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Chappell Roan is having a meteoric rise. Why it makes this Gen Zer nervous

Chappell Roan at one of her shows.
Ayana Hamilton/KJZZ
Chappell Roan at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.

Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, also known as Chappell Roan, is having a moment. The Missouri-born pop star, often seen in a rhinestone cowboy hat over her huge red hair, has charmed everyone from Coachella crowds to fans of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

And I'm nervous about what’s to come as Chappell Roan’s popularity climbs.

"I’m your favorite artist’s favorite artist. I’m your dream girl’s dream girl."

That’s Chappell Roan at Coachella earlier this year. At that same performance, she got thousands of people to perform the "YMCA"-esque dance that goes along with one of her most popular songs, "HOT TO GO!"

This performance marked the first time casual pop music lovers really noticed Chappell Roan. The singer leans on her Midwestern roots and frequently appears on stage with heavy drag makeup and sparkly outfits. In the two months since her Coachella performance — where she wore huge pink sparkly butterfly wings — Chappell Roan’s Spotify monthly listener count shot up from 5 million to over 20 million. That’s huge. It seems like everyone and their mother loves Chappell Roan right now.

But I know the cycle of female musicians, well — and I’m worried the unconditional love won’t last.

I’ve been vaguely aware of Chappell Roan for a couple years now, which makes sense because, as a young queer person with colorful hair and a septum piercing, I’m her target demographic. At first I would just hear Chappell Roan songs in TikToks or see videos of her on stage jogging in place while singing "Red Wine Supernova."

Before I knew it, Chappell Roan was everywhere. Her catchy tunes drifted from my friends' car speakers, a local band covered one of her songs, and recently, my roommate and her girlfriend played "HOT TO GO!" six times at their joint birthday party.

I needed to know what the hype was about. So I sat down and listened to the entirety of "The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess," Chappell Roan’s first and only album.

I was blown away. Roan has incredible range in "The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess." There are upbeat dance songs like "Feminomenon" and "Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl," and heartfelt ballads like "Coffee" and "Pink Pony Club." She’s also really funny. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at lyrics I wasn’t mocking.

I love how casually Roan’s sexuality comes up in her music. Her newest and most popular single, "Good Luck, Babe!," is an upbeat yet heartbreaking tale of a closeted woman choosing to marry a man.

And, she’s a total badass. She recently turned down an offer to perform at this year’s White House Pride event.

"We want liberty, justice and freedom for all. When you do that, that’s when I’ll come," she said.

I haven’t heard a single negative thing said about Chappell Roan, and the internet is an incredibly nasty place. For years, we’ve been putting female musicians under a microscope, and failing to hold male musicians to the same standards.

Billie Eilish was made fun of for wearing baggy clothes and then criticized for showing too much skin. She was accused of queer baiting — even though she’s bisexual. When Ethan Slater left his wife for Ariana Grande, Grande got blamed. Olivia Rodrigo got backlash when one of her songs was nominated for Best Rock Song at the Grammys. Lizzo almost completely disappeared after she was accused of sexual harassment and perpetuating a hostile work environment — but the Buttertones, the Frights, ihe Mowgli’s and a host of other bands are still touring with men who were accused of sexual misconduct or rape. And Chris Brown’s entire UK/European Tour sold out in minutes in 2022. Seriously? Taylor Swift’s concerts also sell out instantly, but it feels like just as many people love to hate her as love to love her.

I’m sick of watching the rise and fall of female musicians. Instead of feeling happy when women I like start blowing up, I worry about how close they are to the edge of a cliff. One wrong move, and they’ll be the butt of some stupid joke for the rest of their career. I wish I could say I’ll be surprised when it happens to Chappell Roan. I hope it doesn’t.

As she says: "Good luck, babe."

Amber Victoria Singer is a producer for KJZZ's The Show. Singer is a graduate of the Water Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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