Olivia Rodrigo Rips Out Everyone’s “GUTS” on Sophomore Ascent — In Depth Album Review
With the heyday of the glorious teen pop stars distinct to the 2000s all the way to the early 2010s, it’s no secret that today’s pop music industry has been struggling to crown an artist that can engrave their name in golden letters on the top pedestal, and actually stay there. In the current overly accessible and oversaturated music industry, you must possess enough musical innovation yet wide appeal to be the sharpest and shiniest needle in the haystack. There are few and far between that have managed to strike a match amongst the haze, but miss Olivia Rodrigo didn’t buy a jug of gasoline for nothing.
While the smash debut album SOUR and the glory of namely “driver’s license” and “good 4 u” as hit singles was an auspicious bang to start her journey as a musical artist, a debut artist is still a debut artist. The more time had passed, the more eager people were to poke holes in her inexperienced trekking of the complicated industry. Being a rookie trying to not fall in the pits of controversy that pop out at every turn — from copyright publishing nightmares, illusive misogynist relation battlefields, and watchful eyes of public scrutiny for every breath is a hell to take in. Not to mention, the feel of the shaking pedestal under your feet during the creation of your next project, with audiences ready to call the infamous ‘sophomore slump’. Oh, and a personal life that never disappeared.
Olivia took that pressure and turned her follow-up album GUTS into the diamonds she covers her dresses in.
SOUR as an introduction established a clear image that led to her being propped up as the figurehead of the teenage experience. The theme of the first shattering of juvenile expectations of love and societal standards with the sonic sound of angsty punk pop and bedroom pop acoustic ballads all culminated to her success. Only two years later, GUTS audaciously builds upon both the lyrical theming and musical composition, to take us into a simultaneously weighty and darker, yet significantly more playful space. As the now 20 year old Rodrigo has stated “I made the bulk of this album [“GUTS”] during my 19th year” when announcing the album, it reinforces that this project is about the decayment of her teenagehood — all the crumblings of every assumption and every rejection turned lesson.
She seamlessly weaves heavy-hearted ballads with a new rambunctious route — to further developments of old school 90s rock with comic tongue-and-cheek lyrics. The vigorous guitars fulfill any fretfulness, but the overall tone of the album leaves me, in all honesty, devastated. Every track has an insatiable desire for a clear head, whether through driving aggression or despondent piano chords.
The rawness in the depth of the fluctuating emotions is something not unfamiliar in her prior music, but here, the somberness of the entire subject matter made this album stay with me in a way I somehow didn’t expect, but is very much welcomed.
Her matured voice with an added deepness and rasp, various singing styles that twist her words into bold, miniscule-sized, or mangled fonts, and the extremely apparent growth in clever songwriting skills with diverse tones easily puts GUTS above the already tall shelf of the previous SOUR.
The astounding opener “all-american bitch” is not only excellent at showcasing the musical development since SOUR, but now is also just one of her best songs she’s got in her motherfuckin’ pocket. Everything here is her flexing the craftsmanship of her progressed artistry that is novel yet true to her. Oh yeah, and she also screams. If and when a woman suddenly unleashes any myriad of screams in a song, I will absolutely be in full support.
The trope of female rage is not anything foreign for Rodrigo to touch on, but even just from the title phrase “all-american bitch,” she so precisely nails the all-encompassing, deep, self-repulsing irritation that comes out as extremely petty passive aggression. The verses here are a highlight of the whole album for me, as the lyrics are some of her best and the vocal delivery paired with the production behind it just gratifies my senses.
The song, and therefore album, opens up in earnest with Americana-style acoustic guitar riffs with a ladylike delicacy to her voice. The first verse is her playing with the dichotomic role women are expected to play, as indicated with the lines of opposing examples, “I am light as a feather and as stiff as a board” and (my absolute favorite line of the song) “I am built like a mother and a total machine”. Those lines act as perfect instances to tell that despite being contradicting, women are supposed to be either side depending on when others decide so, and it’s the woman’s fault and means for ridicule if they don’t slot into the ‘correct’ behavior at the ‘appropriate’ time. The other parts of the verses continue this idea of necessarily catering to traditional, patriarchal ideals of how an ‘all-American’ woman full of ‘class and integrity’ should act — which is to bring endless light and empathy to men’s life, of course, told with passive aggression that peeps its way through.
