Reneé Rapp Offers a Perspective as Complex as the Queer Experience

Music critics and labels alike have been struggling to find what clicks with young audiences and how to create the next big star. While it seems obvious to most of us music fanatics that a relatable, organic experience is the preferred starlet fixation, there are so many different routes and aesthetics to take. Cool and collected, sharp-tongued and stunning, Reneé Rapp shows us her unique path to music and how she makes successful pop unique.

Almost Famous Zine had the opportunity to chat with Rapp at her press conference on the eve of the release of Snow Angel, her debut full-length album. Getting to know Reneé Rapp better as both a person and an artist allowed us at AFZ to experience this project through a distinctive, personalized lens. It seems that looking at this cohesive set of songs through a personal lens seems to be the only option, as all of the content is deeply personal and nuanced based on the experience of Rapp herself. Reneé’s open attitude allowed us a peek into her inspiration:

“I typically find it easier to write sad songs. And that doesn’t mean that they’re sad slow songs. ‘Pretty Girls‘ is probably the most up tempo song I’ve put out… but it’s a really sad song,” Rapp said.

Starting with the album’s strongest tracks, Rapp did a great job pushing singles that would represent the diversity of sound, while still maintaining the interest of mainstream pop music.

“Pretty Girls” is a personal favorite of mine, where Rapp seems to express a facade of the typical bisexual fantasy as a hypersexualized woman dealing with the experimentation of non-queer influences. She mocks a seemingly flirty yet obviously straight woman with lines like, “I like your straight jacket, but it feels like it’s a little tight“, hitting the innuendo of being confined by a straight sexuality. Rapp simultaneously encourages, “keep on pretending, pretty girl“, pointing out the pitying situation of masking your true feelings.

However, it can be easy to miss the sad notes of the song in the upbeat sounds. Rapp reflects, “all the pretty girls act like it never happened, in another world, yeah it’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” This line represents being an out queer woman, where sexuality exists but it creates a pigeon-hole in her love life (it becomes all about sex and not love). It feels odd but relieving to hear another queer woman articulate this experience that’s happens far too often in my life as well.

Reneé Rapp for Snow Angel
Photos by Katia Temkin

Other standout tracks include “I Wish”, “23” and “Willow”, which fell under the radar at the back end of the album. One question suggested that “Talk Too Much” relates to Rapp’s Gemini Rising sign, while inquiring what other aspects of the albums relate to her astrology.

“I feel like my Capricorn Sun is ‘Poison Poison’, and my Pisces Moon is ‘I Wish’. ‘I Wish’ I wrote about my parents and my first understanding of mortality when I was like 10… Yeah, not great. It is something that really haunted me there for a while. I think my Piscean sisters in the ocean would agree with ‘I Wish’,” Rapp explains.

As a Pisces Moon, this was one of the songs I was eager to listen to, and it shortly became an album staple that boasted Rapp’s ability to kill an intensely emotional ballad.

However, the real stand out is “Tummy Hurts”, which seems to perfectly encapsulate Rapp’s romantic rises and falls. I quickly found myself replaying this one over and over for its quirky lines such as, “I just want some recognition for having good tits and a big heart,” and simultaneous sharp comebacks.

This album is a perfect piece of refined pop music, though an increase in diversity of sound would have elevated it to an instant classic. I can’t wait to see what Reneé Rapp has in store with her newfound success as a queer starlet; Hopefully she continues to bloom with time and love.

If you liked this album, consider giving Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS a listen, or reading Kelly Quidlen’s She Drives Me Crazy.

Words by Patti Doud. Photos by Katia Temkin.

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