Olivia Rodrigo cares about what different folks suppose. It is one of many frequent threads that runs by means of her sophomore album, “Guts,” which was launched on Sept. 8.
Her candor concerning the agony of continually evaluating herself to others is a part of what makes the album so relatable. In an period the place tallies of likes, streams, views, and shares are always broadcast and ladies, particularly, are bombarded with messaging that tells them they should have excellent seems to be, minds, and relationships whereas additionally being fully assured and loving themselves, it is laborious to totally keep away from feeling lower than.
That tangle of contradictions is the center of the opening observe, “All-American B*tch,” which explores the myriad contradictions girls are confronted with — be demure but assured, humble but fearless, horny but candy. “I don’t get angry when I’m pissed, I’m the eternal optimist / I scream inside to deal with it,” Rodrigo sings, setting the tone for the album.
In fact, along with screaming internally, she additionally makes music about all of it. “Guts” is an indignant, tightly wound album that builds on Rodrigo’s penchant for channeling righteous, relatable rage into daring, salty energy ballads. On the album, the principle supply of Rodrigo’s anger seems to be an irresponsible, older ex who retains her caught in a loop of breaking apart and getting again collectively. That ex appears to be the topic of “Bad Idea Right?,” “Get Him Back!,” and quite a lot of different tracks.
Rodrigo captures the ache of being in an on-and-off-again relationship with a manipulative individual effectively. However whereas the songs that appear to be overtly about an ex-partner are vitriolic, they’re additionally usually extra tongue-in-cheek and full of sunshine humor than a number of the album’s extra critical and expansive tracks. The album’s ballads and heart-wrenchers principally appear to be about one thing that is much more difficult for Rodrigo than the crappy older males she sings about: the scrutiny she feels from others about her personal worthiness. That theme is constant on the album’s most heart-wrenching observe, the one which will get closest to “Drivers License” by way of the tidal waves of emotion it pulls collectively: the album’s nearer, “Teenage Dream.”
“I fear that they already got all the best parts of me,” Rodrigo sings within the refrain. “And I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” Right here, Rodrigo appears to trace at a concern that she’s already produced her greatest work — maybe within the type of “Drivers License” — and he or she worries about not with the ability to stay as much as the requirements she set for herself so early on.
It is simply one of many many anxious tracks on “Guts.” She worries about evaluating herself to a different lady within the delicate, dreamy “Lacy.” She worries about her look on “Pretty Isn’t Pretty.” She worries concerning the penalties of her personal actions and dropping management in “Making the Bed,” turning all of her rage proper again on herself.
Finally, “Guts” is an album about social paranoia and insecurity. These are, after all, cornerstones of most teenage experiences, and so they additionally do have a tendency to seek out methods to stay round lengthy after. Rodrigo may cope with these insecurities on a bigger scale than most, having been lauded because the music business’s subsequent megastar on the age of 18.
It is by no means been laborious to see why Rodrigo soared to fame so early on. She has an distinctive, uncannily athletic voice and makes use of it effectively on “Guts.” It soars to excessive heights after which fades to a breathy whisper straight away, all whereas by some means sounding lower than easy. The music, too, is a reliably catchy mix of time-tested pop and pop-punk recipes — which may really feel formulaic at instances, however an occasional little bit of psychedelia makes it extra distinctive, layering every part with a sheen of glitter.
Musically and thematically, “Guts” isn’t essentially a step up from “Sour.” In fact, it by no means essentially needed to be. As a substitute, it is a worthy follow-up that reminds us that Rodrigo is simply as scared that she’s not adequate as the remainder of us. In a world that always conspires to make us really feel like we’re lower than — often with the intention to promote extra merchandise — that is greater than sufficient.