Any bit of a facade falls down as the first chorus drops the lighthearted acoustics for the brief drum fill that takes us into the heavy burst of the rock guitars as Rodrigo almost clamors over it. Now onto the second verse, a bit of bass and drums keep up some of the gained energy as the production reverts back to the familiar acoustics in the first verse. As she continues the theme of presenting an outward posh behavior, the chorus comes back to destroy it all but this time in its full form — as the first chorus cut out at the phrase ‘all-American’ before it reaches the word ‘bitch’. The extended chorus in all its glory is the total unleashing of the bubbling frustration, as it concludes with the glorious racket of screaming. It’s the absolute accumulation of the growing resentment throughout the song (but honestly, also throughout her previous album), yet it still decides to end back to a calm and collected state — back to the gentle acoustic guitar and airy vocals as she claims she’s still her graceful self. Of course, still letting her true feelings slip — “I’m grateful all the time (fucking time).”
The album’s second pre-released single “bad idea right?” stopped everybody in their tracks — for a multitude of reasons. The track is the boldest of any of her former singles. The 2000s-inspired rock track is chaotic, bombastic, sarcastic, dramatic, and most importantly — fun! While a handful of songs on her previous album showed us that she’s not averse to shredding electric guitars, it definitely leaned into a mild pop-punk vibe compared to the full theatrics here. The difference in intensity and ramped up theatrics explains the controversial reactions when it initially came out.
First of all, the verses are Rodrigo talking in an exaggerated, attitude-filled sing-songy voice coated in a telephone-like muffling vocal filter. Her campy tone paired with lyrics that could be ripped straight from a teen movie is vital in setting up the song’s boisterous mood and flippant premise of hooking up with an ex. She recites these lines over a minimal steady rhythmic set of a guitar riff, bass, and snare for the verses. The pre-chorus is a flawless balance of added legato through the vocal melody, before the drawn out background vocals drop out for the repetitive and addicting guitar riffs and the infamous “Seein’ you tonight, it’s a bad idea, right?” It builds up in a whiny climax, up until the abrupt fake-out drop with the single line of surrender, for the chanted chorus to jump in with the full out robust, fuzzy guitar riff and clashing drums carrying it. The following sections add small but significant flourishes, such as a brief sassy call and response (to quickly chime in on the ‘or in whose sheets’ vs. ‘in his sheets’ debate that no one is asking me for — I’m team “in his sheets” for the small extra shock factor, regardless of the fact it’s not the actual lyric), vocal chops instead of the elongated vowels in the pre-chorus, and whoevers ingenious idea it was for background long scream that grows louder in the chorus buildup. Towards the end of the final chorus, the already prominent electric guitar grows into a mind of its own as lines of distortion interrupt to jarringly turn to an deranged, epic, piercing dial-toned solo to drown out Olivia’s voice that attempts to jump in between. The outro is a classic fade out with that signature rhythm and her voice melting away.
Ever since my first listen, I felt it was the most show stopping song of her career yet and immediately became obsessed. Owing to the fact that no part of the track attempts to take itself seriously, some listeners have perceived it off-putting in its interpreted childishness. While others like myself, recognize the carefreeness as its massive charm. Experiencing this entirely new side to Rodrigo’s musical prowess is such a joy, as creating a good cheeky pop track is its own set of skills — not to mention that this is only the start of more variations of this style within the rest of the album. A poptimist’s dream consists of the hooks and humor galore of “bad idea right?”
The lead single “vampire” is another significant venture outside of what we’ve previously heard from Rodrigo. It begins as a barren scene — a classic piano ballad with an echoey, careful whispery voice lacing the poignant revelations of the antagonist. Every lyric of this song holds this sense of saddened bitterness, of defeat and regret that only builds in exasperation; it’s the kind of tone the hero would have after losing the final battle. Eerie background pads in the first chorus only amplify the haunting feeling the narrator is overtaken by. While each chorus has their own sonic variation, the grounding force of the emotionally rousing vocal melody in conjunction with Olivia’s impassioned voice that emboldens more and more as the song unravels is its ultimate appeal.
