On Friday May 21, Olivia Rodrigo released her debut album Sour, solidifying a new fanbase: Livies. The new queen of heartbreak fused genres to create a pop album with punk rock influences, drawing inspiration from major stars like Taylor Swift, Paramore, Lorde, Lana Del Rey and her good friend Conan Gray. Although you can hear the inspiration through her samples and co-writes, Rodrigo’s clever lyrics, angsty melodies and killer vocals make a unique sound that is completely her own. Livies have been up all night theorizing the meaning behind Rodrigo’s lyrics on Sour. Some believe the title Sour is actually an acronym for “Stages Of Unofficial Relationships,” alluding to her recent break up with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett. Let’s dive into a close analysis.
The first track on Olivia’s new album encapsulates teenage angst and anxiety. This punk-rock debut to the album focuses on the anxiety of being 17, public scrutiny and the pressures of being famous. She seems to reference her break up with Bassett in the first verse, singing, “I’m so caught up in the news of who likes me and who hates you,” suggesting she’s obsessing over who the public sided within the breakup (the answer is Olivia). Rodrigo goes on to reference her first hit song from the album, “drivers license” — which is also presumed to be about Bassett — when she sings, “And I’m not cool and I’m not smart, and I can’t even parallel park.” Though hints of Bassett show up in this song, the overall message is that Rodrigo feels her relationship drama and other assets of her life are being exploited for fame and causing her anxiety. We love you, Liv. This is a bop.
The very first line of this track, “Brown guilty eyes and little white lies,” introduces Bassett as the villain in Rodrigo’s life. Rodrigo began writing Sour following Bassett’s sightings with the infamous blonde Sabrina Carpenter in the summer of 2020, and this song says it all with its haunting chorus: “It took you two weeks to go off and date her. Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor.” In true 17-year-old singer-songwriter fashion, Rodrigo uses this song to organize her feelings and make sense of the loss of her first love. She proceeds to analyze how there must have been an overlap between the two relationships — if not physically, at least emotionally. The lines “There’s no damn way that you could fall in love with someone that quickly” and “remember I brought her up/and you told me I was paranoid” make this a hauntingly realistic ballad that holds Bassett accountable for his actions.
- “drivers license”
The song that catapulted Olivia’s career! “drivers license” was the first song released from Sour. Rodrigo used this song to work through her own heartbreak and created a touching ballad that was both devastating and relatable to her audience. The song, referencing the freedom of finally getting your driver’s license and constraints of driving through old memories, showcases the juxtaposition between the maturity of driving and innocence of young love. It was the first song to confirm the scandal of Josh and Olivia’s relationship with the infamous line, “You’re probably with that blonde girl who always made me doubt. She’s so much older than me, she’s everything I’m insecure about.” This line, believed to be about Carpenter, prompted the other former Disney star to respond with her own pointed song, “Skin.” Livies were livid.
- “1 step forward, 3 steps back”
Track 4 on Sour uses an interpolation of Taylor Swift’s song “New Year’s Day,” and names Jack Antonoff and Swift as co-writers. The three did not actually collaborate, but Antonoff and Swift own the copyright to the melody of “New Year’s Day” and allowed Rodrigo to use its elements in this song — all without the profits going to Big Machine Records and Scooter Braun, who currently own Reputation. This loophole allowed Rodrigo to further showcase her admiration for Swift and the similarity between the two’s musical preferences. (Plus, Olivia got to name her idol as a songwriter on her debut — insane!) The lyrics tell the story of seeking validation from someone and being let down. Lyrics like “You got me fucked up in the head boy, never doubted myself so much” show Rodrigo’s innocence and naivety in relationships (she was 15, of course). She suggests that she frequently looked to Bassett for reassurance in their relationship and his feelings for her, even before Carpenter entered the picture and calls Bassett an inconsistent boyfriend when she writes, “I kind of find it all exciting, like, which lover will I get today? Will you walk me to the door or send me home crying?” The soft notes and emotive voice in this song make you just want to give Olivia a hug.
- ”deja vu”
“deja vu” also seems like it would fit right in on Swift’s Reputation album, with its haunting tone and sarcasm. Rodrigo’s bridge in “deja vu” packs a punch when she screams, “A different girl now but there’s nothing new, I know you get deja vu.” Fingers crossed that one of the many TikTok and YouTube mashups of “deja vu” and Swift’s songs will be performed on tour! “deja vu” had fans speechless when Rodrigo called Bassett out for doing all the same things with Carpenter as he did with Rodrigo, including car rides to Malibu, the songs they listened to, shows they watched, ice cream they ate… sheesh. Time to get a little more creative with your dates if you want to keep dating songwriters, Bassett.
