Olivia Rodrigo recently released her second studio album, following her truly iconic debut of “SOUR.” Artists’ second albums seem to often be either really good or really bad. Either they find their footing after their debut and can really hone in on their style, or the second album comes out sounding more like a watered-down version of the first with no real artistic progress.
Happily, “GUTS” is the former rather than the latter. If reading “Someone Who Isn’t Me” was like getting beat to death with a metal baseball bat, listening to “GUTS” is like getting beat to death with a metal baseball bat by the version of you that’s still a twelve-year-old girl. I have so many thoughts on this album that the only way I can think to properly organize them is to just go straight through the top tracks.
The album starts off with a solid kick in the teeth exploring the duality of being a woman. We are expected to be everything all at once: feminine enough but not so much that we’re weak or silly, strong enough to be a “cool girl” without being too boyish. The song leans more pop-punk than a lot of the tracks on “SOUR” but mirrors the aggression of “brutal.” Rodrigo’s voice is incredibly strong and she effortlessly switches between styles on this album.
Also, gearing “I’m alright with movies/that make jokes about senseless cruelty/that’s for sure,” was like being handed a very large, clear mirror. Being a “cool girl” who doesn’t mind dirty jokes or digs at other girls is a pretty crucial aspect of being given any veneer of respect from adolescent male peers.
Continuing talking about changing yourself for the approval of men, this song has the absolute killer of a line: “Every girl I ever talked to told me you were bad, bad news/you called them crazy/god, I hate the way I called them crazy, too.” In addition to being just an awesome breakup song, this song is an extremely accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a 16 to 20-something-year-old girl who gets into a relationship, only to find that at the end of it, she doesn’t know who she is anymore. This is a very “girl” album, as my roommate would say, and makes me feel seen in a way that not a lot of new music does. Also, the bridge goes unbelievably hard.
I don’t know if this is exactly what Ms. Rodrigo wrote this about, but to me, this song is about that one female friend who you love more than anything, and maybe the line between platonic and romantic attraction isn’t as well-defined as you’d like. Do I want to be Lacy, or do I want to be with her? The age-old question.
“ballad of a homeschool girl“
As someone who grew up a homeschooled girl…well. This song is a little bit like having my own diary read back to me, but even if you weren’t homeschooled, there’s something very alienating and isolating about growing up a girl. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on all the time, and that’s what this song is about.
“making the bed“
Um. Well. Do you ever feel like you’re gonna be alone forever and no one is ever going to look out for you but yourself? Yeah. I know this is a symptom of being 21 and not a true fact, but wow if it isn’t nice to know I’m not the only one.
“get him back“
This one sounds very early 2010s pop to me, and I love it. I love music about wanting shitty boys back with lines like “I am my father’s daughter/so maybe I could fix him,” and, “I wanna meet his mom/just to tell her her son sucks.” This is exactly the kind of saccharine, tongue-in-cheek confession I so dearly love. This album is all about telling familiar stories in a way that still feels new, and not a single song feels redundant or derivative.
“love is embarrassing”
I don’t know what stage of grief or whatever it is, but the point after a breakup where you realize all your friends were right and that guy sucked is not pleasant. Kind of the only way to handle this is going all the way to the other end of the spectrum and just mercilessly ripping him apart, which is what this song is about! I love it! It’s petty and bitchy and fun!
Olivia Rodrigo loves to do this thing where she lulls you into a false sense of security with a couple of fun pop songs about awful exes–which are awesome, don’t get me wrong–and you feel like you get the vibe of the album, and then she gut-punches you at the end with a totally serious turn. That’s what this song is. It reminds me of “Nothing New” by Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers. It perfectly captures that point where you stop being a teenage girl and don’t know what to do with yourself. At some point, I have to stop being a girl and be a woman, but I sure don’t feel like I’m done being a teenager now that I really am.
Musically, this is a delightful pop album, and the lyrics give it the fourth dimension that makes it truly great. This album reminds me of “Fearless” by Taylor Swift and “Pure Heroine” by Lorde, and I have a feeling that Olivia Rodrigo is going to be another one of the artists whose discography ends up covering every emotion I ever felt growing up. Give “GUTS” a listen, and catch Olivia Rodrigo on tour next spring!