Image courtesy of Teenvogue.com
By Caroline Morris
Take out your driver’s license, get in your car, turn the volume up, and step on the gas: Olivia Rodrigo dropped her debut album.
In 2021, Rodrigo’s singles have dominated the charts, with “driver’s license” and “good 4 u” both hitting Number 1 on the Billboard charts, and “deja vu” also landing in the Top 10. So when her debut album SOUR released on May 21, 2021, anticipation was high, and the album has since hit Number 1.
SOUR is the encapsulation of the quintessential teenage experience. Much of Rodrigo’s music focuses on romance and heartbreak, particularly in reference to her ex-boyfriend and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett. But if you’re not caught up on the minutiae of Disney stars, don’t worry. The experiences Rodrigo sings about are universal.
Though the album only spans about 35 minutes with 11 tracks, it takes the listener on quite a journey. For those in high school listening to the album, its themes will sound all too familiar, and for those listening to it in college or beyond, the songs will inevitably send you spiraling back to angst-filled teenage years in the best way.
The opening track “brutal” lands soundly in the pop-punk genre, which befits the lyrics describing Rodrigo’s teenaged experience.
“And I’m so sick of 17/Where’s my f*cking teenage dream?/If someone tells me one more time/”Enjoy your youth,” I’m gonna cry,” Rodrigo sings.
These words ring true to almost anyone who has made it through adolescence, even if it gets harder to admit the farther into adulthood one gets. The lyrics are dramatic and intense :an honest testament to being a teenager, which is, as Olivia says, “brutal.”
Rodrigo also includes some self-deprecating humor that makes the audience chuckle as they scream-sing along with her, “And I’m not cool and I’m not smart/And I can’t even parallel park.”
The majority of the songs on SOUR are about relationships and romance, and the lyrics are all quite poignant.
In her song “traitor,” Rodrigo sings, “It took you two weeks/To go off and date her/ Guess you didn’t cheat/But you’re still a traitor.”
These lines, paired with Rodrigo’s subtly pained vocals and a rushing accompaniment, hit home to anyone who has ever felt betrayed by their ex. It evokes the intensity of the first heartbreak.
Rodrigo also gives insight into the experience of a toxic relationship as it’s occurring, and not just the aftermath, in her song “1 step forward, 3 steps back.”
“I’m the love of your life until I make you mad/It’s always one step forward and three steps back/Do you love me, want me, hate me, boy? I don’t understand,” she sings, depicting an unfortunately common dynamic.
But she also acknowledges the allure of such a relationship: “And maybe in some masochistic way/I kind of find it all exciting/Like, which lover will I get today?”
Beyond the heartbreakingly honest lyrics, this song also has a draw in its unique musicality. It is a relatively simple ballad that sounds quite light, but the tempo changes between the verse and the chorus rather significantly to catch the ear. This unforeseen and intriguing change of pace and need to play catch up seems to almost mimic the content of the song about a constantly changing lover.
One of the best tracks on the album is “good 4 u,” which was released as a single prior to SOUR. This song is one of pure catharsis, encapsulating all the anger and bitterness one holds towards an ex in both the lyrics and the intense pace.
“Well, good for you, you look happy and healthy/Not me, if you ever cared to ask/ Good for you, you’re doin’ great out there without me/Baby, like a damn sociopath,” Rodrigo sings.
But SOUR touches on many beats within the teenage experience beyond romance. The song “jealous, jealousy” deals with body image issues and comparative tendencies with which many teens, and even adults, struggle. “hope ur ok” is a song of hope and love for all the people Rodrigo has seen struggle as they’ve grown up and a commendation of their strength and bravery for all they’ve made it through.
Rodrigo is a rising star and this album validates her celebrity. Beyond writing every song on SOUR, her vocals are also incredibly impressive. Rodrigo can move from gentle and breathy to a power belt to a scream-sing all across the scale, an impressive feat.
So if you’re looking to be absolutely launched back to the most harrowing, dramatic, and valid moments of adolescence, listen to SOUR. Then listen again, and again, and again.