- “good 4 u”
Livies have theorized that Rodrigo released her first three songs (“driver’s license,” “deja vu” and “good 4 u”) as the first three stages of grief: “driver’s license” being sadness, “deja vu” as pain and “good 4 u” being anger. This scream-in-the-car, angry Track 6 feels cathartic as Rodrigo sings about the frustration of being so hurt by her ex, who appears to not care at all. The beautifully constructed bridge reads, “Maybe I’m too emotional, but your apathy’s like a wound in salt. Maybe I’m too emotional, but maybe you never cared at all.” The melody samples Paramore’s “Misery Business” and as someone who still screams to that song in the car 14 years after its release, I can confirm this is exactly the angsty song the next generation of heartbreak needs.
- “enough for you”
Arguably the saddest song on the album, Rodrigo returns to her roots of being a teenage girl singing about feelings at her piano in “enough for you.” This soft and slow simple song packs so much emotion with lines like, “I wore makeup when we dated ’cause I thought you’d like me more” and “tried so hard to be everything that you liked just for you to say you’re not the compliment type.” It really shows how young she was in this relationship. Bassett had other loves before her who she was trying to imitate so that he would find her interesting, but as Rodrigo sings in the chorus, “You found someone more exciting, the next second you were gone.” Rodrigo has sung about her jealousy for Carpenter before, so this “more exciting” girl is presumably her… bet she doesn’t have three number one hits in a row, though. That’s pretty exciting, Liv.
This is definitely one of the most self-aware songs on the album. Rodrigo writes about Bassett by sharing the sentiment of “I want you to be happy but not happier than we were.” Her line “so find someone great, but don’t find no one better. I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier” is incredibly honest about the whole situation. If Bassett had moved on to someone less intimidating, I don’t know what this album would even have been about. Rodrigo recognizes her own unfair comparison of her and Carpenter in the line “and now I’m picking her apart like tearing her down will make you miss my wretched heart, but she’s beautiful, she looks kind, she probably gives you butterflies.” This is an incredibly mature realization and clears up any misconception that Rodrigo has animosity for Carpenter — rather, it’s admiration.
- “jealousy, jealousy”
Rodrigo stated in an interview with NYLON that this was one of the first songs she wrote for the album. The song speaks about social media personas and how they make Rodrigo feel inferior to her peers. Rodrigo sings, “I kinda wanna throw my phone across the room” to express her frustration with the online world and how everyone appears “happier” with “paper-white teeth and perfect bodies.” Olivia allows her audience insight into the issue from a teenager’s point of view. She writes, “co-comparison is killing me slowly” and “just cool vintage clothes and vacation photos, I can’t stand it.” Whenever she refers to cool vintage clothes I immediately think she’s talking about Carpenter, and we all know there’s nothing worse than having access to your ex’s new life via social media.
- ”favorite crime”
In “favorite crime,” Rodrigo seems to be writing about a love triangle from the point of view of the lover left behind, as made evident by the line, “I watched as you fled the scene, doe-eyed as you buried me. one heart broke, four hands bloody.” Livies also speculate that Rodrigo refers to herself as Bassett’s “favorite crime” not only because of his wrongdoings, but also as a dig at their age difference. When they started dating, they had to keep it a secret because she was 15 while he was 18. Rodrigo highlights the complexity of the relationship when she says, “Yeah, everything we broke and all the trouble that we made.” Livies have theorized that this is a direct response to Bassett’s song “Telling Myself” and his line “was it really worth the trouble that it caused, ’cause look where we ended up.” Rodrigo also uses the title of Bassett’s song “Do It All Again” in this track to echo his sentiment of having no regrets.
- “hope ur ok”
In “hope ur ok,” Rodrigo takes a step back from relationship drama to recount old memories of people she knew growing up, their struggles, and how they overcame them. I’m not sure there’s much of Bassett in this song, but rather a message to old friends with tough situations whom she’s lost touch with. Olivia sings, “and somehow we fell out of touch, hope he took his bad deal and made a royal flush” about a friend whose parents were abusive and “does she know how proud I am she was created with the courage to unlearn all of their hatred” about her middle-school friend whose parents couldn’t accept her for being apart of the LGBTQ+ community. A beautiful album closer.
HSMTMTS is set to have a Season 3, meaning the two ex-lovers may be sharing the stage again. I don’t foresee any impromptu “I love you” scenes after this album… maybe a fire or two started on set, though.