Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS-y Hit Puts Girlhood Behind Her
By: Juliette Shea
Olivia Rodrigo, an icon among Gen-Z, has once again taken the music world by storm. Her 2021 debut album, SOUR, was a massive hit—breaking records and winning Grammys. Naturally, the buzz was deafening as we waited to see if the 20-year-old singer/songwriter could capture the same magic in her sophomore album.
It appears she has. Rodrigo’s GUTS, released on September 8th, quickly claimed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200. Like SOUR, GUTS explores rocky relationships and jealousy, but this time with an edgy twist. GUTS showcases a new tonal identity for Rodrigo: more rock n’ roll and less bedroom pop with hints of ‘80s ballads and ‘90s grunge.
GUTS listens like a personal diary. Rodrigo recounts her waning girlhood and tentative steps into adulthood. She chronicles this journey and its tribulations of heartbreak, mistakes, and self-destruction. The album is a raw dialogue between Rodrigo’s past and her present self as she embarks on womanhood against the backdrop of fame. She incorporates her newfound attention in the spotlight while also reflecting on the unattainable standards that have been drilled into her since she was a little girl. Highlights from GUTS, in my opinion, include:
The album’s first song, “all-american bitch,” begins with a bang. The tone and message of the song are loud and clear: Rodrigo is no longer some naive girl. The song builds upon a harmonic contrast, with multiple abrupt shifts between acoustic guitar and hard rock drumming. This dissonance in genres represents the pressure women feel to present themselves a certain way, ultimately resulting in an explosion of bottled-up rage.
Debuted as the album’s first single, this wildly popular ballad hit #1 the same day as its release. With a pop-rock tune and a cathartic vibe, “vampire” looks inward and expresses how Rodrigo took ownership of her personal regret. The album’s cover art emphasizes the vampire theme, featuring Rodrigo with a bloody neck bite masked by a purple band-aid. The use of purple here is very intentional. It represents the color choice of her former naive self since replaced by bold, sexy red in a subsequent music video and the VMAs.
“making the bed”
This next song plays off the saying, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it,” and represents the personal consequences of Rodrigo’s rapid rise to stardom. The song is an internal conflict as Rodrigo struggles to live up to the standards that go along with being a girl in society, let alone a pop star.
Rodrigo recently announced her GUTS world tour, featuring artists such as PinkPantheress and Remi Wolf. The tour will begin in February 2024, and in the weeks following her album’s release, the demand to see Rodrigo live has skyrocketed.