Spilling or trusting your guts? A review of Olivia Rodrigo’s “GUTS”

Album cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s “GUTS” from Wikipedia.

“When am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise?,” 20-year-old artist Olivia Rodrigo asks on “teenage dream”, the final track of “GUTS,” her newest album, which was released last month. After all, it’s not every day that one’s 2021 debut album wins three awards at the Grammys, including one for Best New Artist. “GUTS” seems to pick up right where “SOUR,” Rodrigo’s debut album, left off. Rodrigo takes her audience through a journey of breakups (“vampire”), rebounds (“bad idea right?”) and mental health struggles (“lacy” and “making the bed”).

Rodrigo keeps the same style in “GUTS” that made her famous for “SOUR,”  switching between punk and pop ballad several times throughout the album and, occasionally, in the same song. “all-american bitch,” for example, goes from screaming in the bridge to a calm ending, before jumping right back into the bass-heavy “bad idea right?”. When I listened to the album straight through, the ambient sounds in the ending of one song rolled straight into the start of the next one. I love hearing small details like that in an album. 

When SOUR was released in 2021, I claimed—and still believe—that there’s not a bad song on the album. That statement continues for “GUTS”. Every song on the album is good. Below are some of my favorite tracks with the musical bits that make them wonderful:

Track 1: “all-american bitch”

I’m not in the target demographic for this song, but I like how it addresses societal expectations. In an interview with Apple Music, Rodrigo said she was trying to express “the feeling of…trying to be put into a box as a girl.” Favorite line: “I’m the eternal optimist / I scream inside to deal with it…”

Track 2: “bad idea right”

Musically, this song is one of my favorites. Right after the line “I cannot hear my thoughts,” the bass ramps up and makes everything feel chaotic.

Track 5: “ballad of a homeschooled girl”

As someone who grew up in a small, religious school and came out with questionable social skills, this track hit me like a ton of bricks. My favorite line in this one is “I made it weird, I made it worse / Each time I step outside…”

Track 6: “making the bed”

This is the best track on the album, by far. In this song, Rodrigo writes about anxiety— how people can turn themselves into the victims and take everything as a sign that people hate them. The desperation is palpable, and my favorite line in the album is here: “They’re changing my machinery, and I just let it happen / I got the things I wanted, it’s just not what I imagined.”

Track 8: “get him back!”

The wordplay here is stellar. We’re either talking about revenge or wanting to get back together, and Rodrigo weaves those two threads beautifully in this track. The bridge is second-to-none.

At this point, I’m going to trust my guts (pun absolutely intended), stop rambling, and unequivocally recommend this album. Whether you like upbeat and energetic or slow and thoughtful, this album has something for everyone.

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