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The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

Olivia Rodrigo Drops her Second Album: GUTS


Olivia Rodrigo, fresh off her freshman hit record, “SOUR”, which brought her home three Grammy awards, is back and better than ever with her much anticipated sophomore album, “GUTS”, which came out on September 8. Rodrigo’s new album strays away from the pop persona that we all know and love. While “SOUR” was filled with piano ballads and pop radio hits, “GUTS” takes a more grungy approach, with clear inspiration from 90s alt-rock superstars Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple.

While Rodrigo’s freshman album talks about her teenage years, love and heartbreak, her new album tackles much more emotionally mature themes such as newfound fame, trying to fit in with the music industry she was catapulted into and abusive relationships.

Songs such as “all-american b****”, which is the opener of the record, “ballad of a homeschooled girl”, “making the bed” and “teenage dream” have Rodrigo grappling with her newfound fame, the desire of the industry wanting her to be the “perfect American woman” and how she’s torn between a sense of maturity while also living out the high school, more reckless side of her. “making the bed” is one of my favorite songs that tackles this topic. In this song, Rodrigo describes her relationship with her new fame, in which she is torn between being grateful and satisfied, but still recognizing that when bad things happen in her career, she is allowed to feel negative emotions.

Songs such as “lacy” and “pretty isn’t pretty” both talk about the music industry standards that she is constantly pushed into and the amount of pressure she is under as a woman in music. These songs talk about things like self-image, how you are perceived in the music industry and how she desperately wants to stray away from it while also craving the validation. However, some people speculate that “lacy” is about indie pop stars Gracie Abrams and Sabrina Carpenter, who are both opening up for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour”. Rodrigo has expressed her love for Swift’s music in the past, so this leads many people to believe the song is about the envy Rodrigo feels about them opening for Swift.

Unlike what others believe, I think this song describes much more than perceived drama. I interpret this song to be about what the music industry wants her to be: a perfect, beautiful and skin-like puff pastry. Rodrigo wants to fight the stereotypes, but feels guilty for the envy she feels. Even though it might be wrong, she desperately wants to be like these perfect girls and she feels jealous for something she shouldn’t want.

“Pretty isn’t pretty” takes a much more literal approach to this topic, as she describes how she feels about fashion trends that everyone seems to follow. Rodrigo describes how these expectations of being perfect are plastered all over her life, and make her feel that no matter what she does, she’ll never fit in and she’ll never be perfect.

Songs like “Vampire”, “the grudge” and “get him back” all tackle the abusive relationships Rodrigo has been in with her newfound fame. While “SOUR” had topics of breakup, which GUTS also explores, it takes a much more mature approach to her love life. One of the songs, “vampire”, which is one of many Rodrigo’s epic piano ballads and the lead single for the album, talks about someone draining the life out of her or bleeding her out like a vampire. Even though these songs dealing with such an important topic of abuse and manipulation are mostly ballads, one song stands out. “get him back”, which is a perfect pop-rock song that’s similar to Avril Lavigne, has a double meaning. Both Rodrigo and Lavigne sing about getting a guy back into their lives as a way of revenge. In this song, Rodrigo reflects on how she pushed her friends away for this guy, and for revenge, she tricks him into making him jealous and sorry for her.

The album closed with one of her wonderfully crafted piano ballads, titled “teenage dream”, which has Rodrigo reflecting on growing up in the spotlight. She writes about the pressure she was under after a hit first record to make an even better second record. She expresses her grief of losing parts of her younger self as she grows up, and how she’s not going to be young and impressive forever.

One song that I didn’t enjoy was “logical”, which is another one of Rodrigo’s piano ballads that describes how irrational you can be when you’re in love, and how when you get caught up in intense emotions. Although many ballads on the record share the same theme, this song didn’t do it for me like the others.

I loved this record way more than “SOUR”. In “SOUR”, it is evident that she cements her place in the music industry as a pop darling, and while “GUTS” shares the same roots, it’s pleasantly surprising to see her take a grungy approach and stray away from her pop routes. Many artists struggle with making their second album as strong, concise and smart as their first one, which I was afraid would happen to Rodrigo when “GUTS” was announced. Rodrigo has no problem overcoming a sophomore slump. Her new album is fresh, but still authentically her in every way. This record shows us her everlasting talent and potential, which was already made evident from day one. I would rate this album a 8.5/10.

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  • C

    Clark KentSep 18, 2023 at 2:12 PM

    This is certainly an in-depth and substantial review. However I think there are key aspects of the album you neglected to discuss. Firstly, Rodrigo clearly took inspiration from Weezer; the guitar ballads are strikingly similar to both the Blue album and the Black album. Secondly, while I wholeheartedly agree with you on the topics of Rodrigo’s songwriting, I feel some of the themes and medleys became a bit repetitive after a while. Despite that, I agree with your conclusion, GUTS is a solid and strong album that will occupy the billboard 100 for some time to come. That being said though I would lower the score by half a point, for a final score of 8/10.