Olivia Rodrigo

So much has been written and talked about in regards to Olivia Rodrigo, from her pop prowess in her songwriting style, to the music discourse around what artists she sounds similar to, it’s all gotten a bit…tired. The last time I sat down to write about Rodrigo’s debut, SOUR, it was to evaluate what makes this artist so endearing, talented, and remarkable. GUTS picks right up where she left off on her bulletproof debut record that captivated fans near and wide, and moves the needle that much further up in her atmospheric trajectory towards superstardom. From the opening bars of the lead single, “Vampire,” to the post-teenage brashness of current single “Bad Idea Right?” Rodrigo has created a monster on her sophomore record that has already garnered tons of critical praise. While SOUR introduced the world to Olivia Rodrigo, GUTS is a beautifully messy coming-of-age album that highlights the bets parts of a pop artist willing to take the right steps in her musical journey.

The album features a wide range of styles and song structures to highlight Rodrigo’s growth as an artist, and more importantly, avoid any chance of a sophomore slump. The first few lyrics in album opener, “All-American Bitch,” play off the idea that people really know all about her when she sings, “And I am built like a mother and a total machine / I feel for your every little issue, I know just what you mean / And I make light of the darkness / I’ve got sun in my motherfuckin’ pocket / Best believe, yeah, you know me.” This abrasive approach to her songwriting is a treat, and showcases an artist getting fed up with the status quo and the chatter around her music.

The raucous bass line in “Bad Idea Right?” is made up of the stuff of legends, and it rocks along with a great bounce to it, while Rodrigo goes from near-rapped verses to building up to an anthemic chorus. She commands the song with a newfound swagger, and takes it all in stride as she tells more of her story. “Vampire” is as perfect of a lead single as they come in the pop realm, and her crisp, well-enunciated “fame fucker,” shine a bit more spotlight on her captivating ability to turn a song on its head with memorable moment after moment.

Other early tracks like the acoustic-based, “Lacy,” feature breathy vocals from Rodrigo as she laments on the second verse of, “Smart, sexy Lacy, I’m losin’ it lately / I feel your compliments like bullets on skin / Dazzling starlet, Bardot reincarnate / Well, aren’t you the greatest thing to ever exist?” It’s all part of the re-packaging plan of Olivia Rodrigo that begins to tell more of her artistic development as a songwriter discovering what works best for her. From her own lyrical comparisons to other “perfect” girls that she first described on her breakthrough smash, “Driver’s License,” to what she paints on this aforementioned track, her insecurities are on display in heart-wrenching fashion.

”Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl” rocks along with great, wailing guitars, brazen drumbeats, and a more dirty approach to her songwriting. The refrain of, “I broke a glass, I tripped and fell / I told secrets I shouldn’t tell / I stumbled over all my words / I made it weird, I made it worse,” continue to show Rodrigo’s relatable anxieties, and the impossible and daunting task of trying to please everyone. You can tell from the last few bars that all of that is just…exhausting.

Other remarkable, standout songs like the piano-laced “Logical” are delivered with crisp, pop perfection with a storytelling aspect to it that reminded me of the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “The Boxer.” The second verse by Rodrigo of, “And I fell for you like water / Falls from the February sky / But now the current’s stronger / And I couldn’t get out if I tried / But you convinced me, baby / It was all in my mind / And now you got me thinking,” is just top-tier, superstar brilliance.

”Get Him Back” pulls back the curtain on Rodrigo’s headspace in conflicted relationships, all while leading up to the anthemic, full chorus of, “I wanna get him back / I wanna make him really jealous, wanna make him feel bad / Oh, I wanna get him back / ‘Cause then again, I really miss him and it makes me real sad / Oh, I want sweet revenge / And I want him again / I want to get him back, back, back.” It’s a great, age-appropriate anthem that rocks along with a foot to the floor beat that still accentuates Rodrigo’s relatable and charismatic nature. “Love is Embarrassing” is a logical follow-up to the brash “Get Him Back” in the sequencing and acts as a continuation to the story Rodrigo is telling on GUTS.

”The Grudge” acts like a sister song to “Driver’s License” in its great, patient delivery that rewards the listener through repeat spins. While the song “Pretty Isn’t Pretty” fits well within the realm of indie rock bands/artists like Middle Kids, Beabadoobee, and Beach Bunny, but with the charming flair that Rodrigo does with veteran ease. When she goes into her higher vocal register on the chorus, it’s just pop perfection. All the songs before it flow well to the piano ballad closing track, “Teenage Dream,” that finds Rodrigo looking towards her future as she passionately croons, “I’ll blow out the candles, happy birthday to me / Got your whole life ahead of you, you’re only nineteen / But I fear that they already got all the best parts of me / And I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” It’s quite a treat to see an artist create a sophomore record that fully realizes her vision for her music and matches her incredible talent.

GUTS is tragic, gorgeous, messy, and yet it’s a massive step in the right direction of what pop music should sound like today. Olivia Rodrigo has quickly cemented herself in the same breath as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and so many other pop powerhouses in a remarkable second album that carefully hides its minimal flaws so effortlessly. The future outlook for Olivia Rodrigo continues to shine brightly.