Here’s a totally reasonable proposal for song of summer 2021: a single that dropped more than a full year ago, in April 2020, to essentially no fanfare, by a 21-year-old singer-songwriter who hasn’t even cracked 4,000 followers on Twitter. Her name’s Chappell Roan, the song is called “Pink Pony Club,” and it sounds like a pop hit from an alternate timeline that somehow ended up in ours by accident. She doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, that’s how under the radar she is, but here’s what we do know about Chappell Roan: Her real name is Kayleigh Rose, she’s from Willard, Missouri, and she was signed to Atlantic at age 17 after writing and uploading a song called “Die Young” to YouTube. By 2017, she had an EP; she moved to California in 2018; and then, in 2020, she released the song of summer of our time, just not the correct time.
“Pink Pony Club” begins with a theatrical piano flourish before opening up into a synthy infectious bangarang about a girl who leaves her small town to “dance” (read: strip) at the glimmering, mythical, titular Pink Pony Club … and who fucking loves her job. Roan’s voice swoops and dips as she builds to the chorus, where she takes on the perspective of the hysterical mother, distraught at her daughter’s chosen career path: “Oh God, what have you done?! You’re a pink pony girl, and you dance at the club!” she wails with all the maternal melodrama of Mildred Pierce. But she’s gonna keep on dancing, dammit. “Pink Pony Club” is a state of mind, its core signifier shifting from strip club to dive bar to drag night. The music video foregrounds the Pride-packaged message of the narrator leaving her small town for West Hollywood, as Roan transforms a biker bar full of grizzled septuagenarians into a flashy space full of leather daddies and drag queens (hey Porkchop!) … all through the power of a dance that calls to mind a Toddlers & Tiaras interpretation of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” choreo (I swear that’s a compliment).
Roan has insisted in interviews that she was inspired to write this song after going to the Abbey one time, but we’re going to choose to ignore that because, lol, the Abbey. “The Pink Pony” is, famously, the name of a chain of seedy strip joints, and Roan’s song evokes some sort of stripper utopia. It comes just in time for Shot Girl Summer; we’ve all been vaxxed and waxed, and we’re ready to go out and bring shame to our mothers. It’s a stripper anthem that squeezes itself in perfectly with the likes of “WAP” and “Twerkulator,” just with a little bit more of a drama-kid kick. “Pink Pony Club” was produced by Daniel Nigro, the genius behind Caroline Polachek’s Pang and Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour. Deserving of the same attention and acclaim? This extremely intelligent devotional on the absolute freedom and joy of embracing one’s inner bimbo. Summer 2020 just wasn’t ready, but this one belongs to the Pink Pony Girls. Tip handsomely.
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