Why Chappell Roan Is Everywhere Right Now

Nine months after the release of her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, Chappell Roan is seeing the kind of success new artists dream about. On Thursday, her album hit No. 1 on the U.S. iTunes chart—beating out Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. In the last few months, her monthly listeners have grown to more than 20 million on Spotify, and she's drawn crowds of thousands at festivals like Boston Calling and Gov Ball in New York City (where she arrived dressed as the Statue of Liberty).

While her meteoric rise seems like it happened overnight, Roan has been working for almost a decade, releasing her music online and utilizing social media to gain a cult following. After starting out by sharing songs on YouTube in 2014 under her given first and middle names, Kayleigh Rose, she rebranded to Chappell Roan and released an EP through Atlantic Records in 2017.

Though Roan released multiple songs in 2020 that would later appear on her debut album, those singles did not achieve the success Atlantic had hoped for, and the label dropped her that year. In September 2023, she released The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess with Amusement Records—producer Dan Nigro’s label under Island Records—to widespread acclaim. Midwest Princess made multiple best-of-the-year lists, including TIME’s in 2023. Following a solo tour in support of the album, Roan found a new audience after opening for Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour in early 2024. In April, Roan made her Coachella debut, and since then, has skyrocketed to fame.

Audiences are falling in love with the 26-year-old star for many reasons. Her incredibly catchy yet honest songs speak to listeners, as does her sincerity online and with her fans. Here’s everything to know about the rise of Chappell Roan.

She goes there in her music

Chappell’s music is all about queer experiences, from messy moments of heartbreak to ecstatic discoveries of love and sex. Her witty lyrics and infectious melodies bring listeners along on journeys through situationships, passionate affairs, breakups, and even the satisfaction of seeing an ex get what they deserve.

In “Pink Pony Club,” one of the singles she released in 2020, the narrator yearns to leave their home in Tennessee and go to a “special place where boys and girls can be queens every single day” and in “Red Wine Supernova” she sings about the rush of falling too fast for a "Brigitte Bardot" type. Her latest, “Good Luck, Babe!” has a sharp message for a woman who chooses men over her: “When you wake up next to him in the middle of the night, with your head in your hands, you're nothing more than his wife. And when you think about me, all of those years ago, you’re standing face to face with ‘I told you so.’”

“This is such an exciting time in queer music, but pop music in general,” she told TIME earlier this year. “I think people are getting a little bit more risky and that’s always when great pop music is born. No fear of looking raunchy, or that you’re gonna make people upset.”

She gained millions of fans within a few months

A chart created by a data journalist and shared online traces how Chappell’s monthly listeners on Spotify have grown quickly since she released her album in September. In March 2023, she had about 3 million monthly listeners. Just a little more than a year later, she has more than 20 million each month.

The stark increase in her fandom can be seen in the crowds at her most recent performances.

At Gov Ball earlier this month, Roan revealed that she turned down an opportunity to perform at the White House. “In response to the White House who asked me to perform for Pride: we want liberty, justice and freedom for all. When you do that, that’s when I’ll come.”

It’s not just the fans who have noticed the positive responses from audiences: in recent days, programmers for the Bonnaroo music festival moved her to the main stage for her performance, and the All Things Go music festival announced she will be performing on its New York stop.

Chappell Roan’s vulnerability online and with fans

Roan's social media footprint dates back a couple of years. On TikTok, she used to promote her music with occasional makeup tutorials for some of her more dramatic looks set to one of her singles.

Roan is also honest about her struggles with mental health. At her most recent performance in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 12, she got emotional about her rapid rise to fame and shared how overwhelming the experience has been. She took a second to address the crowd as she wiped away tears.

“I just want to be honest with the crowd. I feel a little off today, because I think my career is going really fast and it’s hard to keep up,” she says in the video. “I’m just being honest, I’m having a hard time today.”

Last year, she uploaded a video where she revealed that she was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder and struggling with body image issues, which were heightened as she started to gain popularity.

“Everything is very exciting right now and I’m realizing that success actually makes me quite uncomfortable and self-conscious and I’m not sure why yet,” she says in the video. “This career is f-cking hard, but I’ll be fine.”

Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com.