In early 2021, “drivers license” became the song that changed everything for a young and heartbroken Olivia Rodrigo.
The song broke the internet, keeping an 8-week streak at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was an endearing break-up anthem that Rodrigo shortly followed up with her debut album, “SOUR,” which had multiple hit singles and a heavy impact on teenage girls approaching adulthood while going through their first glimpses of heartbreak.
“SOUR” was successful due to its catchiness, relatability and overall ability to transform the pop genre by spouting youthful wisdom with a unique and beautiful voice.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the same can be said for Rodrigo’s newest album, “GUTS.”
After a two-year hiatus, Rodrigo’s writing feels stagnant and melodramatic compared to the compelling lyrics on “SOUR.” Many of the songs also sound similar to each other, with a few exceptions, but Rodrigo’s lovely vocal performance makes up for her less-than-interesting lyrics.
The album starts with “all-american bitch,” which shows off Rodrigo’s ability to flawlessly alternate between her head and chest voice throughout the song. The lyrics are nothing exciting, but I do like the juxtaposition of her switching her tone from sweet to sour between her verses and chorus.
“bad idea, right?” is the second single from the record. It has a catchy chorus, funky and angsty instrumental and a few stand-out lines, all of which make up for a lack of creative or clever songwriting.
Rodrigo’s addition of grunge and angst truly begins to sink its teeth in on the third track, “vampire,” the first single which was released in June. It’s pretty basic but very fun to scream-sing in the car.
“lacy” explores a blurry line between homoeroticism and jealousy with plain lyrics and a similar melody to the rest of Rodrigo’s songs. On “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” the grungy guitar solo at the beginning tricks the listener into thinking the lyrics will be more introspective or interesting than they actually are.
After a few extra listens, I’ve come to enjoy “making the bed.” Rodrigo is both self-aware and self-deprecating in this song, singing over a simple melody with lyrics detailing how she only has herself to blame for feeling unhappy.
Rodrigo continues to blame herself on “logical,” where she sings about manipulation in her past relationship and her irrational thoughts while being entranced in love. The chorus is subpar when it comes to lyrics, but it’s a sad ballad with unfortunate implications about Rodrigo’s denial throughout an unhealthy relationship.
As a stark contrast to “logical,” “get him back!” was definitely my favorite song on the album. I love when Rodrigo gives a pouty and snarky delivery in her music — it really suits her voice and shows off her talent as a musical storyteller. I love a fun revenge song, and Rodrigo didn’t disappoint with this one.
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“love is embarrassing” is the definition of teenage angst. I enjoyed Rodrigo’s candidness about her dating life and rollercoaster of emotions throughout her relationships. While the lyrics are adequate, they’re also relatable for anyone who has made stupid mistakes in their love lives.
“the grudge” has received a lot of praise from people who enjoyed the album, and I agree with them. This song portrays the emotional turmoil Rodrigo has felt even after her relationships. I can feel the frustration in both her voice and verses, which really helps sell this song for me.
The instrumental for “pretty isn’t pretty” is an indie sound that I enjoyed with Rodrigo’s voice. The song’s concept is nothing unique, but it effectively serves as a recount of Rodrigo’s struggle to attain peak physical attractiveness as a woman and the impossibility of being perfect.
“teenage dream” is a nice ending to the album. As harsh as I was at the beginning, this is a satisfying and pretty conclusion to “GUTS.” I loved listening to Rodrigo’s voice alongside the piano on this song as she laments about growing up.
Overall, I see “GUTS” as the bi-curious and grungy older sister to “SOUR” and recommend it to any teenager with growing pains.