The second verse pumps up the pace with a stable thumping bass drum and snappier piano, and continues to develop the hastier rhythm through the forthcoming chorus with additional snare hits and background ‘ooh’s swirled in. After the croaked out acapella moment at the end of that second chorus, in comes a rapid pulsed synth and the ‘ooh’s turn into a distant scream of a scared ‘ah’. The bridge introduces a more eager, and frankly more interesting drum pattern that extends to the climax of the final chorus and violently pulsating instrumental outro.
Honestly, my thoughts about this song still continue to flip flop. On the very first few listens I loved how cinematic the whole production felt and of course, the superb songwriting — including the infectious chorus melody, subject matter, and overarching metaphor. Putting the plainly harrowing experience of being taken advantage of by an older man front and center as the album’s lead single is boldness I can appreciate. But once the adrenaline from hearing a brand new song started to wear off, I find that there are some parts that bog down the momentum it aimed to create. The hurried yet subdued melody of the verses doesn’t completely mesh well with the rest of the song, and especially the whole middle section of the song is kind of a gaping weak spot. It attempts to steadily build up to the ending climax to avoid a jarring jump, but instead it just drags on and you end up waiting for the big payoff that only comes once the song is almost over. It would have been better to lean into the surprising sonic turn right away and go full send with an even bigger climax instead of the debilitating awkward medium attempt to bridge the opposing sounds. Plus, the track acting as the introduction for the new album when it sonically doesn’t match well with the rest of the tracks is an… interesting choice. The song played in the right mood is still enjoyable, but it does not touch the more competent tracks on the rest of GUTS — which makes “vampire” seem so watered down in comparison to the places other tracks dare to go.
“lacy” has enchanted its way to the top rankings of the album for me. It’s objectively a pretty simple song, but Rodrigo takes its premise and expertly executes it. She’s frequently written about female envy, encompassing the likes of beauty standards to flawlessly glamorous lifestyles, but this track has to be my favorite portrayal. My favorite writing angle of Olivia’s is when she gets into ugly feelings (previous examples being “happier”, “deja vu”, & “jealousy, jealousy”) and doesn’t try to sugarcoat it. On “lacy”, she fully dives the deepest she’s ever gone into that dark pit of jealousy.
Her voice and the production here is remarkably creepy and turns my stomach to the extent that I think maybe I should be turned off by that sensation, but I rather find myself completely fascinated by such a strong vocal performance that is so unique from Olivia and modern pop in general. The vocal delivery impeccably matches the disturbing nature of the stalker-like detailed observations of this female ideal named ‘lacy.’ The juxtaposition of ‘lacy’s’ described sweetness of her skin, eyes, and ribbons in her hair complimented by an almost villainous stomach-churning far observer who ‘lingers all the time’ and describes her experience of ‘lacy’ as “The sweetest torture one could bear…it’s like you’re out to get me / You poison every little thing that I do” makes it all the more unsettling. The sweetly-picked acoustic guitar underneath all the uneasiness acts as the delicate ever-so flawless angelic ‘lacy’ and the beauty of her that the narrator is observing. There’s vocal moments of both sonic intimacy from whispers right up to your ear and an otherworldly atmosphere with harmonies afloat.
Olivia nails the inner egregious female jealousy that makes the person taken aback by themselves for even thinking these thoughts for one second. While most aligned women don’t let themselves take these too far, here, I love how she indulges in that nauseating dark filth that is a pool of ingrained patriarchal/misogynist belief that breeds itself as comparison, but also includes waves of the other natural inclination to adore and pedestalize the ravishing wonder that is women. This song reaffirms to me that Olivia is such a rarity of a gift amongst the modern pop scene in tackling emotions that people find revolting and lets them be given some light of day; it’s a huge part of why people connect so intrinsically to her music.
