video for the single Good Hurt effectively blends the strange and the ethereal. Set in an empty house, it courageously explores pain, lost love and sexuality, using incredibly diverse imagery. From alligators in the bathtub to acupuncture Roan subjects herself to torture in her pursuit of feeling something. With this video, she, along with director Griffin Stoddard, has created an extremely refreshing work of art.
With glowering accolades and plenty of attention, it's hard to believe that this featurette could be far off from Roan's best work, but it is. The entirety of School Nights is brilliantly executed and Roan's writing showcases a confounding level of maturity for someone her age. Songs like Bad For You and Meantime are just as gorgeous and heart-wrenching as Good Hurt but the true standout of the EP is Die Young. The song's folk melodies twist and bend, giving the listener a sideways glimpse at the pain of growing up. Ultimately, it's a gothic anthem about misspent youth; it's about letting go and learning how to go out on one's own. Incredible production aside, this song hits on emotional level that the other songs on the EP just miss.
Chappell Roan has already been compared to Sia and Lana Del Rey for her powerful, ambient vocals, and if one were to look at Roan from a sonic perspective, these comparisons would hold up. That being said, when you look at the whole picture–the pain in her voice and the tortured lyrics of an old soul bottled-up by youthful inexperience–there's an artist she more clearly resembles: Lorde.
Obviously, she's yet to hit that level of mainstream success, but it's hard to argue against that tinge in her voice betraying a familiar realness. With teenage cynicism and bloodcurdling honesty mixed with a uniquely American sense of self, the young singer is creating music that she has absolutely no business creating. It's a rare thing that a musician comes out and produces music so fully-formed and artistically fulfilling on her first try, but Chappell Roan has done it, in a way that's eerily similar to Lorde's meteoric rise in 2013. As of right now, her songs and stories are resonating with people and it seems impossible that her music will remain an indie-pop secret much longer. Even with her burgeoning popularity, she's remained humble telling Black Book that "this all feels like a dream." She's got plenty of years to come with which to hone her sound and practice her craft, but in her first at bat, the young singer from Missouri has hit a home run.
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine.
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