From Barbie to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour and Beyonce’s Summer Renaissance, women have been ruling the media worldwide. The summer concluded with the highly anticipated sophomore album from former Disney star, Olivia Rodrigo. GUTS released on September 8th at a perfect juncture between summer and fall. As the weather gets a little cooler, I’ve enjoyed curling up with a hot drink and listening to the ballads on the album such as “making the Bed” and “logical”. As October approaches, I intend to stream “vampire” more in preparation for Halloween.
Rodrigo’s second album leans more towards pop-rock but at the same time doesn’t fit the mold of a single genre. Her album is extremely self-aware and urges listeners to self-reflect. While her debut, SOUR, is most definitely a break up album, GUTS is much more complex and shows her growth as an artist and as a young woman figuring out her place in the world.
Rodrigo is one of the few AAPI and mixed race female artists to make it this big, yet she is constantly reduced to a cookie-cutter pop artist. GUTS proves everyone who believes she simply makes “decent break up songs” wrong; the album touches on more serious themes such as growing up, social dynamics, beauty standards, and even the complexities of anger.
The first song on the album, “all-american bitch”, is the perfect intro to the album where Rodrigo addresses the complexities of her identity. The refrain she uses in the chorus is “I know my age and I act like it”. This line seems to be a play on the phrase “act your age” in which illustrates being on the cusp of adulthood but still maybe feeling like a teenager. Because I am the same age as Olivia Rodrigo, I completely resonate with these lyrics as oftentimes I find myself struggling with the idea of adulthood and leaving behind my teenage years. The slower song “Teenage Dream” also discusses the idea of age in this way. Rodrigo sings, “You’re only nineteen, but I fear that they already got all the best parts of me”. Rodrigo captures the pressure of remaining youthful and the fear of growing up. Society puts false expectations and socially generated “expiration dates” on female artists and Rodrigo seems to express concern for that here.
“the ballad of a homeschooled girl” also discusses age but with a more personal approach as Rodigro discusses the social dynamics that come with her experience of being homeschooled. But it is easy to relate to her lyrics about mistakes she made and nights that turned out a different way than anticipated. She captures her inner thoughts perfectly in a way that makes the listener feel that it is also normal to go through these awkward social dynamics.
“pretty isn’t pretty enough ” is a personal look into Rodrigo’s relationship with body image and self-esteem. Her vulnerability and willingness to vocalize internal thoughts many young women face hits home for me. However, it is clear that this song goes hand in hand with other songs that touch on her relationship with fame, especially at a pivotal age in one’s life.
Olivia Rodrigo strives to represent the voice of the new America: one that is coming of age in a time of uncertainty where social media heightens scrutiny and impacts self esteem. Additionally she symbolizes a population of youth that cannot fit into clear cut socially constructed categories such as musical genre, race, identity, and power dynamics. Rodrigo truly dives deep into her constant inner dialogues in this album and has received praise for doing so. She captures the trap that is 20: an age between being a full-fledged “grown up” and still feeling young, unprepared, and even scared about adulthood. Maybe what is most powerful about this album is that I felt that I grew with her. SOUR felt fitting for my 18-year-old self, but GUTS feels even more fitting for my 20-year-old self. With more life experience and understanding but the same emotional fragility, Rodigro doesn’t judge emotional volatility; she encourages it. She wants listeners to be able to feel angry, insecure, and heartbroken because it is all part of growing up.
Featured Image From: https://www.oliviarodrigo.com/releases/guts/