On “ballad of a homeschooled girl”, we’re back to the punky guitar rock. Compared to the prior rock-centric tracks “all-american bitch” and “bad idea right?”, this one is low end and rhythm-forward with an unadulterated iteration of young angst — the presumable mangled result of a homeschooled girl trying to socialize out in the world. Her vocal delivery here again is attitude filled and conversational, but this time with a certain energy behind it — rather than coming off as standoffish, here, she cares too much. With the title “ballad of a homeschooled girl” that takes on the meaning of a narration rather than a slow song, our narrator spills all about every self-conscious ideation and socially awkward interaction her anxious mind has ruminated over. A faulty amp mishap exposes us to the body of bulky drums, grungy guitar, a high toned riff, and a raw bassline. The rhythm section takes hold of the agile first verse with a faint background distorted ringing guitar that wanders about and develops a rough, chugging guitar. The narrator candidly groans about all the ways she feels alienated, growing increasingly vexed about it — yelling “The party’s done, and I’m no fun, I know, I know, I know, I know”! The chorus is a party of the brash instruments and a wailed out list of clumsy and cringey social blunders — with extra emphasis on the drawn out key phrase of the whole song, “It’s social suicide”! Carefree ‘ah’s are there to round it out, reminding us that yes, it’s all fatal, but it’s also whatever.
The second verse takes a second to switch up the dynamics by having the mere bassline act as the backdrop for a sudden fun fast-talked, almost rap break of more faux pas. The beginning of the final chorus winds down with straggled notes of frail guitar lines paired with an off-kilter winding, wry voice as the guitar chugs back into the familiar brash instrumental and yell on ‘suicide’. The outro gives us last spouted out examples of her mental disorientation, with a frantic string of ‘la la la’s, a tired sigh, and dying down cracking electric guitars to close us out.
While “ballad of a homeschooled girl” is undeniably a great, fun track to thrash around and scream out to, it’s personally my least favorite of the rock-inspired bunch — just by a matter of personal taste from someone who fancies melody somewhat over rhythm.
The lulling track “making the bed” winds us down and lays the bed for us — not to rest, but for our dreams to unveil the self sabotage that haunts in the dark. On this song, Olivia takes a moment to look up from the mess of her life — at her bare hands that she believed to have a mind of its own, hit with the reality that her limbs were never disconnected. She finds clarity in this hazy state of mind, most apparently imaged by the beautifully written scene in the second verse where she recalls a symbolic dream regarding a turbulent city drive. The imagery she outlines there and the lines “They tell me that they love me like I’m some tourist attraction / They’re changing my machinery and I just let it happen” are my favorite parts of the whole song. I appreciate how the prose on this song is casually sincere, in a way that feels like a stream of consciousness in a vulnerable conversation with your best friend, just sitting on your bed with hours unknowingly passing by as you talk.
A waning signal sets the plane for the reverb heavy production. A wavering synth pad and resounding guitar notes line the first verse, before a bigger atmosphere is created with distant echoing drums and a subtle crunchy bleeding synth. The fully instrumental bridge takes the spacious, somewhat calm soundscape so far and stuffs all the empty space with a rash and loud stage array of layered crunchy, ringing, and booming synths which overwhelms the ear as convoluted emotions overwhelm the narrator’s entire being. The outro simply brings us back to Earth with Rodrigo’s light singing over a piano.
While there are a handful of wonderful qualities about this song, I do find it a tad less interesting sonically and lyrically, like a majority of the ballads on this album — they might be the one advantage SOUR has over this sophomore project. The writing on the first verse of “making the bed” is frankly forgettable for the most part, give and take the last few set of lines. The chorus is a good metaphor for her current emotional state, but the way it plays out is simply a little stale. While shorter length songs don’t tend to bother me as long as it delivers what it’s aiming for well, here I do notice how it feels like a short blip of a moment. I would’ve liked if perhaps the theme was explored a little more.
