Since last year, Reneé Rapp, the new gen triple threat — powerhouse singer, actress, and Broadway star — has been causing a stir. On her debut EP, Everything To Everyone, the newly pronounced star unravelled her inner monologue drawing lines between romance, self-realisation, and reckoning with who she was.
Snow Angel — Rapp’s project in collaboration with producer Alex Glantz (Alexander 23) — draws us further into her contemporary epoch, unfurling tales of teen-style heartbreak, queer longing and characteristic storytelling. The singer’s personality colours between lyrics and melodies remedying songs (‘Poison Poison’ and ‘Gemini Moon’) that don’t land as squarely as they should.
However, Rapp’s trajectory as your next favourite pop act is fitting. With lead credits in Broadway’s adaptation of Mean Girls, plentiful fans from HBO’s Sex Lives of College Girls, and killer vocals, the 23-year-old is undoubtedly talented. Humour riddles ‘Talk Too Much’, confidence sugarcoats ‘Pretty Girls’, while, elsewhere, charisma and quick-witted lyrics try to outpace the star’s previous musical footprint.
Themes of desire and connection are craftily pronounced. On ’Pretty Girls’, a semi-exasperated Rapp unveils a routine encounter with straight girls who “have a couple drinks” and “wanna kiss all the pretty girls”. A stronger note on Snow Angel, the track serves as a pop pillar to the album. While the project’s self-titled lead single mimics an Olivia Rodrigo-esque ballad launch which, even with Rapp’s 3 million listeners, is hard to recreate.
The star’s debut record is graciously ambitious, almost to a fault. Ferociously forthright, Rapp biographies her break ups, bad spells and wanting to be known for having “good tits and a big heart”. And, in its run through, Rapp slips in characterised lines (“I actually have no idea what I’m saying / Are you mad at me?”) down to a science proving that Snow Angel was on the cusp of being what we envisioned it to be; a stellar debut buoyed by an artist’s flair and likeability.
Rapp has always emphasised her love for Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and R&B. Her Broadway career – and vocal prowess – inform her creative inspirations. And on the album, it’s here where Rapp’s distancing from pure pop that serves her best. ‘So What Now’, ‘Tummy Hurts’, and ’The Wedding Song’ showcase a better-suited sonic palette, one that can balance out the glossy pop tunes of ‘Pretty Girls’ and the undervalued verve of ‘Talk Too Much’.
In short, Snow Angel is an album incubated in promise. Her debut project is a graduation from her feted EP, one where she shared her anxieties and allowed us to find community in her punchy pop. On Everything To Everyone, the 23-year-old exercised her individuality and the potency of her fandom. Rapp’s pitch perfect vocals uplift an album that fails to meet her talent halfway. Whether she’s singing about a lost friend or dialoguing new emotions, it’s Rapp that captures your attention, not the project’s production. Yet, as a starting effort, Snow Angel offers a comforting listen. There are crystal clear moments when this record feels distinctly like a Reneé Rapp album, and no number of twanging strings and back beats can undo this. Only then, when Rapp seems in full control, does Snow Angel transform into the stage stealer it should have been.
GAY TIMES rating: ★★★