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Olivia Rodrigo Takes Listeners Through a Pop-Rock Rollercoaster in Sophomore Album “GUTS”

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 TCNJ chapter.

If you like late night talks with your best friends, feel socially inept, have a manipulative ex or are noticing your life spiraling out of control, then “GUTS” is the album for you. In the tell-all, 12-track album, 20-year-old Olivia Rodrigo writes directly to her peers (and exes) as she transitions from teenage years into adulthood. 

Co-written and produced by Daniel Nigro, Rodrigo’s sophomore album leans away from traditional pop into punk-rock elements, often using genre switches to portray the variety and intensity of emotion she’s experiencing. Despite the new stylistic elements, the songwriter still relies heavily on her piano and vocal abilities. The conversational nature of Rodrigo’s music allows listeners to step directly into her shoes and explore the raw emotion of femininity, societal expectations, love, comparison and shitty exes.

Now onto the tracklist:

all-american bitch

The opening track, like much of the album, explores the expectations and impossible standards Rodrigo seems to associate with girlhood. She describes herself as eternally empathetic, sexual, beautiful and unbothered while suppressing frustration that threatens to boil over. The vocals fluctuate between delicate head voice and powerful chest voice, culminating in a bridge composed entirely of screaming. Rodrigo uses her vocal and lyrical range to create a sense of dissonance for the listener learning about the sugary sweet character of the “perfect all-american bitch.” The song sets the tone for the album, thrusting listeners into a punk rock, angry-girl music style briefly explored in “brutal” and “jealousy, jealousy” on her debut album “SOUR.”

bad idea right?

Rodrigo’s signature conversational tone welcomes her listeners into the dirty details of her personal life, and “bad idea right?” is no exception. The second song on the album indulges in the singer’s hypothetical fantasy of hooking up with an ex. We follow her thought process as she lies to herself and her friends, ditching plans to drive to his new place. The punk rock single immediately became a viral TikTok audio, and Rodrigo was championed the songwriter for “teenage girls in their twenties,” young women who are experimenting with adult mistakes with both the naivety and brazenness of teens. 

(For those keeping up with the “in his sheets/in whose sheets” lyric debate, the artist has confirmed that it is “in whose sheets” on her TikTok, @livbedumb.)


Olivia Rodrigo has sung about her fair share of terrible exes, but “vampire” might take the cake. Her vampiric ex– only comes out at night, “bloodsucker” –is rumored to be ex Zach Bia or Adam Faze, who are both 6-7 years older than the pop star. The song goes into her anger and regret at dating and defending a manipulative ex during their six month relationship. The song builds in intensity and power, starting with an individual vocal track and piano, before gaining layered harmonies and driving drums. 


One of the more understated songs on the album, “lacy” is a more poetic echo of the sentiments of “jealousy, jealousy” from “SOUR.” The song is equal parts description of  “Lacy” and Rodrigo’s obsession with her. Whether it’s pure jealousy, a sapphic lovesong, or Lacy embodies something deeper in the singer’s life, Rodrigo is all-consumed with the character she describes. Lacy is angelic, dazzling, and downright ethereal, and Rodrigo is sickened and enthralled with her. The song is as angelic as Lacy herself, with layered vocals, sweeping chords in the bridge, and harpsichord-like accompaniment.

ballad of a homeschooled girl

Another punk rock anthem for the girls who always feel like they’re struggling socially, “ballad of a homeschooled girl” is an expose of social missteps. Rodrigo explores the feeling of trying to break in socially and failing miserably. “I made it weird, I made it worse,” is repeated each chorus as the singer spirals through the vicious cycle of making mistakes and overthinking them. The song is the heart of the album’s recurring themes of feeling socially isolated and dwelling on insecurities. 

making the bed

Rodrigo continues the exploration of mistakes and missteps, but centers it around her successes as well her lack of control in life. The star has three Grammy Awards and has starred in multiple Disney television shows, but “making the bed” shows these successes in a different light. The first verse includes the lines “Another thing I ruined I used to do for fun/Another piece of plastic I could just throw away.” She also references romantic mistakes, but in the end she finds only herself to blame for her many struggles. The reverberating track at the base of the entire song creates syncopation and sets “making the bed” apart from her other similarly formatted songs.


A sadder echo of the themes of “vampire,” this song lays out the cycle of emotional manipulation with heartbreakingly raw vocals. From gaslighting, isolation and targeted arguments, each verse piles on new hardships Rodrigo suffered within a relationship. The outro points to her self-blaming tendencies with the lines “I know I’m half responsible/And that makes me feel horrible,” and “I know I could’ve stopped it all/God, why didn’t I stop it all?” Overall, the gut-wrenching vulnerability of “logical” puts you in the shoes of a naive girl and her desperate attempts to love her way through manipulation.

get him back!

Revenge or reconciliation? Rodrigo wants both. In her classic conversational style, she paints a picture of egotistical, argumentative, player of an ex that made up for everything with trips to France and parties (“Gossip Girl” fans, think Chuck Bass). It’s the perfect song for reminiscing on that one guy you know you shouldn’t miss. “I wanna break his heart/Then be the one to stitch it up.” Each description of him has a “but,” and each idea has a “then” as she waffles between hurting him and winning his affections. 

love is embarrassing

Starting out with drums and electric guitar, this upbeat pop-rock song skims over embarrassing tales of misplaced loves. After each “weird second string loser who’s not worth mentioning” the singer goes all-in for isn’t the one, she has a disastrous reaction. Each new piece of information shared is brief, but comprehensive. The song addresses the failed loves directly in the verses and refer to them in the choruses, as through Rodrigo is switching audiences throughout the song. 

the grudge

Recalling an old hurt, “the grudge” relies on a piano, orchestral elements and nearly all solo vocals, a contrast to the album’s other vocally layered songs. As she remembers previous wounds, Rodrigo recounts the arguments she has in her head and the utter lack of closure she seems to feel. The song reads like a reflection on the subject matter of debut album “SOUR,” specifically “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” “enough for you,” and “favorite crime,” songs which are widely rumored to be about former boyfriend and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” costar Joshua Bassett. Whether or not “the grudge” is about Bassett, Rodrigo fights throughout the song to forgive and forget, but is ultimately unable to let go of the past.

pretty isn’t pretty

Dabbling in the indie-rock realm with a guitar-heavy song reminiscent of “Greyhound” by Calpurnia or the guitar riff in “Upper West Side” by King Princess, “pretty isn’t pretty” explores the emotional toll of trying to keep up with impossible beauty standards. For every disordered eating habit or new product she tries, Rodrigo falls further into the cycle of trying to be “pretty enough.” The song walks the line of acknowledging the larger societal problem while staying within the emotional sphere of a girl continually fighting to change herself. 

teenage dream

With another piano ballad, the album closes with “teenage dream.” The singer discusses the continued theme of growing older but not wiser, questioning when her mistakes will no longer be credited to youth and naivety. In what perhaps is an apology to her audience, the young star ends each chorus with “I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” She captures the essence of growing up and burning out, with the line “they all say that it gets better… but what if I don’t?” With this question still ringing, the music fades out, but not before slightly distorted audio of Rodrigo laughing, along with baby sounds and other voices play. This final touch creates a slightly hopeful feeling to the end of the album, despite the struggles the artist depicts within it.

Hi! I'm a Journalism and Professional Writing and Communications: Digital Filmmaking and Television double major at The College of New Jersey. I'm the president of TCNJ Lion's Television. I've always had a love for fashion and clothing design.