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Olivia Rodrigo spills her “GUTS” in latest album release

The singer-songwriter’s newest record explores growing pains and pop-punk styles
Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album, “GUTS,” released Friday, Sept. 8. (Courtesy of Geffen Records)
Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album, “GUTS,” released Friday, Sept. 8. (Courtesy of Geffen Records)

Album: GUTS

Rating: A

Why I liked it: Made me feel like I was in a 2000s teen movie, but like a really good one.

Best tracks: "the grudge," "bad idea right?" & "get him back!"

Since the release of her debut album “Sour” in 2021, Olivia Rodrigo has won seven Grammy awards and played almost 50 sold-out shows across the globe. So how does one follow up an album of such immediate success? Rodrigo has finally given her fans an answer with her sophomore album, “GUTS,” which was released Friday, Sept. 8.

From the very start, this record sets itself apart from Rodrigo’s previous work with experimental songs that have a more prominent rock sound, achieved by striking guitar solos and up-beat drums. Unlike Rodrigo’s debut album which found her in the aftermath of a painful breakup and featured many iconic pop ballads such as “drivers license,” this album takes a new, edgier perspective in which Rodrigo is not afraid to fantasize about revenge (“get him back!”) and laugh at herself (“love is embarrassing.”) These catchy, empowering tunes are balanced with heartfelt songs in which Rodrigo sings about a toxic relationship and the growing pains of young adulthood.

The opening track, “all-american b****” immediately transports listeners into the opening scene of an early 2000s teen movie. The song begins with a soft melody, as Rodrigo sings about the balance of being “as light as a feather” and “as stiff as a board,” before kicking into high-tempo drums and guitar at the chorus, reminiscent of the earlier music of Avril Lavigne. The sarcastic tone of this song in which Rodrigo claims “I’m grateful all the time/I’m sexy and I’m kind” and “I’m pretty when I cry” makes it clear that Rodrigo is criticizing the stereotypes and scrutiny that has been thrown upon her as a young female artist.

Another element that fans will quickly notice is Rodrigo’s use of spoken lyrics over music throughout the album which is featured in songs like “bad idea right?” This style of storytelling makes Rodrigo feel like a close friend whispering into the listener’s ear about her toxic ex or her most embarrassing moments in a way that is sure to make fans feel more connected to her lyrics and unafraid to shout along to them.

Track 5, “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” features a similar style of narration. As the song kicks off with a cacophony of electric guitar chords, Rodrigo details the struggles of being a homeschooled teen and nights of “searching how to start a conversation on a website.” Throughout the song, Rodrigo delivers comedic lines while delving deeper into the stress of social anxiety and the awkward feeling of being “on the outside of the greatest inside joke.” The relatable lyrics of this song are similar to those of “jealousy, jealousy” from Rodrigo’s debut album in which she admits to thinking too much about what others might think of her and envying those around her with seemingly perfect lives.

The theme of jealousy continues in a song titled “lacy.” On the surface this song appears to be a calm, poetic lullaby, but a closer look at the lyrics reveals a darker meaning as Rodrigo battles her conflicting feelings of envy and admiration for a “dazzling starlet.” Rodrigo goes on to sing “you poison every little thing I do” with deadly sweet vocals but does not make it clear who exactly she might be singing about, which allows listeners to make connections to their personal experiences with unhealthy relationships.

Rodrigo’s own experience with a manipulative relationship is a big theme on some of the tracks in this album, such as the leading single “vampire,” and fans of previous songs like “traitor” and “favorite crime” will not be disappointed with the pop ballads on this record. Rodrigo’s songwriting truly shines in “the grudge,” a song filled with crescending piano and acoustics as she details a relationship full of miscommunication and betrayed trust. The full, daring vocals as Rodrigo cries “we both drew blood / but, man, those cuts were never equal” takes on a new edge as Rodrigo showcases that she is not afraid to explore the anger that so often accompanies heartbreak.

The album concludes with the pensive “teenage dream,” in which Rodrigo reflects on growing into adulthood and questions the certainty of her future. It begins with solely the piano for accompaniment as Rodrigo ponders, “when am I gonna stop being great for my age / and just start being good” before transitioning into loud, desperate drums and leaving listeners with the ominous question: “they all say that it gets better / but what if I don’t?”

If “Sour” is the picture of heartbreak and first loves, then “GUTS” is definitely its edgy older sister. Overall, this album offers a diverse range of songs—ranging from 2000s era pop anthems to alternative tunes and crescendoing ballads—making for a listening experience that will take you through a whirlwind of emotions and all the stages of being a young adult in today’s world. Rodrigo has done it again with an album deserving a full 5/5, and one can definitely see more Grammys in her future.

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