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The Cultural Significance of Olivia Rodrigo

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ASU chapter.

“She so perfectly captured being a 20 year old teenager.”

‘GUTS’ is the sophomore album from future pop princess Olivia Rodrigo, officially released Thursday, September 8 at midnight EST. The album, featuring 12 songs and running at 39 minutes and 18 seconds, feels like the perfect continuation of her first album ‘SOUR’. Rodrigo is showing off her incredible songwriting and keeping her classic sound while adding a slightly more grown feel to it. She includes beautiful piano ballads you can cry to and head-banding pop-punk tunes you can scream in the car.

After the success of her first album, many were worried how Rodrigo would top it. She came out of the gate swinging, transitioning from a Disney star to a prominent name in pop music. With the first single ‘Driver’s License’, it was no doubt that Rodrigo possessed the writing chops and vocals to cement herself in the music game. But the wild success of ‘SOUR’ would be hard to beat.

Upon first listen, Rodrigo’s influences are incredibly evident. There’s Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Adele, Paramore, Avril Lavigne, and many others. It’s clear that Rodrigo has found a sound she likes, and she’s sticking to it – which is perfect because she does it well. There’s a sort of reminiscence of early 2000’s coming-of-age flicks soundtracks (think anything starring Lindsey Lohan) that makes it easy to feel like you’re the main character. Those born before then listen to her music to romanticize an era they couldn’t experience, while the older generation listens to remember a time where things just felt easier. But the true artistry comes through Rodrigo’s brilliant lyrics.

One thing Rodrigo has made apparent since the release of her first ever single ‘Driver’s License’ is her incredible songwriting ability. For someone who is a Taylor Swift stan, that comes as no surprise. Her lyrics range from screamable to quotable to downright painful. 

Towards the end of the first song ‘all american b*tch’, Rodrigo pens a beautiful, soft, Lana-Del-Rey-esque melody detailing a perfect girl in a stereotypical, satirical sense with the lyrics “I’m sexy and I’m kind. / I’m pretty when I cry.” Another catchy moment on the album comes from the song ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’ where Rodrigo sings “Everything I do is tragic. / Every guy I like is gay.” 

A slower ballad like ‘the grudge’ features more heart hitting lyrics such as ‘And I hear your voice every time I think I’m not enough.’ One lyric, feeling both heartbreaking and therapeutic to scream, comes from the last song of the album. 

Arguably one of the most vulnerable songs from the album, perfectly capturing the female experience of growing up too fast while not quite ever feeling older, ‘teenage dream’ ends the album using a musical technique of repeating the same phrase for emphasis, slowly growing in intensity. Rodrigo’s soft voice floats through the air, backed by a hard-hitting instrumental accompanying the lyrics “They all say that it gets better / it gets better the more you grow / Yeah, they all say that it gets better / it gets better but what if i don’t?”

Rodrigo has an exquisite ability to capture the feeling of very specific events that, somehow, everyone can relate to. Many have said it’s almost like she’s reading their journal. Her songs help remind us that in lots of the things we go through, we’re not alone. She can write a crazy pop punk song that makes you want to dance or a soft, melodic ballad that makes you want to scream-cry. 

The world tour for ‘GUTS’ begins February 23, 2024 in Palm Springs, CA. Fighting Ticketmaster for these seats is going to feel like The Hunger Games, and I will be right in that queue with everyone else.

My name is Madison Haynie, I am a returning Sophomore to Arizona State University! As a child I spent endless free time writing songs and short stories to fulfill my sense of imagination. I learned my love of acting then, after years of high school theater, I began pursuing photography my senior year. I decided to pursue a degree in Journalism in order to combine my love of writing and my love of photography. In my free time, I still enjoy acting on the side.