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The Ballad of a 20 Year-Old Pop Star

Posted 11/16/2023 by Amaris Medina

Olivia Rodrigo’s new hit album, Guts, is breaking records and taking the music industry by storm. photo by Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo’s new album, Guts, is a raw and powerful journey through heartbreak and growing pains. 

Since the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s highly anticipated sophomore album, she has quickly climbed the charts. The 20 year-old overnight sensation released her debut album, Sour, in 2021. The album reached number one on the charts and won three grammys, one of those including Best Pop Vocal Album. After the success of Sour, many were worried that Guts would not be as triumphant. Rodrigo, however, certainly beat the “sophomore slump,” and her songs had over 200 million streams in the first week alone. Her sound is much more developed in this album, and fans are excited to really find out who she is as an artist and how she’ll change from here on out.

Guts as an album is a large shift from Sour. Rodrigo’s sound is more developed and has a distinct tone. Her lyrics address less heartbreak and instead dive deeper into the struggles of being a young person. The album as a whole reflects the growth and maturity Rodrigo is experiencing as an artist. The lead song, “All American B***h,” is the perfect opening to the album. The song sets the tone for what’s to come in the next 35 minutes of the album. The song begins sweet and innocent, which isn’t expected from Rodrigo as the two singles released from the album are very angry and grunge-esque. Then, the song takes a turn one minute in, taking on a grunge shift that perfectly exemplifies the feelings of what it is to be a teenage girl. The beat doesn’t stop there. “Bad Idea Right” was determined to be one of the most catchy songs on the album. Beneath the depths of the song are relatable lyrics that Rodrigo has never failed to provide. 

The third song on the album is “Vampire.” “Vampire” broke the internet and went viral, similar to “Drivers License from Sour. The lyrics had fans wondering who it could be about, and many theorized that the revengeful lyrics were about Taylor Swift after the rumored feud between the two artists. Rodrigo has since addressed these rumors and said that the song is not about Swift. Overall, behind the drama lies a heart-wrenching ballad showing pain and suffering. “Vampire is the perfect metaphor for someone who has been hurt. Some might find the song to be a little explicit, but the song perfectly exemplifies raw emotions.

“Get Him Back” and “Love Is Embarrassing” have lots of 90’s grunge influences. Rodrigo has stated that she takes lots of influence from grunge artists and it is prominent in this album. She has now branded this as her sound. Rodrigo is bringing the grunge beat and turning it mainstream. “Love Is Embarrassing” is a perfect example of this. The whole basis of the song is a rock pop crossover. The common trait these songs share is the reliability of both. “Get Him Back” makes you want to get up and scream the lyrics at the top of your lungs. And with this, each lyric is hysterically funny and also completely true. “I wanna key his car, I wanna make him lunch, I wanna break his heart and be the one to stitch it up,” is just one example of the cleverness of her lyrics. 

While some of the songs go back to her original Sour roots, there is one major difference. Her voice has matured tremendously. Some considered Rodrigo’s voice to be whiny after listening to her first album. She changes this narrative throughout Guts. Not only has her voice matured but her writing has as well. Her writing has become so much more than expressing anger towards past relationships. It fully paints the picture and perspective of feeling like she is giving her all but never receiving it back. “Logical” has to be one of the only songs on the entire album that shows maturity in all aspects. Rodrigo hits high notes perfectly. She uses analogies that are so powerful, making the listener feel the pain of her experiences through the lyrics. Whether it be heartbreak or a bad relationship, listeners are able to relate to her lyrics in some way. This is the best part of Rodrigo as an artist. 

Lacy,” “Ballad of a Homeschool Girl,” “Pretty isn’t pretty,” and “Teenage dream” all discuss the pressures young people go through. Rodrigo has addressed these topics in her lyrics previously but in this album has shined an even brighter light on these issues. “Ballad of a Homeschool Girl” discusses social anxiety. This is a breath of fresh air in the music industry because anxiety is often a taboo topic. Rodrigo isn’t afraid to show her true feelings in the song, allowing others to relate to the song and find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. “Pretty isn’t pretty” is another lyrical masterpiece. Rodrigo is able to write about experiences that so many have and share her thoughts so openly. Each lyric gives a deeper understanding into beauty standards and their effects, setting her apart from other artists because she is relatable and able to show her fans that she goes through the same things that they do. She connects to her teenage audience by expressing the thoughts so many of them have. The closing song of the album, “Teenage dream,” wraps it up perfectly. Rodrigo talks to the audience through the song. It covers the struggles of being in the spotlight and the pressures pop stars face. While the song is about her experience, it can also be applied to others’ experiences dealing with societal standards and the pressures society sets on teens and young people. 

Rodrigo succeeded in giving her audience another album that does not disappoint. From the raw emotions in “Vampire” to the catchy beats in “Get him back,” she has created her perfect ballad. It’s an album that perfectly captures the ups and downs of a young person’s life and will resonate with everyone in some way. Rodrigo’s talent shines through in every track, making Guts a must-listen for any music lover.