The Rise of Reneé Rapp

By Rachel Hackam, Correspondent

On Feb. 24, 2022, Reneé Rapp released the deluxe version of her EP “Everything to Everyone,” consisting of the long-awaited song “Bruises” and the extended version of the title track “Everything to Everyone.”

Before gaining her popstar title, Rapp debuted on Broadway in 2019 as Regina George in “Mean Girls.” She continued this role until the show shut down due to COVID-19. Like many of us, Rapp turned to TikTok for entertainment during quarantine—there, she performed covers of her favorite songs, showcasing her strong vocals as fans begged her to release an original.

Over the last few months, Rapp’s popularity has skyrocketed; she currently has over one million followers on TikTok, and almost 670,000 on Instagram. 

In November 2021, Rapp transitioned from stage to screen, starring in Mindy Kaling’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” The show follows four roommates as they navigate the highs and lows of college—including everything from romantic/sexual endeavors to work-study programs and financial aid appeals. Both Rapp and her character Leighton Murray identify as queer, a main subplot of season two.

While filming both seasons, Rapp maintained her social media presence, entertaining viewers with snippets of her daily life. She continued to tease her own music and, in February 2022, shared part of her debut single “Tattoos.” 

Rapp promoted this emotional song for several months before releasing it on June 3, 2022. “Tattoos” shares her hesitancy to trust new partners after being hurt in the past, and gives listeners context of her romantic history. While the song focuses on one relationship, it also contextualizes her current mindset. 

After “Tattoos,” Rapp released another single titled “In the Kitchen.” The song explores the transition from being in a relationship with someone to never speaking to them again—encapsulated by the last line before the chorus: “Strangers to lovers to enemies.” The song focuses less on a specific person and more on what Rapp felt when she returned to rooms she spent a significant amount of time in with the other person. 

The lines, “So I’ll dance with your ghost in the living room/ and play the piano alone/ But I’m too scared to delete our old videos, cause it’s real once everyone knows,” take us through Rapp’s feelings of separation immediately after the breakup. 

Before she released her EP, Rapp released one more single, “Don’t Tell My Mom,” which details her hidden struggles with mental health that she doesn’t want anyone to worry about. While promoting the song, Rapp opened up about her own anxieties and not wanting to feel like a burden. The song begins with a flashback of Rapp as a child, then transitions into her teenage years before exploring where she is today. 

The chorus goes, “So don’t tell my mom / I’m falling apart / she hurts when I hurt / my scars are her scars / she’ll talk to her friends / impress all of them / at least in her mind / her daughter is fine / oh please don’t let her hear / I’m dying inside / ‘cause she’s dealt with this for years / I’ve got it this time.” These lyrics speak to the difficult transition from relying on a parent to protecting them from yourself. The song explores the delicate balance between wanting support and wanting everyone to think you’re fine. 

In fall 2022, Rapp released her long-awaited EP “Everything to Everyone,” which contained seven tracks including “In the Kitchen” and “Don’t Tell My Mom.” 

The eponymous opening track “Everything to Everyone” was only an intro when first released, then extended on the deluxe version. It explores feeling like you’re doing everything for everyone while not doing anything for yourself. 

The lyrics, “I can’t be everything to everyone / You call at 3 a.m. I’m picking up / I need the guts to go and give you up, cause I’ll kill myself tryin’, and I’m not scared of dyin’,” capture the duality of wanting to be there for your friends but knowing it is also important to take care of yourself. The deluxe version includes an additional verse about the pressure to be the friend that has everything figured out. 

Following “In the Kitchen,” track three of the deluxe EP is titled “Colorado” and highlights the desire to move away from your problems but knowing you won’t do it. As explained in the lyrics, “I choose the devil I know over the heaven I don’t,” the current struggles are easier to stomach than navigating a new city would be. 

Written like a lullaby, track five “What Can I Do” illustrates falling in love with someone but knowing you’re only a friend, as described in the opening verse: “Your boyfriend’s in the bathroom and I’m holding your hand / I wonder if he notices the things that I can / You don’t even get it, no, you don’t understand / I want you but I know I’m just one of your friends.” This song follows “Don’t Tell My Mom” and is the first “gay song” Rapp wrote. 

The upbeat track six “Too Well” explores the moment when you finally move on from a breakup—when you wake up one day and don’t feel pain. 

“Today I woke up / In a good mood for once / First time in six months / I don’t hate you as much.” Because of the quick tempo and overall positive vibes, this song has become one of the most popular songs on the album, especially during Rapp’s tour at the end of 2022. 

The final song on the original version of the EP is titled “Moon,” and describes the confusing feeling of knowing a person that hurt you so much is still out there since you’re “looking at the same moon,” but also recognizing that you’re okay. 

In addition to the full version of “Everything to Everyone,” the deluxe version of the EP includes “Bruises.” Several months before it was released, Rapp performed this song on tour. It highlights her insecurities, and what it feels like when friends make fun of you without malicious intent, it is best portrayed in the lines: “And sure I’m down to be the joke / metaphorically though / you could flip me inside out and they would show / black purple and green / yeah I bruise easily.” Additionally, the lyrics “I’ve spent 365 days, and 52 weeks in my brain / going over the same thing that girls said when we was in fourth grade” illuminates the thought spirals that happen when you are perseverating over past conversations. 

As a whole, the album takes the listener on two separate journeys—one focusing on Rapp herself and her internal struggles, and another detailing the aftermath of a breakup beginning with heartbreak, and ending with acceptance. Each track on the album focuses on an integral relationship in Rapp’s life, with herself, a friend, or a partner. 

With the inclusion of “Bruises” and “Everything to Everyone (full version),” this record makes people feel seen. It proves that you are not alone as you combat mental health struggles, even though it can feel incredibly isolating. 

Rapp verbalizes her internal thoughts, thoughts many of us have but don’t admit, and creates a sense of connection between the listener as an individual, Rapp herself, and the community of her fans.