Photo: Reneé Rapp via reneerapp.com
Last month, Reneé Rapp released her debut album, Snow Angel, and this record is perhaps one of the best pop projects of 2023. It took me a few weeks to find time to sit down and listen to the album, but it was definitely worth the wait. After seeing people post about it on social media, the album art caught my eye and I had heard snippets of the third single, “Pretty Girls.” I had never engaged in any of Rapp’s previous work, whether television, Broadway, or her 2022 EP, so I went into this album completely blind. After listening to it two times through, I decided I needed to get my thoughts out on this remarkable, skipless album. The 12-track record takes listeners on a journey of heartache, sorrow, and life as a young woman in her 20s. Through melancholic ballads and high-energy anthems, Snow Angel exceeds expectations as absolute pop perfection.
Talk Too Much
I Hate Boston
So What Now
The Wedding Song
Reneé Rapp is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Prior to her music debut in 2022, Rapp was well-recognized for her role as Regina George on the Broadway musical production of Mean Girls, as well as her role as Leighton Murray in the Max series, The Sex Lives of College Girls. The singer was already making waves in the theater world before even graduating high school, winning prestigious awards at regional and national award shows. This captured the attention of musical theater tastemakers, leading to her being cast as one of the lead roles in Mean Girls on Broadway. Due to the pandemic, the show was shut down and it was later announced that it will not be reopening. However, Rapp will be reprising her role in the movie adaption, Mean Girls: The Musical. After releasing her debut EP, Everything to Everyone, the artist went on a sold-out U.S. tour that required her to add additional dates to cities and upgrade venues. She recently kicked off the Snow Hard Feelings tour, supported by Snow Angel producer, Alexander 23, and Towa Bird. Tour dates are attached at the bottom of this page.
“Talk Too Much”
Rapp kicked off her debut album in the most perfect way. From the very first note of “Talk Too Much,” I instantly knew this was going to be an incredible record. The deep bassline and the pop-rock elements is not only the perfect album opener, but I could also easily imagine the track as a captivating concert starter. With the catchy earworm melody that has been playing in my head since my very first listen, Rapp proves that she knows exactly how to capture the listeners attention. With lyrics such as “I’m here again talking myself out of my own happiness// I’ll make it up till I quit” and the infectious hook “I think I talk too much,” Rapp immediately this the listener with a highly relatable track, introducing them to the theme of Snow Angel. Furthermore, the talking bit in the background during the bridge is best heard through headphones as the singer divulges her inner thoughts. The words explode out of her mouth as she is literally talking herself out of her own happiness. “Talk Too Much” is an ingenious track that perfectly sets up the entire album.
“I Hate Boston”
The second track slows down the album to a melancholic heartbreak ballad. “I Hate Boston'' explores the aftermath of a relationship, when a particular place reminds you of your former partner. For Rapp, the entire city of Boston brings up these painful memories. Through her detailed lyricism, the singer eloquently describes her daunting experience. Boston is a big city, full of historic places and tourist traps. And yet, it only evokes memories from her relationship. In the chorus, Rapp sings: “How’d you make me hate Boston?// It’s not its fault// That you don’t love me// Had its charm but it lost it//It’s not its fault.” This then leads to my favorite line of the song: “Just a casualty// And casual’s the way you chose to leave.” This line is a clever play-on-words that shows just what she meant to her partner, and just how devastating this heartbreak is. As a lover of sad-girl pop, Rapp immediately knocks it out of the park with her first slow ballad of the project.
Rapp turns the energy back up for the lighthearted, yet cynical track “Poison Poison.” The singer exposes a toxic person and their terrible behavior through sarcastic lyrics and infectious melodies. With the clever hook, Rapp tells this person that they are so toxic that they have the ability to “poison poison.” Their personality is so awful, that they could make something lethal even that much worse. Paired with the bouncy, light production, the track is an instant mood booster despite the bitter lyrics. At the end of the song, Rapp has talking bits where she giggles while cursing out this toxic person, ending the song on a humorous note. Rapp does not take herself too seriously with this track, proving that the artist can go from serious topics like those found in upcoming tracks “Snow Angel” and “I Wish,” to cheeky subjects found in this one.
“Gemini Moon” flips the script from Rapp being the heartbroken to the heartbreaker. After falling out from a relationship, the singer wrote the track as a way to express her guilt. She knew she did not treat her partner in the way they deserved. While still mourning this lost love, Rapp realized that the moon was in Gemini. This led to the brilliant astrology ballad we have now. She describes the inconsistent lover she was, from being head-over-heels one day to being completely unattached the next. In the chorus she sings, “I bet you’re sick of it// I could blame the Gemini moon// But really I should just be better to you.” Rapp knows that she has an out by blaming the sun, the stars, and the moon. But instead, she admits that in the end astrology cannot be at fault and that she needed to be a better partner. This heart-wrenching ballad paints Rapp in a unique light that many artists avoid— that sometimes they are the problem. We aren’t perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Rapp recognizes this in herself and admits when she is wrong, making “Gemini Moon” one of her best written tracks.