Continuing the talk about ballads, the following track “logical” is easily my least favorite song on the album. It’s a relatively straightforward piano-centric track about fighting against logic in an unhealthy relationship that can’t be rationalized. It just feels stagnant in the recurrent piano key pattern that is vastly unchanging through most of the song. There’s a mimicking guitar picking pattern and a background synth pad, maybe a touch of background vocals, to attempt to add some interesting depth, but it doesn’t do much of anything. Plus the plain vocal melodies and lyrics are okay at its best. The chorus ‘2+2=5’ and weather metaphors is just too on the nose and overdone, especially compared to her usual writing, unfortunately coming across as sort of juvenile. Olivia’s beautiful vocal expression is really the most interesting thing here that prevents the song from being just bad.
I find that not only does it underdeliver in the bland composition, but the subject matter is something that is presented all throughout the album already, making the existence of this track feel so trivial.
It’s hard for me to get into it until the bridge and outro makes my heart sink. Cutting off all the instruments and leaving the swell of the buzzed electronic synth in the bridge, it reveals some of the most damning evidence that takes a hanging band-aid and rips off every hair from the skin underneath — “Cause loving you is every / Argument you held over me head / Brought up the girls you could have instead / Said I was too young, I was too soft / Can’t take a joke, can’t get you off”. They took the most ghastly part of the song and made sure it was the grand climax by the loudness of the synth and how Rodrigo passionately and loudly sings, almost screams, these lyrics with her chest voice through gritted teeth. The rusty voice for the lines that follow the aforementioned passage — “Oh, why do I do this? / I look so stupid thinking” is so, so heartbreaking.
The delicate outro is a new melody featuring the repetition of the word ‘logical’ that still feels elementary, besides the sprinkled personal confessions of “I know I’m half responsible / And that makes me feel horrible…I know I could’ve stopped it all / God, why didn’t I stop it all?”
In all honesty, even as my least favorite tracks, “making the bed” and “logical” both give me this gut-wrenching sympathy for Olivia, as these songs are full of self-blame. Just based on the entire collection of Rodrigo’s lyrics, she has a deeply self-reflective nature and on GUTS, it makes for a profoundly compelling album but also just devastating. The feeling lingers all over the album, but on some tracks like these, it just punches.
It’s time to roll out the red carpet and get the cameras ready for the latest single on Rodrigo’s roster, “get him back!”
It’s another addition to the assembly of 90s/00s rock-inspired tracks, but this one is the laid back sister among the siblings. There’s a bit of a fun fake out from the opening recording of a beat count-off until the third count, when someone stops to ask “Wait, is this the song with the drums?” and Olivia’s vocals then enter before the edgy beat drops. That small anticipation for the beat makes the already solid instrumental extremely gratifying. The droning distorted guitar motif and drum set barrage into the track with again more of a casual chatty, scoffing cadence layered up with filtered vocal recordings, recalling the ups and downs of this bad relationship in the verses.
The drums intensify as it gets into the chorus, but of course, not without a brief acapella of the last line to transition before the crash. The main droning guitar from the verses turns into a thicker guitar that coats the louder, thrashing drums with a lingering wobbling high toned flourish in the back. The guitars aren’t slamming but riding in waves, taking the backseat for the drums as the current the star of the show. The accompanying constructed shouty, crowd vocals are not new to this album’s sound, but the more whiny melody and tone of it adds to the fun and almost acts like her mocking herself for being so indecisive about her feelings towards the ex. The lyrics of the big chorus ingeniously takes the phrase ‘get him back’ to simultaneously mean both ‘get revenge’ and ‘get back together’ to perfectly represent her contradictory feelings. All the elements together produce a groove to it that’s infectious.
The first half of the second verse keeps it compelling with the mere zippy motif cruising under the vocals before bringing it all back in.
The bridge solidified this song for me as an excellent, exemplary song that in my eyes could give it instant classic status — it’s easily one of the best moments of the whole album. The verses wonderfully showcase her storytelling ability in a cheeky manner but the bridge simply shows rather than tell; she states acts she wants to do to her ex that are either loving or vengeful. Gentle repeated background vocals cushion the rasping, turning more aggressive declarations. The lyrics “I wanna meet his mom… / Just to tell her her son sucks” in particular is the line of all lines.
