GUTS, released a month ago (8th September), is the older sister of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR. Rage-filled and angsty, yet also bittersweet, Rodrigo pours her heart out about issues that too many of today’s youth relate to, and secured all twelve tracks in the Top 40.
Many young people in their early twenties feel as if their crucial teenage years were lost to the pandemic and cost of living crisis – where’s our f*cking teenage dream? Not to sound ludicrously naïve, but I did expect my college years to feature more fake IDs and road trips than they actually did (spoiler alert: there were none!). So, twenty-year-olds around the world have claimed the songs of GUTS as their teenage anthems; put simply, if this album had been around a few years ago, it would have played at all of our house parties, and in cars as we screamed along with our new drivers’ licenses.
Olivia Rodrigo has nailed the art of writing messy and intimate lyrics, packed with Gen Z humour and sardonic wit. Her music has earned the appreciation of every 20-year-old who isn’t quite ready to grow up yet. Teenage years and youth are complex, but listening to GUTS will certainly show young people that they’re not alone in feeling this way. This album encapsulates all the ups and downs of being a teenager, from feeling rebellious to insecure, heartbroken to nostalgic.
The success of SOUR was largely attributed to Rodrigo’s ability to sing hit pop punk songs (‘good 4 u’, ‘brutal’) alongside poignant beloved tracks like ‘drivers license’, ‘traitor’, and ‘déjà vu’; a feat which she has accomplished once more with GUTS. After letting you scream your heart out in the first two tracks with tongue-in-cheek humour, Olivia Rodrigo hits you hard with ‘vampire’, evidencing her maturity emotionally and vocally.
Issues mentioned in SOUR are unpacked in GUTS, with the topics usually spanning more than one song in her newest album. ‘jealousy, jealousy’, from SOUR, looks at ideas of insecurity and comparison which she develops with ‘lacy’, ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’, and ‘pretty isn’t pretty’ on GUTS.
GUTS feels like the older sister album to SOUR, which is partially due to the heavier subject matter. Young adult relationships tend to be more complicated than teenage ones, but in many ways replicate them, represented by the even split between punk-inspired and acoustic songs.
The album features more tongue-in-cheek, witty songs (‘bad idea right?’, ‘love is embarrassing’, and ‘get him back!’) which perfectly juxtapose the heart-breaking tracks like ‘logical’ and ‘the grudge’. This provides listeners with multiple ways of experiencing the album, rather than it solely operating as a heartbreak soundtrack. It’s also easy to picture these songs performed live in concert, with their call-and-response moments and silences prompting audiences to cathartically scream and shout (as Rodrigo does in the bridge of ‘all-american bitch’).
GUTS is rife with inner conflict, as Olivia Rodrigo battles who she is and who she wants to be both in and out of her relationships. In ‘all-american bitch’, she sings about the double standard of being a woman saying “I am built like a mother and a total machine.” Rodrigo kicks off the album wanting to be unapologetically herself, but by the end we arrive at ‘teenage dream’, where she apologises for not being enough: “I’m sorry I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” An iconic call back to ‘brutal’ (“where’s my f*cking teenage dream?”) clarifies that Rodrigo’s teenage dream has essentially passed her by as she enters her twenties.
Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album is powerful, while also being sincere of an artist navigating the years of her youth as well as teenage fame. No amount of awards and level of acclaim can escape the complexity of growing up, yet Rodrigo has managed to soundtrack this intangible feeling in style.
Olivia Rodrigo plays Co-Op Live Arena on the 3rd and 4th of May. Tickets here.