September 15, 2023 | ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT | By Katie Rowley
Olivia Rodrigo, breakout singer who won three Grammys for her debut album “Sour,” released her sophomore album “Guts” on Sept. 8 (my birthday!). As a huge fan of Rodrigo, I had high hopes for her second album, waiting months for its release. But, as I made way down I-25, those hopes slowly descended.
“Guts” embodies many of the same motifs present on “Sour”: ballads laced with angsty, teenaged-heartbreak woes, and grungy songs lamenting about the realities of being a teenage girl. But, if you had asked for my thoughts as the last song, “teenage dream,” concluded, I would have said “Guts” was a flop. But after several listens, my opinion has shifted.
So, with absolutely no authority, I thought I would take you on a track-by-track review of “Guts” by Olivia Rodrigo.
An interesting mix of a twangy guitar beneath Rodrigo’s classic slow ballad and a pop-punk outburst, our “all-american bitch” comments on the dichotomy of being a teenage girl in America and the expectations of being both passive and sexualized. Personally, I feel the lyrics of this first track are simplistic and, upon first listen, I was extremely taken aback by the dissonance. But perhaps this dissonance communicates the exact message Rodrigo hopes to incarnate in all her musical projects.
Bad idea right?
Released as a single on Aug. 11, this song is nothing short of perfection. As someone who has repeatedly gone back to several ex-boyfriends despite the pleas of my friends, I related heavily to this song, in which, above an upbeat pop-rock track, Rodrigo sings about knowing that meeting up with her ex is a bad idea, but still doing it. Insanely catchy, I cannot wait to listen to this song the next time I have a toxic ex that I can go back to.
The first single released off of “Guts” on June 30, many have compared “vampire” to Taylor Swift’s “Dear John.” Lyrically it does seem to carry the same message that Swift communicates; fuck men who date teenagers. With perhaps the most insane lyrics Rodrigo has ever written when addressing the older man she was dating, she is perplexed as to why he dated her, concluding that “girls your age know better.”
Perhaps my least favorite on the album, “lacy,” attempts to be one of Rodrigo’s heartbreaking ballads, but it misses the mark. A confusing combination of jealousy and sapphic pining, this song left me wanting more. Of what? I’m not sure, but it feels vocally flat and lacking any genuine emotion.
ballad of a homeschooled girl
This song rocks, and it’s not just because of the heavy electric guitar and drums. Rodrigo sings about social anxiety, and although the title specifies homeschooled girls, I think all girls have probably related to the plights she explores. As someone who went to public school, I have also searched “how to have a conversation” online.
making the bed
From the initial listen, I loved this song. Another ballad, “making the bed” captures a raw emotion as Rodrigo reflects on her actions and takes the blame for her troubles. A less noticeable dissonance is produced by the instrumentals on this track as a heavy, slow piano is intermixed with a slight electric guitar and steady, soft drumbeat. Lyrically and sonically this song stands out as one of the best on “Guts.”
Similar to “making the bed,” “logical” immediately stood out to me. Also being a ballad, “logical” is filled with raw emotion as Rodrigo grapples with how her significantly older boyfriend manipulated her into thinking he was the love of her life. Vocally, she sounds amazing and lyrically, “logical” contains the second most insane lyric Rodrigo has ever written. During the bridge, she sings, “Said I was too young, I was too soft/ Can’t take a joke, can’t get you off.” I’m sorry, WHAT??? She is insane!
get him back!
“get him back!” continues the upward trend of the number of hits on this album. In this pop-punk, grungy song, Rodrigo plays with the juxtaposition of wanting your ex back into your life and wanting to ruin his life. We’ve probably all been there. Although a little cringey, “get him back!” is filled with quips about being flown to France, fixing a man, and disappointing your friends, and I honestly love it.
love is embarrassing
In this track, which seems to have a vintage/90s-esque production, Rodrigo seems to be getting over her ex, recognizing that he is a loser, which is real. This song embodies the natural stage of heartbreak when you finally feel over the awful person you were down so bad for. Although she sounds quite good, it is missing a true sense of resolution.
pretty isn’t pretty
A true girly-pop song, the message of “pretty isn’t pretty” feels like something Rodrigo has already done on “Sour” with “jealousy, jealousy.” Commenting on the harsh expectations and beauty standards, the song is good, but not really adding anything to the social conversation of these issues.
Another sad ballad, Rodrigo’s lyrics feel extremely cliche, like something you would see in a screenshot of a tumblr post from 2012. But maybe I am just not in the right heartbroken mindset to relate to what Rodrigo is singing about.
This concluding song seems to capture her relationship with fame and the criticism she has received in the last few years. Heartbreaking, “teenage dream” is another classic, Rodrigo
2 years ago. Despite this, “teenage dream” is the perfect send-off for “Guts” and will , hopefully , allow Rodrigo to break –free from the constraining image she has been stuck in since stepping into the scene.