The classic anti-drop post-bridge chorus before the final chorus with the aerial chanting backgrounded by acoustic guitar strums satisfies the gap between the building tension in the bridge and the wonderful chorus. The outro is so delightful with the playful “I’ll get him, I’ll get him, I’ll get him, I’ll get him back” alongside cheers leading into off-hand commentary by Olivia and her production crew. It’s just so so fun and adds even more amusement to the tantalizing track.
“love is embarrassing” is another reflective track about adverse dating experiences, but now she is able to let loose and poke fun through a bubbly tune. She turns cringey moments of “And you kissed some girl from high school” and “And I consoled you while you cried / Over your ex-girlfriend’s new guy / My God, how could I be so stupid?” that physically made me pucker my lips from embarrassment into a fun pleasurable pop track to sing along to.
Sonically, this is a turn from the compilation of punk-inspired tracks or ballads that permeate the album. The bright toned guitar riffs, resonant oscillation, and steady jogging rhythm is very reminiscent of 80s new wave, with perhaps the poppy chorus leaning towards more modern late 2000s/early 2010s bands.
I love her vocal approach of the low tone with a drawn out exaggerated pronunciation on the vowels, as heard in the words ‘goddamn fool,’ ‘doin’’, and of course the way she says ‘stupid’ (which is exactly how I sound in my head whenever it’s me ruminating about myself). This song is another that truly feels like hearing your friend rant about a guy that you were waiting for her to realize she was too good for. The sassy cadenced post-chorus and outro “I give up, I give up, I give up everything” is the juicy cherry on top to the addicting melodies.
It’s another noticeably short track that’s straightforward but it delivers — the only reason I want it to be longer would be to just have more of it rather than the song needing it. It’s such a delightful track that acts as a breather as one of the most lighthearted and bubbliest songs on the album.
“the grudge” is a clear-cut piano ballad with embellishments of atmospheric pads, an ever so faint hollow picked guitar, and the slightest touch of strings that come alive at the bridge. The way it builds in emotion reminds me of “drivers license” and “enough for you” from SOUR, with the mirroring sense of disbelief of a broken down relationship. This quaint ballad is unpacking the lingering damage done by someone which you can’t fathom anything about it — from the perpetrator, the situation, to your current self that can’t be untangled from it, that you desperately wish you could fix by sheer willpower.
It could get easily overlooked within an album so sonically brazen and lyrically biting, but similar to “logical”, her high emotive ability in her singing voice (which has been her strongest charm since her debut) is what gives the song its life. The most dynamic element of the track is the way she plays with the momentum of her voice through melodies and volume level, from chesty low whispers, squeezed out whimpering words, and high belts lined with a choked up rasp.
The majority of the song is nothing too smashing, but the bridge is the ultimate emotional peak where she loudly belts from the inner lava churning from her insides, almost screaming in angry, helpless disbelief, before the defeatedness of the final moments. The raw recording of the piano being played, which you can hear in the small mechanical sound of the fingers on the keys, is a really nice touch to the song that relies on its unpolishedness. I can see how the plainness in the prose and production wouldn’t allow for someone to connect to the song, but if you do find yourself connecting to the feeling, this song fulfills that ache. It’s all about the feeling, and nothing more or less.
“pretty isn’t pretty” is the younger sonic sister to the aforementioned “love is embarrassing”.
The instrumental has a similar brightness from the guitar, but this time leaning into a flanger and fuzzy effects to create a dream-pop reminiscent sound with a hint of surf rock. The blissful beachy rhythmic guitar and easygoing drum pattern is something one could describe as a ‘pretty’ sounding backdrop for the begrudged confessions of attempts to be on top of beauty standards and realizing you’re just running on an infinitely looped treadmill. The pessimistic lines are sung with a throaty distress and haphazardness that trails off into the dazed atmosphere. The split of the breezy instrumental and dispirited lyrics actually strikes a pleasing balance to listen to. The brightness acts as a comfort from the gut disappointment she sings about, even though at the same time it also parallels the seeming abundance of beauty and grace in society, almost drowning out the narrator’s disillusionment.
