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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Leeds chapter.

After the appropriate accolades from her debut album, Olivia Rodrigo’s influence in the music industry has been both outstanding and record breaking over the last three years. The 20-year-old pop-punk sensation, initially finding her feet as a child star, has proven to the world that she has broken out of her naive newcomer stature and has provided catharsis and relatability to an entire generation of young people. Maintaining the recurring theme of love, loss, teenage-dom and womanhood, Rodrigo’s sophomore album, GUTS, provides an honest and raw commentary on the artist’s emotional and romantic development whilst being subject to the harsh lens of the public eye. Through various genres, ranging from folk ballads to ‘Avril Lavigne’-esque pop punk anthems, Rodrigo continues to prove her musical versatility and lyrical intelligence, and throughout GUTS, connects with her peers and fans all over the world. 

Rodrigo has an addictive habit of starting her albums with angst, and clearly lets off some pent up steam in “all-american bitch”. The topic of conformity and female subversion is not one that this artist strays away from in this album, and she uses various means of genre to convey this. In “all-american bitch”, Rodrigo uses both soft ballad acoustic style and pop-punk drumming with powerful electric guitar in a juxtaposing way to properly convey the meaning of the song. Olivia is pissed off and thus goes between a calm and collected narrative voice to a bombarding and aggrieved cry for help. Her final words in the song “I’m sexy and I’m kind/I’m pretty when I cry”, mirror that of an emotionally manipulative partner and she sings ethereally to pretend to conform to the male expectation to subvert into submission. Olivia Rodrigo then takes us into the debut singles, “bad idea right?” and “vampire”, both dealing with different aspects of a break up. On one hand, Rodrigo relatably explains how she could very easily be persuaded to reconnect with a past lover in “bad idea right?”, by almost having a conversation with the listener and over explaining her decisions in spoken word. However, on the other side of the coin, “vampire” is a raw ballad-style deep dive into Rodrigo’s relationship with a narcissist and does not display signs of wanting to interact with this person from her past. The juxtaposition of the meaning of these two songs, interestingly reflects the duality of parting with an ex-lover and the inner conflict one is faced with post-break up. 

Throughout the rest of GUTS, Olivia Rodrigo truly takes the listener into the deepest and most vulnerable parts of her mind, and speaks a truth that a lot of young people fear to hear with a deep sense of honesty. Rodrigo is no stranger to discussing the issue of body image and self-consciousness, an extremely common and relatable problem for the teenage generation. In her debut album Sour, we saw the bass-heavy punky anthem “jealousy, jealousy”, which was a candid inside look into Rodrigo’s own personal vice of jealousy towards other girls. GUTS, therefore, had to include more of this extremely responsive commentary and does so through the two tracks “pretty isn’t pretty” and “lacy”. Again, Rodrigo uses dual perspective on the topic of body image to fully convey the conflict of feeling both confident and self-conscious about how you look. The track “lacy” is a delicate and infatuated look into Rodrigo’s desire to look like another girl, and she subconsciously grows an obsession to obtain this girl’s beauty. This obsessive narrative contrasts the content of “pretty isn’t pretty”, which complains about female beauty standards, and Rodrigo does well to fully convey her exasperation in relation to conforming to societal expectation.

An interesting and refreshing aspect to this album which I believe hasn’t been done to this extent for years in the music industry is accepting naivety and teenage experience. Whilst many teenage stars have come through the industry in the last ten years, Rodrigo provides the perspective that she can be emotionally intelligent whilst also making mistakes and experiencing the embarrassments that a regular teenage girl would. The tracks “love is embarrassing” and “ballad of a homeschool girl” truly expose Rodrigo’s teenage naivety and embarrassments, but most importantly show her accepting them as important stepping stones in growing up. Whilst “love is embarrassing” shows the extent to which she will make a fool out of herself for love, “ballad of a homeschool girl” speaks of the everyday embarrassments and social awkwardness that many young people face. Rodrigo speaks to every young person with these songs and has reached a topic that is rarely touched on in such an accessible, fun, pop-punk format.

However, Rodrigo has not strayed away from some of her best, most well written work, often about love and relationships. Following the release of debut album Sour, Rodrigo’s dating life has been made more than available to the public, and was linked to notorious lothario and serial Hollywood dater, Zach Bia, Disney Channel co-star Joshua Bassett, and producer Adam Faze. After further speculation, some are saying that various gut-wrenching ballads on this album were written in relation to these men and their relationship with the star. In the middle-of-album track, “logical”, Rodrigo candidly reflects on a past relationship and whilst she now looks back on it with confusion and disgust, she sympathises with herself in saying that “love is never logical”; love is not something you can ever explain and only hindsight can provide sense. Olivia Rodrigo also places the listener in front of the artist’s inner monologue in “the grudge”, by listening to her annoyance with herself that she cannot fully express her anger towards a past lover and instead holds a grudge. Both of these ballads explore the emotional pain and different aspects of anguish felt post breakup, and juxtapose the anthemic vibe of “get him back!”. The use of double-entendre here (to get him back into her life or get him back by means of punishment), further shows the duality of emotions towards a person and she sings in a way that is digestible and easy to sing along to. This girl power anthem was written to be sung by masses, with interactive clapping and a chanty style melody.

Rodrigo ends her album almost in response to the first song on her debut album, “brutal”. With her final song, “teenage dream”, the artist answers the question in “brutal” of “when’s my fucking teenage dream”’. Olivia often complains about her teenage years and the trials and tribulations throughout, but by the end of GUTS we almost see her out of her teenage years and into adulthood, leaving teenage-dom behind. It feels most appropriate for her to now answer her younger self by apologising that “she couldn’t always be [our] teenage dream.”, representing that the teenage dream is merely a fantasy and what we have of it is fleeting and impermanent. She stresses the feeling of ageing out of importance, prevalence, and beauty, and almost pre-empts her own fall in popularity. This artist knows the cut throat industry and through “teenage dream”, she spreads awareness around the neglect women in this industry face when they reach a certain age. 

Rodrigo here does not fail to convey the level of angst needed for her sophomore album, and clearly presents and elevates herself into the artist she wants to become. Rodrigo’s candid relatability is something that will see her go very far in the future, and this album is merely a stepping stone to reach many more people with her poignant words and catchy melodies.

Edited by: Saisha Gulamhussein

My name is Maya, I am a first year student studying history and english from London. I have a passion for writing, particularly about social justice and media such as music and film