“Snow Angel” is Rapp’s most vulnerable track on the album, written about a deeply traumatic event from her past. The singer has discussed this experience in previous interviews, so for the sake of respect and not wanting to tell the story wrong, I will not go into further detail. Overall, the song discusses the betrayal of her so-called friends and a deep metaphor for cocaine addiction. It is hauntingly beautiful, with grim lyrics that showcase this dark place the singer was once in. The song immediately kicks off with one of my favorite lines from the album: “First to arrive, last time leave// What’s misery without company?” This line indicates that she puts more effort and time into her friendships and relationships than they do. As she continues through the song, she alludes to these friends leaving her lonely while she needed someone the most. Addiction is scary and it’s an impossible battle with one’s self. Rapp eloquently describes this internal struggle with deep, poignant lyrics, utilizing winter and snow imagery to articulate it. The singer brings this battle to life with not only the lyrics, but the production as well. The song starts off slow with a delicate piano riff and soft harmonies but by the end the instrumentation is booming, nearly blowing out the speakers, personifying Rapp’s fight to break free. As the lead single for the album, “Snow Angel” is perhaps the best written track on the album due to its ability to navigate through complex human thoughts and experiences.
“So What Now”
“So What Now” contains a soothing, nearly soulful production that beautifully complements the wistful lyrics. The acoustic guitar led track guides the listener through the aftermath of a lost romance, in which Rapp wonders what would happen if she ran into her ex-partner. The song kicks off with Rapp softly singing: “If I’m missing calls I’m gonna cry” twice, before a high register “cry!” signifies the first verse. She then begins the story by revealing that she knows her ex is back in town. Throughout the track, she asks herself what she should do now– Call them? Hope they call her? What if she runs into them on the street? Should she say hello or ignore them? These questions haunt her mind as she ponders what she should do. The relationship ended and now she is unsure how to handle living in the same social circle. She closes out the song the same way she began in, with additional cheeky ad-libbed lyrics such as: “You dumb crusty ass bitch but I think I love you” and “I might kiss you but I also might fight you.” This outro showcases the convoluted situation and emotions Rapp feels, unsure what her feelings are about the subject, making it a relatable song for her millions of listeners.
“The Wedding Song”
Do not let the romantic name fool you. “The Wedding Song” is a gut-wrenching ballad about what could have been. Rapp pours out her heart in the verses about a love gone wrong. One where she once thought she would get the happy ending she always dreamed of. The type of love that sweeps her off her feet and stays with her until death do them part. In the chorus, the melody and lyrics are the ingredients for a first dance song at a magical wedding. But the song could not be further from this happily ever after. The first verse immediately propels the listener into the narrative that Rapp wrote a song while she was happy in love—a song that was “timeless” like the relationship. She describes the song’s structure and tells the one she loves that it “went like this,” before bursting into the romantic chorus. In the verses, she alludes to the fact that this relationship is far gone, speaking in past tenses. It is not until the bridge that Rapp fully tears down the wall and reveals the full picture. Her partner left her all alone, mourning the loss of their love. She tells them that they have ruined this perfect love song that she will never get to play, now that they have burned it all away. This track is a clever take on a break-up song, proving once again that Rapp’s songwriting is on a whole other level.
“Pretty Girls” is Rapp’s gay-girl anthem that describes the “universal gay-girl experience.” As a proudly-out bisexual, the singer shares her personal encounters with straight girls using her for their own experiments. They claim to be straight, but with drinks in their system and the night on their side, “they got to have a taste of a pretty girl.” But come morning, they “act like it never happened.” It is a very tongue-in-cheek track about Rapp’s frustration with these girls’ nonchalant treatment towards her. However, she admits that despite this, she enjoys the attention and finds it fun. She finds that “it’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” Furthermore, Rapp goes on to imply that these girls are “just pretending” to be straight, and the reason they act this way is because they are secretly gay. In the second verse, she sings: "I like a straight-jacket// But it feels like it's a little too tight." This clever lyric is another brilliant play on words by the singer, articulating that the label "straight" is too restrictive, and sexuality is fluid. This is a plot twist that may explain their behavior and why they are wanting to experiment. It may not be true, and they may just be using Rapp, but in the end, she is just happy to get attention from a Pretty Girl. The song contains an earworm melody that plays on a loop in the audience’s mind, making it the perfect song for the third single from Snow Angel.