Initially, I was actually rather unimpressed by the track because of the beauty image insecurity theme that she’s tackled before — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if only there is something expanded on or a new angle on the topic. However, this song doesn’t feel like it has any fresh perspective on the matter, but merely a thematic rehashing of namely “jealousy, jealousy” from SOUR. While I still have my gripes about it, the overall atmospheric sound is just too good and is really making it grow on me as a whole. There are a couple lines of good imagery that catch my attention, but the majority of the reiterated lyrics bring down the song from being its best.
The laudable closer “teenage dream” is maybe Rodrigo’s most profound song to date. While there have been numerous moments on this album that bring forth an agonizing pitted feeling, this is a song about the universal grieving of our youth — which can easily transcend into the looming woe that becomes ubiquitous throughout the entirety of life.
The title and catalyst of the whole track is the direct answer to the iconic line — “Where’s my fucking teenage dream?” — from “brutal”, the opening track of Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR. The line itself of course references the phrase ‘teenage dream’, popularized by Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album and hit single — it’s an expression that is used to equate teenage years to feeling like a beautiful dream. This song is a send off to her tumultuous teenage youth, laying the idea of the illusive ‘teenage dream’ to rest. The entire haunting sentiment comes from not being the illusion — but the shatterment of it.
The bluntly truthful verses contain rhetorical questions of the inherent perception of teenage naivety feeling endlessly limiting within these so-called liberating years. The narrator acknowledges how societal perceptions hold her back, but also goes on to wander into a form of imposter syndrome in which her skills are only deemed adept due to her young age. She dives even further into the forest through wondering if the negative teenage ‘naive’ feelings, thoughts, and actions are perhaps a part of her and not be able to be grown out of.
It starts off as a familiar C major key piano ballad with a more off-kilter chord progression to express a loneliness, along with budding strings, until it leans into this gut-churning narrative by the bridge that grows in creepiness with the stirring ghostly harmonies and background vocals in the first half. Then, the grand piano crashes through the ceiling with a chaotic symphony of hard hitting slams of piano chords, terrorizing shrill synths, and thrashing drums for the ultimate climactic outro. The final cymbal crashes to leave a straggling guitar for the song’s end… until the real closing moment of the album — a small excerpt of Olivia and producer Dan Nigro’s young daughter. As Olivia bids farewell to a critical part of her youth, a fresh new cycle will begin for another child, and will continue on, and will be born again.
There’s a saying that you spend your whole life making your debut work, then only have a transient period to make your follow-up.
I would say that statement is pretty ubiquitous to any medium of artist at any time period. But to miraculously emerge through the stars and meteors, and give off your own ray of light that cascades onto so many other people’s lives in this modern disposable grab & go consumption culture is the testament to Olivia Rodrigo’s inherent artistry.
Rodrigo broke out with debut hit “driver’s license”, proved it wasn’t a blip with “deja vu”, and secured a seat at the table with “good 4 u” and debut album SOUR. She came in with a force that left so many wondering what she would do with it and what would become of it. Delightfully, she knew what she had to do with GUTS and strike the perfect balance of honing in on what herself and audiences resonated with the most while creating a refreshing new take of her world. This project is loaded with scathing emotions, ravening guitars, and proficient melodies and vocals. She knows where to reach in your stomach and twist your insides in a way that is equally cathartic and harrowing.
GUTS is an astounding sophomore album that promises to everyone that Olivia Rodrigo’s fire will only burn brighter.
“all-american bitch” — 10/10
“bad idea right?” — 10/10
“vampire” — 7.5/10
“lacy” — 10/10
“ballad of a homeschooled girl” — 9/10
“making the bed” - 8/10
“logical” — 6/10
“get him back!” - 10/10
“love is embarrassing” — 9/10
“the grudge” — 7/10
“pretty isn’t pretty” — 8/10
“teenage dream” — 9/10
Album rating: 4/5 stars