Pop “it girl” and voice of the teen girl experience – Olivia Rodrigo – created a brilliant successor to her debut album, SOUR. After the record-breaking buzz of her single “drivers license”, many wondered if her new music could fulfill the legacy of her first album. I strongly believe it is simple to say that Grammy-winning artist Olivia Rodrigo created an album stronger than her last.
I know that I was one of many who was streaming GUTS at the stroke of midnight on September 8th. She explored ballads and the rock genre, among others, creating a masterful testament to girlhood and the realities of fame. Olivia gives you lyrics to scream, ones to cry to, and above all: ones that are relatable.
Being a girl is often about comparing yourself to others. It always feels as though someone is always prettier, smarter, more talented, and the list goes on. Rose-colored glasses are always worn in our perception of other girls, but seemingly never for ourselves.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “lacy” where Olivia writes about her obsession with the most perfect, beautiful, sexy, smart, angelic girl–Lacy. This song seems to toe the line between adoration and attraction–each perception of the song pertaining to the listener. Rodrigo sings that Lacy is the “sweetest torture one could bear.” This golden girl described in the song impacts her so much without doing anything at all. Olivia curses her mind’s hyper-fixation with Lacy, ending the song with, “Yeah, I despise my rotten mind and how much it worships you.” Does she love her? Does she loathe her? Maybe both can be simultaneously true.
A melancholic tale of self-destruction and self-depreciation is sung in Olivia’s “making the bed.” In this song, she blames her dissatisfaction with her life and state of fame solely on herself. She made her bed, and she will lie in it. Despite her stature of fame not being relatable to the typical girl, the conflicting feeling of discontentment while having everything you sought after is relatable.
Having everything you once taught yourself is all you need to feel whole, and still feeling restless is heavily explored in this song. This theme is heavily apparent in the line “I got the things I wanted, it’s just not what I imagined.” Accepting love from someone just to temporarily please our hierarchy of needs is also strongly described in this ballad when Olivia vulnerably reveals, “I tell someone I love them just as a distraction/They tell me that they love me like I'm some tourist attraction.” In this song, Olivia wallows in what her life has become and how she’s to blame, crafting a beautifully sad song.
Oh, the pressure of being a young girl in the public eye. In the song, “teenage dream”, Olivia shares her fears of losing everything deemed “good” about herself as she matures and grows older. This fear is visible in her repetition of “They all say that it gets better, but what if I don’t?” Olivia has shared that most of her praise has revolved around how successful she is for someone so young.
Her poignant lyricism in this song responds to that praise with her concerns. As she gets older, will everything begin to fade away? Olivia also sings, “But I fear that they already got all the best parts of me/And I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” Generally, for women, it is common to have the fear that as we grow older, our light begins to dim. No longer are we brand-new, shiny toys, but grown women. As our naiveté begins to grow into knowledge, we lose appeal. We, as little girls, so badly want to be grown-ups. Olivia responds to the woman-wide frustration of not being taken seriously by asking, “When am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise?” What can be described as girls becoming boring and old is where womanhood begins and girlhood ends. And womanhood is much more powerful.
A story of hang-xiety is perfectly depicted in Olivia’s pop song “ballad of a homeschooled girl.” Olivia is an anxiety-ridden girl like many of us. Countless girls can relate to the feeling of having to masquerade as an extroverted, cool girl while their heart is secretly racing in their chest. In the catchy chorus of the song, Olivia repeats, “I told secrets I shouldn’t tell/I stumbled over all my words/I made it weird, I made it worse/Each time I step outside, it’s social suicide.” It’s hard to imagine a girl–who seemingly has it all–as anxious or vulnerable in social situations.
Overanalyzing actions and possible perceptions is the perfect recipe for disaster. Olivia continues to describe her anxieties by singing “The morning after I panic/Oh, God, what did I say?” It seems impossible to seem calm, cool, and collected when all you’re focused on is the roaring anxiety that tells you how impossible it is to fit in with others. The streams on this song alone help show that Olivia is not alone in her fear of social hiccups spiraling into something catastrophic.
Olivia Rodrigo has been and will continue to be an inspiration in pop music and a relatable friend for teen girls. As Olivia explores new genres and mature lyricism (still embracing her signature purple, of course) her growth is greatly prevalent. From songs like “pretty isn’t pretty” that address impossible beauty standards for girls to catchy, punk bops like “bad idea right?” that describe rekindling with your widely-hated ex-boyfriend, Olivia’s range is impeccable. Her success and inspiration are not fleeting, she is not just your “teenage dream”, she is here to stay.