The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
You know those albums that are so monumental that you remember where you were and who you were with when they came out? Throughout my summer, this phenomenon happened three times over.
1. Olivia Rodrigo, Sour
First, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR came out on May 21, 2021. Rodrigo managed to create the contemporary holy grail of breakup albums. She captured audiences by fusing her musical and vocal talent with true, honest storytelling. Each track reflects Rodrigo’s evolving emotional state at the time of writing the album at age 17. She unapologetically travels through sadness, insecurity and anger and in turn, the album incorporates a melting pot of musical genres such as acoustic, pop, and punk. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, she explains, “All the feelings that I was feeling were so intense. I called the record SOUR because it was this really sour period of my life.”
When this album came out, I was in Victoria, BC with two of my closest friends. We had the privilege of spending two months there over the summer to work and remember what it was like to be a young person again amidst the ongoing pandemic. The three of us were sitting on the sunken couches in our house talking about nothing in particular when the album release notification popped up on each of our phones. So, we did the natural thing and listened to the entire album from the first track to the last. After we finished it, Joshua Bassett would never hold such charm over us again. I won’t get started on the Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, and Sabrina Carpenter love (hate) triangle. But if any of you want to get started, here is my Twitter (@rachelecker_), my DMs are open.
2. Lorde, Solar Power
Next was Lorde’s Solar Power. The full length album came out on August 20, 2021, but it was the two preceding singles that shook the soundtrack of my summer and put Lorde back on my radar since her 2013 single “Royals”. These two songs are “Solar Power” and “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, released June 11 and July 22, respectively. Like the rest of the album, when I first listened to these songs, I couldn’t fully capture their impact. I heard Lorde’s wispy voice and the soft timbre of the tracks and thought, “I like the songs, I don’t love them.” That was about it. Then, I listened to them again, and again and again. “Solar Power” illustrates the absolute bliss of entering the summer season and knowing you made it through another dark winter plagued by seasonal depression and reduced light. “Stoned at the Nail Salon” takes listeners through an existential mindset where Lorde questions whether she has made the right life decisions for herself. She wonders what else in life she is missing and acknowledges the terrifying reality of the passing of time or as she admits, she could just be high in the nail salon, again.
I was still in Victoria, BC when “Solar Power” came out. I didn’t really understand the song until I watched the music video where Lorde is in a hippie-ish two-piece yellow outfit with no shoes on the beach, surrounded by a group of people. They all dance, sing, run, jump and then I got it. I could recognize the “solar power” in my own day-to-day and hold more tightly onto the joy I feel through the summer season. “Solar Power” would consistently be playing when we would walk on the street (dance on the street), wait at the bus stop (dance at the bus stop), hang at the beach (dance at the beach), cook (dance), clean (dance) and just be (dance). The song just makes you dance!
3. Billie Eilish, Happier Than Ever
The last of the albums of the summer 2021 trilogy is the iconic, the spectacular Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish.
Can we first please take a moment of silence for this album and its beauty?
Okay we’re back. Happier Than Ever came out on July 30, 2021. For me, this was the only album I was anticipating and waiting for. Each song tells a different story and together they invite Eilish’s expansive audience into her complicated existence as an influential young person. You can hear and feel Eilish’s growth and transformation from her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? which more so told the story of internal battles with one’s own mind. In contrast, her most recent album talks about growing older, the restrictiveness and privilege of fame, self worth, and breakups and anger. Unlike When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? ‘s sinister and eerie tone, Happier Than Ever incorporates a lighter feel, but does not abandon Billie and Finneas’—Billie’s writing partner, producer and brother—signature and innovative beats paired with her breathy and powerful vocals.
Also through an interview with Apple Music, Eilish describes what it was like to climb the ladder of celebrity: “I started to feel like a parody of myself.” As she and Finneas approached this album while at home during the pandemic, Eilish explains, “I just tried to listen to myself and figure out what I actually liked versus what I thought I would have liked in the past. I had to really evaluate myself and be like, ‘What the hell do I want with myself right now?’”
The day this album came out, I played it from start to finish as I drove to and from work. By the time I stepped out of the car at the end of the day, my emotional self was flustered from the journey this album takes you on. And let’s be honest, the amount of times I have blasted and belted the title song “Happier Than Ever” in the car with the windows up are countless, whether it be with friends or solo. The song never fails to unleash an uncontrollable angst whether you’re in that mood or not.
What do these three albums have in common?
Each one of these female artists proudly stepped into their vulnerability and reclaimed their power to produce work that showcased uncensored emotion. To me, these albums felt different because I was hearing and witnessing emotional expressions I hadn’t seen or heard before through a female voice. Emotions like unruly anger and the frustration that is inevitably connected to growing up. I was able to feel these experiences more deeply while listening to this music because the artists didn’t just tell us about their perspectives, but showed us by tapping into each of the senses to tell a holistic story and activate listeners’ imaginations.
What songs or artists have unlocked this experience for you?