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

Surging into the limelight came Olivia Rodrigo’s new album GUTS that beat the sophomore slump last week. GUTS toggles between what it’s like to realize that being 19 means that you’re on the precipice of no longer having the shine of being a youthful teen and how that’s multiplied by existing as a woman in the world. This connection between still being so young, yet feeling like you should be farther ahead in life got Olivia Rodrigo fans buzzing. They made connections between Speak Now (Taylor Swift) and Melodrama (Lorde), which also touched upon similar themes, especially about being 19.

In truth, being 19 is like being in limbo with only your big feelings to keep you company, a side of pressure to have the rest of your life planned out, and still being told that you’re too young to know anything.  

The earliest moment among these three albums where the age of 19 and being a woman came up was with Speak Now in 2010. Speak Now is said to be about Taylor Swift’s breakup with John Mayer, but it’s so much more than that. This album really speaks to her growth into adulthood and her departure from the youthful optimism that she was known for at the time. As Swift’s latest re-release, Speak Now has now become the moment. When it comes to talking about being 19, Taylor Swift frames a lot of these songs as wanting to be seen as an equal.

Fans especially saw this when Swift wrote this album without any co-writers. From this, a listener can see that at 19, Swift wanted to be respected for what she’d already worked hard to get. This shows how being 19 doesn’t change how older adults view you as someone who is still ‘good for their age,’ but not good because of just being themselves.

Almost a decade later came Melodrama by Lorde. This album was initially about becoming disillusioned with fame, but was then more heavily influenced by Lorde’s first breakup. Though these songs stake their claim in this subject matter, what made Melodrama a hit was the stellar vocals, lyrics, and production that was seen as ‘amazing’ for someone as young as Lorde to create. If Speak Now was partially about proving your worth but still having your age and gender used against you, then Melodrama takes on another aspect of being 19: transitioning into adulthood and having to be alone.

Lorde acknowledges these big changes in her title, which reiterates how being a young adult includes a lot of big feelings. Melodrama talks about how at a certain point, every teenager moves away and has to figure out how to parent themselves when their parent isn’t in front of them. This is how Melodrama has climbed to be a member of female musicians making influential albums at 19. It tackles one of the greatest mental health hurdles that has only increased since its release. 

Then, the music world was given the latest album that talks about being 19: GUTS. It’s perhaps the most relatable album out of the three because many UC Berkeley students have finally reached the age of 19 that Swift and Lorde have already written about. GUTS continues the trend of including breakup songs and being disillusioned by fame, but what makes it different is its straightforwardness. This technique, while also keeping some ambiguity, is very of the moment for many college students because, while many of us may know what we like now, there are still some unstable parts of our lives needing to be helped. Olivia Rodrigo captures how young adults such as the ones at UC Berkeley are wondering how they got to where they are now, how to keep making life better, and if the best parts of life are already behind them.

That’s one of the bigger parts of being 19 that’s changed from Swift and Lorde. How can young adults figure out how to overcome the feeling of maybe this is as good as it gets for them? Is it okay not to completely change their identity as it seems to be expected?

As someone who has just made the transition from being a teenager to a full young adult, I haven’t figured out the answer to any of these questions. Possibly, all of these musicians felt – or are feeling– the same way that Olivia Rodrigo describes: like they don’t know the answer to figuring out their lives. Instead, they wrote highly successful albums about this conundrum to try to reason out all their big feelings.

Neither I nor any reader can know if these albums gave them the answer that they were looking for in terms of moving on from being a teenager. Perhaps the reason that female musicians keep writing about the harshness of being 19 is that a lot of people at this age are looking to be understood. These albums are helpful because they can serve as a sign to others that these feelings can be turned into something new and not be held inside. 

Haley Morrill

UC Berkeley '25

Haley is a 3rd year at UC Berkeley, who is an art major. She loves to write about the arts, culture, and more! When Haley is not studying, you can find her going to art museums, trying every version of a mocha, or making art. She is very excited to continue with the Her Campus team and is looking forward to the year ahead.