After the release of her widely-acclaimed single “drivers license” and album “SOUR” in 2021, Olivia Rodrigo became an overnight sensation, skyrocketing to the top of the charts and receiving immense critical acclaim.
In her latest album“GUTS,” Rodrigo goes beyond the bounds of the bedroom pop sound of “SOUR” and into rage-induced punk, giving listeners a full display of just how potent the pangs of betrayal and social paranoia can be.
“For me, this album is about growing pains and trying to figure out who I am at this point in my life,” Rodrigo said in a recent press release, “I feel like I grew 10 years between the ages of 18 and 20. It was such an intense period of awkwardness and change. I think that’s all just a natural part of growth, and hopefully the album reflects that.”
Right out of the gate, the album’s lead single “vampire” takes a stab with a double-edged sword of a predatory past relationship and the dark side of fame with a piano ballad that first pulls at the heartstrings and then pools into a blood-splattering riot by the song’s end.
Throughout “GUTS,” Rodrigo leans toward instinctual lyricism that lends itself to her attempts to express an array of emotions. With the double entendre of the song’s title, “get him back!,” she seamlessly oscillates between love and hate and obsession and revenge, culminating into the witty wordplay of “I want to meet his mom / Just to tell her her son sucks.”
Rodrigo displays the ability to thread themes of self-image throughout the album in “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” as she reflects on her adolescent regrets and shortcomings through brash vocals and sharp lyrical wit.
However, as Rodrigo grapples with similar themes of self-image in “pretty isn’t pretty,” the song’s simple, cut-and-dry lyrics fall short in comparison to the rest of the album.
While “GUTS” as a whole showcases Rodrigo’s deliberate attempts to step out of Taylor Swift’s spotlight and into one of her own making, “lacy” brings us back to their rumored rift with a stark resemblance to Swift’s “Folklore” with an idyllic string melody and lyrics that ring of torn relations, “I despise my rotten mind / and how much it worships you.”
For those searching for their newest pop-punk heartbreak anthem, Rodrigo presents a mixed bag from the piano-driven vulnerability within “the grudge” and “logical” to the brash rock tunes infused with tongue-in-cheek quips such as “bad idea right?” “get him back!” and “love is embarrassing” that perhaps stand as the hallmark of the pop star’s new era.
Naturally, “GUTS” is subject to a side by side comparison to “SOUR,” but each represents a different period in Rodrigo’s path to stardom. “GUTS” proves to be a worthy successor to the album that brought her to fame with its emotional and musical experimentation and versatility.
“GUTS” displays a full range of roaring rock pop-punk to emotionally captivating piano ballads in less than 40 minutes, offering just enough music to savor and then replay, again and again.