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The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Olivia Rodrigo spills her “GUTS” in her sophomore album

The official album cover of GUTS
Photo provided by Wikipedia
The official album cover of “GUTS”

After singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo released her debut album SOUR, her fans have been dying for more music. SOUR was well received across the world, shooting up to the top of the charts and finishing as the second-most popular album of 2021 in the United States. Rodrigo’s heartbreaking ballads, angsty teen anthems, relatable lyrics, and youthful vitality have made her an illustrious figure in the music industry, one that every teenager knows and loves. Two years later, Rodrigo continues to impress with her sophomore pop album GUTS, released on Sept. 8, 2023. 

Through GUTS, it is evident that twenty-year-old Rodrigo grows along with her listeners. SOUR was about Rodrigo’s adolescence and heartache, while GUTS has more of a mature feeling to it, with her songs mostly centered around her romances and what she has learned about herself as a newly-turned young adult.

Her music has grown with her as well: her once simple but emotion-evoking lyrics have evolved into a more complex and metaphorical form that are just as strong. Her once minimal production is now elaborate and unique, and her naïve, emotional bedroom pop music has turned into more nostalgic and reflective pop-rock.

The opening track, “all american b****” is a clear example of her more rock-sounding music. “all american b****” is a song that is about confidence on the surface, but is ultimately about her feelings of misplacement in American society and how she is able to cover it up. Rodrigo sings in a light tone along with guitar strings about how she is a perfect all-American, comparing herself to a Kennedy with her sophistication and integrity, before the beat drops and she sings the chorus in an angsty voice against loud drums. Throughout the song, she switches between the two contrasting styles, creating a song unlike any other. The stylistic shifts take a while to get used to, but after a few listens, the song becomes just as catchy as the others on the album. 

“vampire”, the album’s lead single, was very well chosen as it represents the album as a whole more than any other song on the album.  Much like her debut single “drivers license”, she starts off the song singing softly and emotionally, accompanied by only beautiful piano chords, but soon after, the song picks up and the production gets heavier. Rodrigo sings about a boy who lied to her and used her, and her clever lyrics depict how the boy sucked all the life out of her. “I used to think I was smart/But you made me look so naive/The way you sold me for parts/As you sunk your teeth into me”, Rodrigo repeats throughout the song.

Another piano-driven song is “the grudge”, a heartbreaking ballad with themes of being manipulated and emotionally abused in a relationship. The song feels similar to Rodrigo’s ballads on SOUR, such as “Traitor”, but is a step up with its metaphorical lyrics and beautiful production. One of the best lyrics in her discography, Rodrigo sings, “And I know, in my heart, hurt people hurt people/And we both drew blood, but, man, those cuts were never equal”. “the grudge” sounds like it was sung in Rodrigo’s bedroom, with soft clicks of the damper pedal of the piano. The song builds up to a crescendo, where Rodrigo belts about how she was built up just to be watched as she fell. Every lyric is filled with raw emotion, making “the grudge” the best, and saddest, song in Rodrigo’s discography.

Some other standouts on GUTS include “making the bed”, and “pretty isn’t pretty”. Both songs harken back to the overall thematic concepts on the album of despair, regret, anger, and jealousy, and Rodrigo effectively utilizes both her voice and different music styles to make them evident. Additionally, each of the songs on GUTS builds on what SOUR tried to do as an album, but better, because while SOUR and GUTS share similar thematic concepts, the concepts in GUTS are more complex and developed.

The last song on the twelve-track album is “teenage dream”, a song about Rodrigo’s fears as she grows older. She worries about whether she will be enough as she gets older and fears that she has already shown the best parts of her to the world. “teenage dream” perfectly encapsulates the fear of growing up and leaves listeners satisfied with the ending of the album, much like she did on SOUR.

Overall, GUTS was a perfect step up from Rodrigo’s first album, with no skips. It is evident that every song is carefully curated and straight from Rodrigo’s raw emotions, and Rodrigo could not have made this album any better. The only flaws were that the album was a bit short, and some songs like “ballad of a homeschooled girl”, “love is embarrassing”, and “all american b****” took a while to get used to because of Rodrigo’s style change from bedroom-pop to pop-rock.

Rodrigo rose to the challenge and took her music to the next level. Once again, Rodrigo has proven to be the artist of our generation. If you enjoyed GUTS, check out Midnights by Taylor Swift for its similar genre and themes, and Good Riddance by Gracie Abrams for its youthful and vulnerable lyricism.

10/10

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About the Contributor
Grace Hsu, Features Editor
Hi, my name is Grace Hsu and I am a sophomore as well as one of the features editors of the Ghostwriter. This is my second year on the paper and I joined because I like to read and write. In my free time, I like to listen to Taylor Swift and spend time with my friends and family. I also swim competitively and I love to go to the beach. I'm looking forward to another great year!

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