“Snow Angel,” Reneé Rapp (Interscope Records)
Reneé Rapp sings about the trials of trusting oneself and the tribulations of communicating with others on her debut album, “Snow Angel.” In other words: She waits by a phone and hopes that it rings, she overthinks and knows it.
The album’s 12 tracks — with lyrics navigating relationships, sexuality, growing up and those themes' accompanying anxieties — oscillate between shimmery, upbeat pop and robust ballads. They are cathartic, sometimes tragic, and sometimes knowingly petty. The thematic and sonic range combine into a worthy debut for an artist with already-proven versatility.
Rapp’s name first became synonymous (in some niche circles, at least) with her powerful vocals in 2018, when she won a Jimmy — a prestigious high school musical theater award. She was on Broadway a year later, beginning what would be a yearlong stint as Regina George in “Mean Girls,” a role she will reprise in an upcoming film adaptation. Rapp then spent two seasons as lesbian Upper East Sider Leighton Murray on HBO’s Mindy Kaling-produced series “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” all while growing a loyal fanbase on social media.
If the release of her 2022 EP “Everything to Everyone” quickly earned her a spot on the roster of the internet’s favorite pop artists, “Snow Angel” should push her firmly into pop star territory.
“Poison Poison” and “Pretty Girls” stand out sonically — they are biting and blunt, with a bright production that counters the bold and heavy ballads that anchor the album and Rapp’s previous releases.
The fingerprints of her musical theater career are there (I’d like to see a coming-of-age musical with “I Hate Boston” as a rousing, pre-intermission ballad) but the album is largely a departure — and an embrace of a sound that feels familiar, but mostly because it has a personality that is familiarly Reneé.
Still, there is some character work at play: “Talk Too Much” exhibits an Olivia Rodrigo -esque angst; “Gemini Moon” is apologetic; “Tummy Hurts” is the opposite; “The Wedding Song” and “I Wish” are melodic and nostalgic; “So What Now” and “Poison Poison” descend into playful outros, reminiscent of fellow internet pop star Sabrina Carpenter ’s viral treatment of “Nonsense."
But “Snow Angel,” the album’s title track and lead single, remains its aching heart. It is Rapp at her best: A combination of soft and steady soprano reflections that climb toward a bridge that is as intense vocally as it is undeniably emotive, before falling back to Earth.