Two years ago, Olivia Rodrigo attained global pop superstar status when her debut album SOUR entered the Billboard 200 chart at No.1.
SOUR went on to score three Grammy Awards and has spent more weeks in the Billboard Top 10 album chart than any other debut album of the 21st century.
Such a meteoric rise to global celebrity status at the age of 18 was life-changing for Rodrigo, telling Billboard she felt like she “grew 10 years between the ages of 18 and 20”. Her newly released second album GUTS was written as a time capsule to reflect this period of growth and change.
But how did this experience affect her and her music?
We used Musiio Tag to find out.
1. She felt energised
While she was writing SOUR, Rodrigo was a 17-year-old devastated by her first heartbreak.
The album’s No. 1 hit singles ‘drivers license’ and ‘good 4 u’ included lyrics about her feeling blue and spending nights crying over her ex on the bathroom floor.
But GUTS shifts attention away from Rodrigo’s young heartbreak and towards her meteoric rise to fame as an 18-year-old.
Its opening track ‘all-american bitch’ rails against the expectations put onto her as a child actor for Disney channel; lyrics reference the pressure to be “grateful all the time” and “pretty when [she] cries”.
Another track, ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’, acknowledges the social anxiety she feels with her peers and the public due to lack of high-school experience (she was educated on set). She laments: “each time I step outside, it’s social suicide”.
As a result, GUTS is energised and highly-strung. Compared with SOUR, which had only low and medium energy tracks, half of GUTS’ tracks have high energy. Rodrigo has said she believes that music is for expressing rage and dissatisfaction, so clearly GUTS provided a crucial means of catharsis for Rodrigo at this time in her life.
2. She felt conflicted
After SOUR’s incredible reception, Rodrigo felt pressure to repeat her success with GUTS. She took some timeout from songwriting, and found the process harder than before.
Rodrigo described herself as “precocious” and self-assured during SOUR’s press tour, but as she’s got older, she’s begun to feel like she has a lot more to learn.
The intense, confusing feelings of anger and vulnerability she experienced after SOUR are reflected lyrically in her diverging impulses on GUTS’ eighth track: ‘get him back!’:
“I want to key his car, I want to make him lunch;
I wanna break his heart, then be the one to stitch it up.”
The conflict Rodrigo feels is also reflected in GUTS tempo.
Whereas SOUR tended to average between 80-89 BPM, GUTS averages between 120-139 BPM. Not only is her music faster, reflecting the change of pace in her life, but more varied, showing her uncertainty in trying to figure herself out.
3. She felt empowered
We have seen so far that being catapulted onto the world stage resulted in energising but conflicting growing pains for Rodrigo.
But despite the tumultuous changes in her life, she has come out the other side of her teens feeling happier and more empowered than before. She told Vogue: “the most painful moment of my life turned into my most successful.”
Rodrigo’s pride in her achievement shows through in her music. GUTS creates a mood that is less melancholy and more confident than SOUR. This suggests that despite the intensity of growing up in the public eye, the catharsis of her songwriting has given her an increasing sense of control and joy as a result.
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