Grammy award winner Olivia Rodrigo has released the much-awaited second album, ‘GUTS‘. Following on from her debut album ‘SOUR‘, ‘GUTS‘ had huge shoes to fill. The album was once again produced by Dan Nigro, who produced ‘SOUR‘ in 2021. As a result, we can hear elements of that same teen angst that flowed right through her first LP. The only difference now is it’s more grown up and louder!
Firstly releasing the lead single ‘Vampire’ on June 30th, we got a taste of this darker, grungier sound. The opening track ‘all-american-bitch‘ sees Olivia using her sarcastic humour at its very best. Namely, it’s an angry song that contrasts the lyrics she is singing. Partnered with screaming vocals and disdain in her mouth, it highlights how women are made to feel they should conform to this ideal.
Following straight on from the punchy first track, we are greeted by Olivia’s hushed “Hey!”. Released as the second single, ‘bad idea right?’ is the perfect backing track for any 2000s teen movie. Clearly going back and forth on wanting to see an ex while paired with a catchy beat, it puts you in the shoes of the friends she’s trying to hide her plan from.
Additionally, we start to see a softer approach to her sound in tunes like ‘lacy’. The flowy number captures you in a Gracie Abrams-inspired high. However, when listening deeper it is easy to hear Olivia’s common theme of jealousy within her music. Both this song and ‘jealousy, jealousy‘ from her previous record reflect on her experience with comparing herself against other women. Whereas this time, ‘lacy’ focuses on a stalker-like romantic obsession, carrying on the darker theme this album holds.
Alternatively switching the tone back to the angst we know she does so well, ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’ sounds like it is pulled right out of Hole’s ‘Live Through This’ album. Ultimately, it is a pop punk sing-song tune about the awkwardness of growing up. It creates this feeling like everything you do is embarrassing. Accompanied by a heavy guitar sound it is reminiscent of the 90’s grunge girl groups.
Whereas, in songs like ‘making the bed’ we see that vulnerable side of her art that she perfected so well in her first full-length release. Now, it seems even more honest. Similarly, we see the singer look back on the reality of the fame that she wished so hard for. She realises that no matter how badly we want something, it is never enough.
Undoubtedly ‘GUTS‘ has a common theme of not getting what you wished for, demonstrated by the songs ‘logical’ and ‘love is embarrassing’. One carries out a defeated approach of not understanding why things ended the way they did. Meanwhile, the other looks inward towards the wish that she had more respect for herself to stand up against it. Ultimately, they pair nicely together to show that although love is never logical and can be embarrassing, always be true to yourself.
‘get him back!‘ walks us through the story of her failed and quite truthfully, awful relationship. Despite this, Olivia admits that she wants him back for the fun of it. Known as the song ‘with the drums’, this cheery hit is carried by the chanting chorus. Simultaneously, it invites the listeners to encourage her.
Seeing the album out with the most honest songs on the otherwise fierce album, ‘the grudge’ encompasses the feelings of everything you’ve ever wanted to say to those who hurt you. Consequently asking ‘Do you think I deserved it all?’ directly. As the listener, you almost feel bad for hearing such a personal expression. Vocally standing as arguably the strongest moment on the album is the bridge of this somber tune.
Similarly following in the footsteps of ‘making the bed’, ‘pretty isn’t pretty’ carries on the theme that fame doesn’t solve insecurities. No matter what you do to change how you look, your belief in yourself will always reflect back at you in the mirror.
Last but not least, the final track on this firework of an album is ‘teenage dream’. It’s clearly focusing on the difficulty that her age has stunted her. Olivia is hanging on to the fear that all her efforts won’t be celebrated when she is no longer the ‘teenage dream’. As an incredible call back to ‘brutal’ on ‘SOUR‘ are the lyrics “I’m so sick of seventeen, where’s my fucking teenage dream?”. As a consequence, she realises that the ‘teenage dream’ isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Altogether sonically and within its imagery, ‘GUTS‘ is proof that Olivia Rodrigo really is just getting better and better. She is leading the pop scene in a whole new direction and taking on the role with such honesty and individuality.