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Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’: Stand-out debut or bittersweet experience?

Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’: Stand-out debut or bittersweet experience?

Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’: Stand-out debut or bittersweet experience?
May 28
14:44 2021

Written by Grant Tittle

Every decade has something that helps define it and the individuals who were raised during that time. Each one has its musical icons who show who pushed music forward as an art form and who was a flash in the pan who was more likely to be forgotten than remembered, and when listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s new album, “Sour,” one might wonder what this new performer has to bring to the table.

Will her debut album be one that would be remembered years after being published or will it be swept under the rug and not be discussed unless bringing up embarrassing relics of the past? Can Rodrigo prove herself as more than just a performer from a channel who’s demographic is mostly teenagers and kids and prove herself as a maturing adult and woman ready to take on the world and life itself? There is only one way to find out.

A little quick sum up on who Rodrigo is: Born in 2003 to a Filipino American family in California, she took acting and singing lessons from a young age and performed in plays at the schools she went to before moving to Los Angeles and starting to work as a child star on Disney Channel. Growing up performing for the network, she wanted to prove herself as a performer in her own right. She was able to do so by not only starring in the successful Disney+ series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” but also by writing songs for the show and performing them, which earned her praise for her acting and singing and led to her getting a record deal with Interscope Records and Geffens Records.

While she had been known for her songs on the show, she didn’t make her mark in the music industry officially until she released her debut single, “Drivers License.” The song ended up earning tons of praise, debuted at the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and has been the most successful song in that spot so far this year. Ever since, she’s released other singles like “Deja Vu” and “Good 4 U,” which have been doing well also.

While going through each song on the album, each one has something to offer in lyricism and quality. The album starts off promisingly with its opening track, “Brutal.” In it, Rodrigo discusses the stress she’s been going through in her teenage years including the judgments folks lay out on her without caring how their verbal lashing affects her emotionally and how she wants to be seen as more of a mature adult. 5/5

On the track “Traitor,” Rodrigo ponders about what caused a previous relationship she was in to fall apart, how she feels betrayed by the one she loved leaving her for another and how she’s missing the relationship she had with him. This song successfully shows us the anguish she’s been going through after losing the one she loved so much. 5/5

“Drivers License,” Rodrigo’s debut single, tells the story of Rodrigo dealing with her break up by doing the one thing she was never able to do while with her ex, earning her drivers license. What should be exciting for her and bring her a chance to spend more time with the one she loves just reminds her of something she lost and how she’ll never get back the one she loved. The song, as well as a lot of material from the album, was inspired by the alleged relationship Rodrigo had with Joshua Bassett, the co-star she’s worked with on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” Allegedly, Joshua, after breaking up with Rodrigo, started a new relationship with another woman who’s better known as Sabrina Carpenter.

While at first the song seemed to be nothing more than the ramblings and whining of a teenager making too much out of her first break up, after listening to the song more and more over time and remembering how my first relationship was, it made it much easier to relate to Rodrigo. Like her, I’ve dealt with lots of insecurities involving whether anyone would be interested in loving me and how, even years after I put my foot down on re-establishing the relationship since it wasn’t right to keep it going, it made me relate more to the stories Rodrigo told on the album. It ended up causing me to fight back the tears I felt wanting to stream down my face as someone who’s personally worked hard on hiding my emotions and having a hard time expressing myself. As for this song, I’d give it a 5/5.

“1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” delves into the ups and downs Rodrigo dealt with in a previous relationship with someone who was emotionally inconsistent and would take out any anger he felt on her. This toxic behavior is something that while Rodrigo knows she should get out of the relationship, she finds it hard to do as she wants to give him a second chance and hopes things might get better despite the many signs that show this is unlikely. 4/5

“Deja Vu” lyrically sees Rodrigo going over how, in the new relationship her ex has with his new gal, the new gal in his life isn’t experiencing anything unique in their relationship since her ex is just taking activities he did with Rodrigo and doing them with his new gal like enjoying a show with her, singing songs to her and other activities. She points out how all that’s happening between the two is deja vu and nothing new. 4/5

“Good 4 U” shows Rodrigo at her most bitter, sarcastic and angry point as she viciously and brutally tears her ex apart and breaks him down while showing no mercy as she verbally calls him out for moving on from her quickly and not caring how he’d cause her to feel due to his actions. The song musically calls back to the pop rock giants of the 2000s like Avril Lavigne and Paramore as this song especially reminds me of Miley Cyrus’s song, “What Do I Know,” off of her latest album. This could even be seen as something Ke$ha would sing on one of her albums or cover during a live performance. The detail in the writing feels quite vindictive and shows how this’ll be the anthem that many broken hearted individuals will be able to loudly scream out and sing out after having had their heart destroyed by their ex. This song’s definitely one of my favorites on the album and I can see myself listening to it a lot. 5/5

“Enough For You” sees Rodrigo wondering if, despite the changes she made to make herself more the way her ex may have wanted her to be, it was enough since her ex ended up leaving her for someone else. Either way, she knows she’ll find someone who loves her for who she is and her ex will someday experience the pain he put her through when he left her for someone else. 4/5

“Happier” lyrically delves into Rodrigo and how she wishes the best for her ex and the gal in his life, but at the same time wishes to still be in her ex’s life, even if it’s just as a friend. This lyrical sentiment reminds me of Bruno Mars’ hit song, “When I Was Your Man.” Both songs see their narrators telling of how despite their relationships being over, they wish the best for their exes and hope they’ll be happy with those they’re with now. While Mars acknowledges he made mistakes in his relationship that brought it to an end, he maturely accepted what happened and was willing to step aside so his ex could be happy and Rodrigo does something similar with her ex. 4/5

“Jealousy, Jealousy” sees Rodrigo looking into the standards society tends to set for younger individuals, especially women and how this can cause lots of problems for them emotionally and, at times, mentally. In general, it’s one of the many issues folks can deal with that can be dismissed or be treated as less serious than it can actually be. This isn’t something that can happen just to gals or women. Men go through this sort of thing too where they feel they have to live up to impossible standards they might not be able to reach. Musically this song definitely has its influence from Lorde and, as someone who’s enjoyed music from Lorde, I see it as a plus to this song. 5/5

“Favorite Crime” shows Rodrigo getting past the relationship she got out of as throughout the album, she has shown herself going through the process of breaking up and the aftermath of it and has gotten to the point of moving on and accepting what’s happened. This is quite a mature action for Rodrigo to take that I highly commend her for. 4/5

“Hope Ur OK” shows Rodrigo pondering about some friends she’s lost contact with and how due to the past experiences that they’ve had and the trauma they’ve endured, she wishes the best for them, hopes to be back in their lives again and hopes they’re OK. This song is an excellent closure to a stellar album. 5/5

Throughout the album, Rodrigo does an excellent job proving herself as a song writer and performer. Some folks might be quick to dismiss her as just a whiny individual complaining about high school related issues or someone who’s ripping off other performers. I’ve heard Rodrigo be compared to Taylor Swift and Lorde among others in the way she writes or performs, and some might even pull one of my big writing pet peeves by claiming she and her music aren’t “original.” I do agree that she has writing influences and musical influences from others, but I personally feel that she avoids the common trap for one to fall into by copying someone and not being oneself by still being her own performer. Besides, who isn’t inspired by someone else in any way, shape or form? While I wasn’t sure how Rodrigo would prove herself as a performer when starting this project, I was pleasantly surprised by what I experienced. This album is an excellent debut and I can’t wait to see what she brings to the table from here on out.

Grant’s final rating: 5/5

Courtesy Olivia Rodrigo

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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