Olivia Rodrigo – Guts
Ushering in her twenties, Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, Guts, is her last chance to fuel her songwriting with teenage angst. She goes all-in, with definite improvement in her lyrical work and production that highlights an understanding of her new musical direction. Unlike Sour, which was riddled with sadness, frustration and break-up tunes, Guts is a little more diverse in the topics it covers, ranging from toxic relationships to serious body image issues.
Rodrigo’s transition recalls Avril Lavigne’s leap from Under My Skin to The Best Damn Thing: there’s synergy between the before and after, but there’s also an abrupt change in sound. Lavigne is one of the artists Rodrigo emulates, specifically in opener All-American Bitch – a typical self-introduction that emphasises her age and a certain kind of confidence in knowing her place. That same influence is also evident in Get Him Back!’s chorus, while the verses teeter around Cage the Elephant in tone (songs like In One Ear and Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked). Another artist seemingly sprinkled throughout the album is Beabadoobee, specifically in the candid recording of some of the songs in Guts, similar to Beabadobee’s approach with her debut album Fake It Flowers.
Vampire is the first and most carefully conceived single, specifically because it shows a certain maturity in how the artist approaches the topic of relationships. She no longer mourns the loss of romance, instead focusing on how the relationship might have been predatory and abusive. Sonically, it’s a combination of Driver’s License’s haunting ballad and the dark pop of Déjà Vu. At the other end of the spectrum, Love Is Embarrassing is more girly punk, recounting the shame of falling for someone who isn’t worth it in the end.
Most of the standout tracks from Guts are the upbeat tunes like Bad Idea Right? and Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl, but two slow songs in particular have significant impact: Pretty Isn’t Pretty and Teenage Dream. The former touches on disordered eating with the central theme being the beauty standards society imposes on young women and unlearning all of that. Teenage Dream, on the other hand, is the playlist closer, cycling back to discuss Rodrigo’s age. This time, she’s more uncertain about what and who she’s supposed to be, as the impending end of her teenage years draws near. She asks why her years are central to her achievements, heavily criticising the romanticisation of youth and the kind of imposter syndrome it injects into teenagers, especially when they start to think they’ve already hit their peak. It’s the perfect ending to Guts, leaving listeners feeling a little lost – just like Rodrigo is as she hangs tightly onto her teen self and prepares to take that first real step into the adult world.
Guts is released on 8th September 2023. For further information or to order the album visit Olivia Rodrigo’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Vampire here: