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The Mass Media

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album shatters expectations

A woman vibes to music. Photo sourced from Unsplash.

“Said I was too young, I was too soft / Can’t take a joke, can’t get you off,” sings Olivia Rodrigo on her newest album, “GUTS.” She seems to be too young to be dealing with the hatred of a toxic boyfriend, but she’s no longer “so sick of 17.”

Since the release of “Sour” in 2021, the world has been waiting to see what’s next from Olivia Rodrigo. She remained silent on the topic until June 13, when she announced her sophomore album’s debut single, “vampire.”

The harmonic piano melody lulled listeners into the soft voice, heavy guitar and gut wrenching lyrics of the new era of Rodrigo. Pop music is used to her moody, introspective songs, but this album put that into a whole new light with the drums and synth of a full rock album.

Three weeks later, “bad idea right?” made it to her Instagram feed, to be released the following Friday. The catchy lyrics and fun concept of “bad idea right?” drove fans wild with anticipation for the new album. Is it about ex, Joshua Bassett? Or is it about someone else? No one knows, and Rodrigo will not tell.

On the morning of Sept. 8, headphones everywhere played the opening chords to “all-american bitch.” Jaws dropped when the sweet melody turned into addicting guitar riffs and screaming from Ms. Rodrigo herself, sprinkled with a few references to American culture. 

The song is a commentary on women’s role in society, how they are expected to fit into a perfect box. It’s a perfect metaphor for the rest of the album. Rodrigo broke from her pop-princess mold into that of a rock star. 

The rock star role is reinforced with “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” “get him back!” and “love is embarrassing.” “Ballad of a homeschooled girl” touches on the awkwardness and anxiety relatable to teenage girls everywhere. It’s the new social anxiety anthem. 

“Get him back” and “love is embarrassing” both go into the complexities of teenage relationships, especially the dynamic of a teenage relationship with someone in their late twenties. This dynamic is perfectly encapsulated in the lyrics, “just watch as I crucify myself / for some weird second string / loser who’s not worth mentioning.”

Manipulation and gaslighting have never been described so well as it has been in “logical.” “And now you got me thinkin’ / two plus two equals five / and I’m the love of your life / ’cause if rain don’t pour and sun don’t shine / then changing you is possible / no, love is never logical,” Rodrigo belts over the heartbreaking piano melody. Listeners have claimed this as their favorite, for obvious reasons. 

While this album delves into heartbreak and toxic relationships, it also touches on the complexities of growing up as a girl. She goes into detail about jealousy toward other girls for fitting into the beauty standard in “lacy” and “pretty isn’t pretty,” while also taking responsibility for herself and everyone around her in “all-american bitch” and “making the bed.”

The album’s close, “teenage dream,” talks about a teenager not taken seriously because of their age. This was seen previously with other pop artists, Taylor Swift and Britney Spears, who both started their careers as teenagers. She says, “I fear that they already got the best parts of me,” describing the anxieties following her first album, which broke many records including the first debut album this century to stay in the top 10 on the Billboard charts for over a year, and the first album in Spotify history to have every song pass 200 million streams.

Women everywhere have been waiting for an album to capture the feminine experience so perfectly.  Rodrigo told Phoebe Bridgers in an interview with Interview Magazine that she took inspiration for this album from essays by Joan Didion, Leonard Cohen and several ’90s bands. The A.V. Club website also speculates inspiration from Avril Lavigne, The Killers, Phoebe Bridgers, Simon and Garfunkel and more.

About the Contributor
Rena Weafer, Editor-in-Chief