Do you want to know what it is like to be a teenager in 2023? Let’s check-in with pop icon Olivia Rodrigo. Last Friday Rodrigo released her highly-anticipated sophomore album, “GUTS.” The album features 12 songs that showcase Rodrigo’s classic pop-punk style, her compelling vocals and her angsty perspective. The new album also represents a period of growth for Rodrigo as she experiments with her music.
Coming off of her successful breakout album “SOUR,” which received several accolades, including Best Pop Vocal album at the Grammys, Rodrigo set a high standard for herself with “GUTS.” In an interview with Apple Music, she shared the pressure she felt when starting the new album.
“I couldn’t sit at the piano without thinking about what other people were going to think about what I was playing,” she said.
Part of the great success of “SOUR” came from Rodrigo’s collaboration with music producer Dan Nigro, who has worked with artists like Carly Rae Jepsen and Sky Ferreira. Rodrigo spoke about her relationship with Nigro in an article for Variety magazine.
“I just really appreciated the way that he was really constructive with my songs…he …takes my songs and elevates them and polishes them up and makes them better,” she said. “I think we work really well together.”
Fortunately, Rodrigo and Nigro continued their collaboration on “GUTS.” The first single, a powerful ballad called “vampire,” was introduced on June 30 and the second single, “bad idea right?” came out on Aug. 11.
The album starts off with the energetic “all american bitch,” which includes angsty lyrics and powerful drums and guitar. The song sounds inspired by one of Rodrigo’s influences, pop singer Avril Lavigne, and the lyrics illustrate the absurdity of American beauty standards. In an interview with Apple Music, Rodrigo said that “all american bitch” is one of her favorite songs she’s written.
“It expresses something that I’ve been trying to express since I was 15 years old — this repressed anger…or trying to be put into a box as a girl,” she said.
The album then transitions straight into the catchy single, “bad idea right?.” The pre-chorus of “bad idea right?” was actually created as a joke by Rodrigo with the lyrics, “my brain goes, ‘ahhh,’ can’t hear my thoughts.” Jokes aside, the song has quickly become a fan favorite. Her decision to include it on the album shows Rodrigo’s growth as an independent artist as she does not let other peoples’ opinions dictate her song choices.
Rodrigo also shares through her songwriting the many funny, yet uncomfortable situations she gets herself into. For example, in the punky “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” Rodrigo says, “Everything I do is tragic, every guy I like is gay.”
In “get him back!” Rodrigo sings about her relationship with a guy who claims he is 6 '2 when he is much shorter, a situation in which many of her listeners can relate to, causing her to remark, “Dude, nice try.”
The next track on the album, “love is embarrassing,” maintains the upbeat tempo. The song starts with a strong drum beat and a quick guitar riff, then leads into Rodrigo’s fierce vocals.
And Rodrigo expresses another side of herself in “GUTS,” sharing her feelings of self-doubt and frustration, and her fear of getting older.
In the somber, “making the bed,” Rodrigo’s raw voice is paired with a slow beat in the background.
“I’m so tired of being the girl that I am, every good thing has turned into something I dread,” she admits in the song.
Similarly, in piano ballad, “teenage dream,” she sings about fears she has reached the peak of her life at only 19 years old.
“When am I gonna stop being great for my age, and just start being good?” she asks.
By having the “guts” to share her vulnerabilities and experiences as a young woman, Rodrigo succeeds in reaching her audience on a deeper level.
With the release of “GUTS,” Rodrigo made an announcement on her Instagram, sharing the emotions that came with this new chapter in her career.
“I feel excited, nervous, proud, but mostly I feel so grateful!” she said in the post.
To celebrate the album’s release, Rodrigo performed some of her new songs and some of the songs off of “SOUR” on the Today Show. This performance is one of many, as Rodrigo announced a 2024 world tour Wednesday morning.