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Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album ‘GUTS’ is a brutally honest confessional about growing up

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album ‘GUTS’ is a brutally honest confessional about growing up

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album ‘GUTS’ is a brutally honest confessional about growing up
September 15
12:00 2023

Olivia Rodrigo is witty, pissed off and angsty at the same time. Breaking the sophomore album curse, “GUTS” has become an instant pop-punk classic.

With high expectations, the 20-year-old responds with her most intimate songs yet. The record is rife with killer lines while pushing powerful ballads. “GUTS”  is the epitome of rockstar.

Second albums are a risky affair. Plenty of newly famous musicians fall short of their first album’s successes – so much so, that the phenomenon is commonly known as the “sophomore album curse.” Rodrigo’s new album is a clear exception. It turns into an honest confessional that quickly grasps listeners with the slight genre switch, all while staying loyal to Rodrigo’s branded tone.

Rodrigo co-wrote the album with musician and songwriter Dan Nigro, who was also her collaborator on her debut “SOUR.” As a dream team, they managed to avoid all the second album pitfalls, with “vampire” being the sole song written from the celebrity life angle. Rodrigo’s songwriting emphasizes the growth of the insecure teenage girl from her debut single “drivers license,” rather than the media’s sensationalized portrayal.

The album kicks off with an angsty rant in “all-american bitch” where she sings about striving to live up to the picture-perfect ideal she was placed in while also hiding a dark side with lines like “I got class and integrity/Just like a goddamn Kennedy.” She finishes the song by sneering, “I’m grateful all the time/I’m sexy and I’m kind/I’m pretty when I cry.”

Rodrigo is not afraid to show her genuine feelings in her songwriting, and “GUTS” was no exception. She was quick to express her classic unhinged thoughts in her lyricism and truly embodied the angsty teenage girl in her twenties idea. 

Rodrigo is fast to poke fun at herself and her devastatingly brutal love life. In “love is embarrassing” she fumes, “You found a new version of me/And I damn near started World War III.” She later throws in “I’m plannin’ out my wedding with some guy I’m never marryin’.” 

The song “get him back!” alludes to the debate of reuniting with an ex or getting revenge. She sings “Do I love him? Do I hate him? I guess it’s up and down” only to later on vow “I wanna meet his mom/Just to tell her her son sucks.” The pop-punk song combines compliments, insults for the bad news boyfriend and a personal quip about her therapist father in the line “I am my father’s daughter, so maybe I could fix him.”

“GUTS” is tied together with Rodrigo’s emotionally powerful ballads “logical,” “the grudge” and “teenage dream.” “Logical” delves into a relationship cultivated with manipulation and deceit and grappling with vulnerability and self-blame while reflecting on the irrationality and blindness that come with loving someone else.

“The grudge” stands in a platform as “logical.” She sings, “I’m so tough when I’m alone/And I make you feel so guilty/And I fantasize about a time when you’re a little fucking sorry,” but she ends the song wondering why she did not feel strong enough to allow herself to forgive and comparing battle scar sizes.

Rodrigo is as honest as they come and in her songs “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” “pretty isn’t pretty” and “making the bed,” she expresses her most vulnerable side. “Pretty isn’t pretty” touches on the damage of a negative body image and chasing after unrealistic ideals. “Ballad of a homeschooled girl” is an angsty punk take on social anxiety, and “making the bed” contrasts it perfectly as a melodramatic, self-deprecating ballad.

“Lacy” takes the route of a mournful lament, blurring the lines of envy and homoeroticism. In this track, Rodrigo succumbs to her common habit of comparing herself to other women to the extreme that it turns into a crippling romanticized obsession. 

The album is tied together with a bow in the shape one of the last tracks “teenage dream.” The ballad takes the shape of a brutally honest confession. She sings, “you’re only nineteen/But I fear they already got the best parts of me,” coming clean with her wondering why she still carries the same confusion and doubts as her teenage years into her adult years. The song closes with a spiral of a repetition of “Oh, they all say that it gets better/It gets better the more you grow/Yeah, they all say that it gets better/It gets better, but what if I don’t?”

Neither the song nor the album offers her an answer to her constant wondering. She might not have her angsty teenage years and pains figured out yet, but one pained confession after another, Rodrigo is truly spilling her guts.

Ximena’s rating: ?/5

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Ximena Rondon

Ximena Rondon

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