Following the record breaking success of her debut album, SOUR, Olivia Rodrigo returns with a slightly darker sound and new experiences under her belt on sophomore album, GUTS. Angsty, intimate, messy, and 90s rock-influenced, Rodrigo avoids the usual sophomore slump. Her personal and vocal growth are impossible to ignore as she delivers piercing lyrics on entering adulthood, fame, and lousy exes.
Drawing inspiration from the late 1990s/early 2000s teenage rom-com soundtracks, Olivia highlights the dissatisfaction of double standards with ‘all-american bitch’. In the chorus, she sweetly snarls, “I know my age and I act like it.” As the bridge concludes, Rodrigo dials back the rock aesthetics in favor of a mellow tempo, which is integrated into other tracks on the album. Closing the iconic opener, Rodrigo sings “All the time, I’m grateful all the time / I’m sexy and I’m kind, I’m pretty when I cry.”
Remaining as relatable as ever, Rodrigo rips a page out of her diary on the socially awkward, Everclear-esque ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’. Composed of the familiar quiet-loud dynamics of the 90s, the song mirrors the experiences of hit single ‘vampire’ as a young girl in the social spotlight. However, ‘ballad’ attracts the larger audience of teenagers and young adults stressing over minor details like “I hate all my clothes / Feels like my skin doesn’t fit right over my bones.” Listeners expecting a sullen ballad rather than a quick-witted, pop-rock track are unaware of how Olivia’s electrifying energy amplifies her saddest songs.
On ‘making the bed’, Olivia pours out her insecurities on her version of adulthood and recurring dreams. In the heartfelt bridge, Olivia’s frustration boils over as she admits to a driving related nightmare on her inability to gain control over her life. Driven to self-awareness, “I got the things I wanted, it’s just not what I imagined” closes the bridge, lines that resonate differently to Rodrigo than her audience. Once again, Olivia’s conversational vocal style serves a melancholic punch as she dives deeper into her internal struggles related to fame and adulthood.
Bringing back the pop-punk fun, ‘get him back!’ is a charming revenge track with a massed-vocal chorus. Channeling the tone of ‘bad idea right?’, Olivia writes about a selfish and unreliable ex who she’s unable to resist going back to… give him what he deserves. Olivia teeters between sweet chaos and unhinged yet reasonable revenge, showcasing her genre range and another undeniable hit. The soft-spoken extended bridge turns the track on its head with thinly veiled threats: “Wanna kiss his face / With an uppercut / I wanna meet his mom / Just to tell her her son sucks.”
Closing with contemplative ballad ‘teenage dream,’ Olivia’s powerful vocals are laced with doubt. “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,” she sings. Throughout the album, fears surrounding maturity have been the beating heart of several tracks, ‘teenage dream’ expands upon these feelings and ties the internal struggles of GUTS together.