Once again, Rapp slows down the album with the gut-wrenching, brutally honest track, “Tummy Hurts.” While showcasing her phenomenal vocal control, the singer exposes her ex-boyfriend and his new girl. He treated her poorly, broke her heart, and left him for another woman. In the chorus, she predicts the awful future for this new couple. The sassy, yet solemn lyrics read: “Now my tummy hurts, he’s in love with her// But for what it’s worth, they’d make beautiful babies// And raise ‘em up to be a couple of// Fucking monsters, like their mother and their father.” She ruthlessly calls them out, holding nothing back and putting them on blast. She continues with the most heart-wrenching lyric: “Eventually, 2043// Someone's gonna hurt their little girl like their daddy hurt me.” In 20 years' time, when their daughter is around Rapp’s age, she will undergo the same heartbreak that the singer was put through. Karma will come hit her ex-boyfriend, as he is left to pick up the pieces of his own daughter’s heart. The track provides a unique perspective into heartbreak, something I have never heard before in a pop song. When I heard the lyrics the first time, I was shocked and had to replay the song to ensure I heard it right. With "Tummy Hurts," Rapp once again blew it out of the park with her story-like songwriting.
As someone who has not only lost several loved ones in their short life on this earth, but also lost their grandfather this month, “I Wish” hit a little too close to home. The song is about losing all child-like wonder and innocence when they are given the reality that death is real and it is inevitable. This song brought tears to my eyes while chills ran through my body. The very first line was like a sucker punch to the gut with the lyrics: “I was ten years old when I realized some goodbyes are forever.” When I heard this, I instantly knew what this song was going to be about. After doing research to see Rapp’s backstory, I discovered that this track was about the idea of losing her parents, who are alive and healthy. This made the track even more gut-wrenching as a woman with anxiety who constantly thinks about how she will handle losing her parents when the day finally comes. Rapp conveys these feelings eloquently with the lyrics: “How can the person who taught me to breathe take their last breath right in front of me?” This line is by far my favorite quote from the album, as it conveys such raw and vulnerable emotions. Although “I Wish” cut through me deep, it is my personal top track on Snow Angel.
Inspired by Frank Ocean and the weeping willow tree, Rapp conveys a beautiful story in “Willow.” The song is about taking someone’s pain away and wanting them to be okay. Regarding the track, Rapp revealed the song was her way of “personifying the tree” as her younger self. Although the track can be interpreted to whomever the listener prefers, the artist is singing to her younger self. In the chorus, she is telling the subject to not cry, and instead she will cry for them. The second verse shares a beautiful message with the lyrics: “Don’t have to use your own tears// Just to grow your own roots// Just keep your passion for flowers// And it’ll patch up your youth.” She encourages them to hold onto their hopes and dreams and not to rely on their past traumas. In the end, their passion will thrive and their inner child will heal. It is a sweet sentiment matched with an even sweeter production, making “Willow” the most endearing track on Snow Angel.
Rapp ends the melancholic, emotional rollercoaster of an album in the most flawless manner. “23” was written the day before her birthday while she was reminiscing on her previous year of life. She explores the heartache, traumas, and disappointments she has endured. She wished that by now she could play it cool and act nonchalant. But in the chorus, she sings: “So, how old do you have to be// To live so young and careless? My wish is that I cared less// At twenty-three.” She hopes she has finally hit the age of no-drama and feeling unbothered. Every year this is her wish, and she hopes that 23 is finally that year. Rapp also sneaks in a very clever reference in the first two lines of the chorus: “But tomorrow I turn twenty-three// And it feels like everyone hates me.” This is a nod to Blink-182 song, “What’s My Age Again,” where the infamous lyric, “nobody likes you when you’re 23,” is sung. It is a brilliant tribute to another great artist and perfectly fits on the self-deprecating track. Overall, Rapp ending Snow Angel with this track was an ingenious move. It wraps up the project on the note that the singer has accepted her experiences and recognizes that they are all in the past and it is time to move on. It is a new year and she has a bright future ahead of her. It is time to leave the bitterness and heartbreak behind. With “23,” Rapp closes out the track on a bittersweet note that will leave listeners waiting on edge for music from this new lease on life.
As a listener that came into the album completely blind, I truly did not know what to expect. My hopes were high but due to my tendency to not always like what the general public enjoys, my expectations were low. However, Rapp completely blew it out of the park with Snow Angel. I truly believe there is not one skip on this album, which is a rare belief for me. Even the tracks that are not at the immediate top of my list are still high up there on my overall ranking from all songs released in modern years. From the high-energy, infectious tracks such as “Talk Too Much” and “Pretty Girls,” to the melancholic ballads like “I Wish” and “23,” Rapp created a sonically pleasing album that eloquently tells a cohesive story. Through heartbreak, death, and addiction, the singer shares the complex feelings of a young adult. If you have not listened yet, I implore you to sit down and listen to each track on Snow Angel in the order Rapp intended. You will not regret it.
Photo: Reneé Rapp via reneerapp.com
Written By Karlee Skipper
*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.