Meet Gen Z’s Madonna: Pop’s new superstar Chappell Roan speaks out about ‘overtly sexual’ songs

You’ve undoubtably heard the catchy hit “HOT TO GO!” and you’ve probably hummed the widely-heard break-up anthem “Good Luck, Babe!” without even realizing who the artist is.

It turns out that both of the smash-hit tracks are performed by Chappell Roan, a pop singer who’s suddenly everywhere — and earning comparison to early-years Madonna.

Born Kayleigh Amstutz, 26-year-old Chappell Roan (pronounced, for the uninitiated, “CHAP-el ROHN”) grew up in a conservative Christian household in Missouri.

But the new superstar isn’t squeaky clean like Taylor Swift.

Instead, Roan pays homage to drag queens while performing, with her elaborate outfits and raunchy stage moves recalling the Material Girl back in the 1980s.

Born Kayleigh Amstutz, 26-year-old Chappell Roan — pronounced, for the uninitiated, “CHAP-el ROHN” — is the hottest new figure in the world of pop. WireImage
Roan pays homage to drag queens while performing, with her elaborate, eye-catching outfits and raunchy stage moves recalling the Material Girl back in the 1980s. Getty Images

“She is our generation’s Madonna,” wrote one X user.

“My mom always gets so happy when i put on ‘Pink Pony Club’ because she says it reminds her of being a teenager and dancing to Madonna and that’s how you know Chappell Roan is a pop princess,” wrote another.

“My songs are so overtly sexual on purpose because it’s an expression of me that I wasn’t able to express growing up in a Christian household, in a Christian town that was very conservative,” Roan told Vulture.

Fans have compared her awe-inspiring stage presence and avant garde costumes to that of Lady Gaga or Madonna. WireImage
Roan has also eared comparisons to eighties icon Cyndi Lauper. Getty Images

Roan, who has received praised from the likes of Sir Elton John, has become somewhat of a Gen Z LGBTQ icon and has also earned comparisons to pop legends like Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga for her ultra-camp costumes.

On Threads, one fan called Roan “the second coming of Cyndi Lauper,” while an X user likened her to Lady Gaga, saying it “reminds me SO much of how I felt when I saw Gaga, every single red carpet, interview, appearance, anything we never knew what we were getting.”

“When people say Chappell is the next Lady Gaga, it feels like a very interesting reality where everything has been shaped specifically for this moment and for us to work together,” Roan’s stylist Genesis Webb told Marie Claire.

Roan drew a sizable crowd at NYC’s Gov Ball this summer, dressing as Lady Liberty. Getty Images

At the recent Gov Ball, Roan entered the stage dressed as Lady Liberty — teal wig, body paint and all — in a giant red apple, and paid homage to the drag legend Divine at Kentuckiana Pride.

While performing for NPR for the outlet’s Tiny Desk series, she donned a vibrant magenta dress and sky-high red bouffant with dramatic, doll-like makeup, and on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Roan wore a swan-esque ensemble.

But despite Roan’s sexually-charged lyricism and storylines in her songs — which depict explorations of sexuality, heartbreak and the complexities of “situationships” — she isn’t attempting to “sell sex,” Webb said.

“Yes, she could wear a tight little leotard and just be hot all the time, but her style is about so much more than that,” Webb told Marie Claire.

“Our main thing is that people scroll all day long, so we’re trying to give someone a reason to stop. Even if they’re like, ‘Ew,’ and laugh or gawk at our outfits, at least they’re stopping and questioning what they’re looking at. Those moments of exposure are so important in art and culture.”

Her stage costumes draw from movies, theater, drag and burlesque, Roan has previously shared. Getty Images

Roan — whose stage name is an homage to her grandfather, Dennis Chappell, and his favorite song, “The Strawberry Roan” — released her first EP, “School Nights,” in 2017, when she was still signed to Atlantic Records. The label, however, later dropped her from their roster and she was forced to move home and worked at a drive-thru coffee window.

While diehard fans of the performer may have followed her from her for years, it wasn’t until the release of her 2023 album “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess,” which she defines as “slumber party pop,” and her viral single “Good Luck, Babe” — which is currently charting on the Billboard Hot 100 — that she received widespread recognition.

Her sets at summer festivals have been forced to be moved to larger stages that can accommodate bigger crowds as her star rises, capturing attention of fans of all ages — from a young toddler lookalike, to an older gentleman who has been dubbed “Pink Pony Pawpaw” on TikTok.

Roan, who has been making music under the moniker for seven years, has only recently risen to pop superstardom. Getty Images for ASCAP

Now, with 29 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone and a record deal with collaborator Dan Nigro’s label, Amusement Records, Roan can hardly believe her booming success.

At a recent show in North Carolina — where fans who couldn’t nab tickets watched their favorite pop artist from a nearby parking garage — she choked up, telling the crowd that her “career is growing really fast and it’s really hard to keep up.”

But on Fallon just mere weeks ago, she said the growth of behemoth fanbase “feels like I was right all along,” she quipped on Fallon mere weeks ago.

“It feels like I did it. I mean, I feel kind of like I made it already whenever I was like, ‘Oh my God, people showed up to my concert,’ like, a few years ago,” she said. “Everything else has been the cherry on top.”

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