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Why I Wish I Had Olivia Rodrigo When I Was in High School

I think growing up, we’re not allowed to feel certain things. We’re taught to keep our heads down and work hard, be grateful for what we have, because all the hurt from before will only make us stronger. This isn’t just a motivational mantra for the everyday, but stands as the backbone of the classic American dream.

So when 18 year old Filipina-American Olivia Rodrigo burst into 2021 singing, “I’m so sick of 17, where’s my fucking teenage dream?” I was mystified. It has always been “high school will be the best years of your life” and then it was “college will be the best years of your life” and then it was “your 20s will be the best years of your life” but I’m still stuck here tired and afraid.

A feminine, aching, brooding voice that marries the energetic pop tunes of today with the nostalgic rock instrumentals of the early 2000s, Rodrigo’s Sour manifested a kind of rage and anger that I forced myself not to feel as a teenager. It gives an aura of acceptance of one’s true feelings, a coming to terms of sorts that offers a healthier alternative to letting one’s negative emotions rot and burn inside of you until you crack open. I love the feeling of incompleteness, the prioritization of the current mood, the embracing of what we’re feeling now. From lamenting how she can’t parallel park in “Brutal” to mourning how she’s so sick of herself in “Jealousy, Jealousy”, she sounds like who she is: a teenage girl. There is no shame in her anger and resentment. It’s there, unfiltered and unbothered. And she does so in a way that’s alluring, relatable, and powerful to a lot of young women. 

Part of me wants to write down how Sour destroys the American capitalist dream of hard work and self-perseverance. But today it simply boils down to a large thank you, for letting girls be allowed to feel something, anything, and everything. Sure, we can all try to be a little positive and be a little grateful. But we can also do that tomorrow.

Hi! I’m Aira, and I’m a 4th year at UVA studying Global Development Studies and English. I’m a lover of chocolate, trips to Barnes and Nobles, and Chelsea FC. I’ve always loved writing and can’t wait to share more of my own with you!
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