'Good Luck Babe!' and the rise of Chappell Roan, Midwest pop princess

Adam Graham, The Detroit News on

Published in Entertainment News

If Sabrina Carpenter's frothy "Espresso" is shaping up to be the song of the summer, then Chappell Roan's "Good Luck Babe!" just might be the song of the year.

It's a peppy, upbeat, pristine pop achievement, and it's putting the 26-year-old Missouri native on the musical map in a big way. In doing so, the queer pop singer is shaking up the pop hierarchy and, along with Carpenter, she's helping usher in a new class of pop hit-makers.

Roan's full-length debut, "The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess," was released in September 2023, but its rise in pop circles came as Roan was booked as the opening act on Olivia Rodrigo's Guts Tour.

That invaluable exposure, playing to thousands of amped up pop fans every night, teed up the release of "Good Luck Babe!" which arrived in April and has since become Roan's most popular song to date, racking up more than 150 million streams on Spotify.

The bittersweet "Good Luck Babe!" is mined from heartbreak, as so many great pop singles are. It's told from the prospective of a jilted woman who is dismissing another woman for denying her sexuality and attraction to the narrator. "You can kiss a hundred boys in bars, shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling," Roan sings, as her lover denies her inclinations, and herself, and blindly chases a husband. "You'd have to stop the world just to stop the feeling," she continues, and in its closing moments the song slows to a crawl, signifying the literal stopping of the world, as Roan downshifts her delivery to match the collapse of the tempo.

The production, courtesy of Rodrigo producer Dan Nigro, is all '80s synths and programmed drums, hand claps and strings — the bones of the song are not too far removed from those of Wham's "Last Christmas" — while Roan's vocals float just above the fray and climb into falsetto territory. The bridge features a clenched teeth kiss-off which hits a delicious climax when Roan belts at a future version of her ex, who is trapped in a false, loveless marriage, "I told you so!" It's an emotional peak that leads directly into the final chorus, which sticks its landing with its slowed-for-effect closer.

"Good Luck Babe!" recently entered the Top 40 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and is the first Roan song many heard, but "The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess" is packed with bops with similarly huge hooks and mega choruses. (The album is helmed by Nigro, whose musical partnership with Roan began when he produced her 2020 single "Pink Pony Club," before he started working with Rodrigo.) "Red Wine Supernova," "HOT TO GO!" and "My Kink is Karma" are all ready-made pop smashes, while "Casual" — another scorned song about a bad relationship with playful, bordering on R-rated lyrical imagery — was, for some, an early gateway into Roan's world.


Chappell Roan is the stage name of Kayleigh Amstutz, who grew up in a conservative Christian household in Willard, Missouri, more or less smack dab in the middle of America. She began playing piano around age 10 and credits a summer camp at Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts with her path toward pop music as a career.

She released her first song at age 17 and bounced around between major label deals (including Atlantic, which released her debut EP "School Nights' in 2017) before landing at Universal, which last fall released "Midwest Princess."

Roan hit NPR's Tiny Desk in April for a five-song set that showed off her campy, drag-influenced stage persona, and she's booked on this summer's Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza festivals, where already her name seems too low on both posters for the way her career has ascended since they were announced.

"Good Luck Babe!" is bringing a sense of fun and discovery to pop, much in the same way that Carpenter's "Espresso" has caffeinated the pop landscape since its April launch. Those songs are ringing out more than selections from the sorority of established pop megastars who have put out albums in the first half of the year, including Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish.

Pop music is constantly churning and needs fresh stars to thrive, and Roan is a thrilling new voice in the space, conveying rawness, realness, relatability and theatricality in equal measure, part Cyndi Lauper and part Lady Gaga. "Good Luck Babe!" is the sound of a star who has a lot to say and has big things ahead of her, and you'd have to stop the world just to stop the feeling she's giving pop music listeners everywhere.

©2024 The Detroit News. Visit detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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