On her full-length debut, the emotions are big and the pop pyrotechnics are shrewdly deployed
The debut full-length from Mean Girls and Secret Life of College Girls star Reneé Rapp begins with a striking image: “Taste the blood in my mouth,” she coos at the start of its opening track “Talk Too Much,” an extreme close-up of a neurotic mind in what might be love. Spindly guitars and crisp percussion accompany Rapp’s worst-case-scenario obsessions before exploding on its sugar-bomb chorus, which encapsulates early-adulthood angst while paying homage to Seventies power pop with some well-placed “ooh-woo-ooh-woos”; its breakdown takes the concept literally by allowing Rapp to embark on the sort of circuitous monologue that’s every crushed-out person’s worst nightmare.
And that’s just the first song. Snow Angel is a collection of emotional rollercoasters in miniature, with the 23-year-old Rapp’s versatile voice dipping low and soaring high when the mood demands. The title track chronicles post-breakup depression with knotty metaphors and well-placed pomp-rock fireworks; its quiet-loud-quiet dynamics make it a more abstract take on the neo-power ballad, although “The Wedding Song,” which marries a triumphant chorus with a sighed admittance that “forever won’t last,” is a worthy entrant into that canon. “Willow,” meanwhile, is a sweet, pillowy ode to a friend going through it, with Rapp shrouding her voice in velvety effects and fluid guitar solos as she tries to prevent her pal’s tears—or at least take over weeping duties for a bit.
Rapp’s lyrics are cutting when they need to be, too. The simmering synthpop cut “Pretty Girls” is a standout, with sumptuous sonics and an insistent, immediately catchy chorus that sounds made for soundtracking get-ready-with-me videos, while its verses demystify the world of those rarefied beings. Across Snow Angel, Rapp’s lyrics are endlessly quotable: “yes, I am a feminist/but bitch, you’re making it so hard to me/to always be supporting women,” she smirks on “Poison Poison,” a breezily infuriated ode to “the worst person on earth” leavened by some well-placed “la-la-la”s. (It ends with her whisper-singing “fuck you” in a gleeful way.)
If anything, Snow Angel is a sign that big-ticket pop has entered its post-SOUR phase with gusto. (Alexander 23, a singer-songwriter who’s worked with SOUR producer Dan Nigro as an artist and who co-produced Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U,” produced the bulk of the album.) The emotions are big and the pyrotechnics are shrewdly deployed, and Rapp’s searing soprano is up for the task of matching their intensity—even when she’s unsure of herself, as she is on the reflective album closer “23,” a delicately arranged overview of the anxieties she’s experiencing during her “Jordan year.” “I hope that I can care less/ but I’m afraid to care less,” she muses as the album fades out, neatly summarizing the quandary experienced by anyone who’s been considered “intense.” Snow Angel allows Rapp to channel her larger-than-life emotions into twisty pop songs that take big swings while being keenly aware of the human at their core.