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In Review: Olivia Rodrigo's "GUTS"

Olivia Rodrigo has finally found her teenage dream in her sophomore album, GUTS. Ever since the release of her debut album, SOUR, in 2021, Olivia has had four singles top the Billboard Top 200, broken the global Spotify record for the biggest opening week for an album by a female artist, and received seven GRAMMY nominations, winning three of them, including Best Pop Vocal Album. Now, two years later and leaving her teenage years behind, Olivia reintroduces grungy pop and 2000s alt-rock with a more mature sound and songwriting that proves to everyone she is a force to be reckoned with. Already hailed as one of 2023's standout albums by Rolling Stone, Olivia continues to set a lofty standard for future generations, rightfully earning the coveted title of a rockstar.


SOUND

The album's production is a captivating blend of controlled chaos. Its lyrics are a glorious mess, yet deeply authentic. The beats venture all over the spectrum, somehow remaining surprisingly cohesive. The emotional journey ranges from seething anger to profound sadness, but who said that's a bad thing? The ride begins with a thunderous start in "all-american bitch," where America’s Sweetheart seamlessly merges acoustic guitar rhythms with hardcore percussion. It's a nod to the early 2000s movie soundtracks, dripping with angst, raw intensity, and a powerful reaction against the unrealistic ideals imposed on women today. That same fiery energy manifests itself in other songs like “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” and “love is embarrassing,” – all having insane guitar strums and screaming vocals. This fiery energy reverberates throughout other tracks like "ballad of a homeschooled girl" and "love is embarrassing," all boasting electrifying guitar strums and impassioned vocals. The new pop-punk angst recalls the spirit of Olivia's earlier iconic hits like "brutal" and "good 4 u" from her previous album. But, as expected, an Olivia Rodrigo album wouldn't be complete without a soul-stirring piano ballad. Take the lead single, "vampire," for instance. It starts with a melancholic piano intro and spoken lyrics for the first 40 seconds, drawing you in with a sense of intimacy. Then, the song bursts to life with an electrifying mix of instruments and soaring vocals, building up to a rock-opera crescendo that elevates the entire album. Olivia knows how to juxtapose the soft acoustic and haunting sounds like those heard in “lacy” to the hard-hitting and beat-intensifying production of songs like “bad idea right?” and fuels the album's undeniable vibrancy and keeps listeners hooked.


LYRICS

In GUTS, we witness a remarkable evolution in Olivia Rodrigo's songwriting, a testament to her journey from a 17-year-old sensation to a seasoned artist. She delves deep into the labyrinth of her own relationship tribulations, insecurities, problematic behaviors, and battles with fame, forging a profound connection with her audience. It's a lyrical journey that resonates profoundly with her audience as she fearlessly peels back the layers of her emotions, allowing herself to be vulnerable in a way that's both raw and relatable. This newfound depth in her lyricism and storytelling not only reflects her personal growth but also invites her fans to embark on a deeply intimate journey, making every track feel undeniably authentic and relatable. Without a doubt, Olivia Rodrigo has become a commanding artist, unafraid to share the raw and authentic facets of her life through her music.


One song in particular,“making the bed,” is fueled with themes of self-deprecation and the hardships of dealing with fame at such a young age. Its lyrics, such as “And I tell someone I love them just as a distraction//They tell me that they love me like I'm some tourist attraction//They're changin' my machinery, and I just let it happen//I got the things I wanted, it's just not what I imagined," perfectly capture the relentless pressure and the toll of constant attention. Through these verses, she candidly acknowledges the draining nature of fame and her own complicity in perpetuating a facade. In other tracks like “lacy”, she writes about being envious of a girl named Lacy and despite this inner conflict, Olivia can’t help but be enamored by her. Reminiscent of “jealousy, jealousy” she writes, “I feel your compliments likе bullets on skin//Dazzling starlet, Bardot reincarnatе// Well, aren't you the greatest thing to ever exist?” where she portrays the battle between her fondness for Lacy and her simultaneous resentment. “logical", like many other tracks, narrates the story of a young woman being subjected to manipulation and humiliation by an older man, and how love isn’t rational. She passionately belts out, "Said I was too young, I was too soft//Can’t take a joke, can’t get you off," and then delivers the unsettling line, "I know I’m half responsible//Why didn’t I stop it all?"– as if she's questioning herself, even though it's clear she's not to blame for any of this. One more track that truly demands attention, especially for its lyrics, is the album's closing gem, "teenage dream." The first verse immediately takes us on a journey through the complexities of fame, echoing her apprehensions about losing the most genuine parts of herself as she navigates adulthood: "When am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise?//When am I gonna stop being a pretty young thing to guys?//When am I gonna stop being great for my age and just start being good?" The album's conclusion with this track masterfully signifies Olivia's transition from her teenage years to adulthood, though it leaves us pondering a road still paved with unanswered questions. But even with the unanswered questions, one thing for certain is that Olivia has solidified herself as a powerful songwriter.


ART BEHIND THE ALBUM

The album art is a visual testament to her artistic journey. Her signature color, purple takes center stage, infusing the album with a sense of her distinct aesthetic. Gone are the playful stickers on her face from her previous album, replaced by a more mature and raw aesthetic. Notably, the chunky GUTS rings adorning her hand and the chipped black nail polish maintain the edginess and grunge-pop allure that her fans have come to love. These artistic choices speak to Olivia's growth as an artist, while still retaining the rebellious spirit that defines her music.


With not one but two music videos already directed by Petra Collins for tracks like "vampire" and "bad idea right?", along with an exclusive music video collaboration with Apple Music for "get him back!", Olivia Rodrigo's visuals transport us back to the iconic style of early 2000s music videos and movies. What's more, the buzz on Olivia's TikTok and the swirling rumors of an upcoming world tour have fans on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the chance to secure tickets and belt out these songs in massive arenas where they can scream, cry and let it all out.


With her powerful ballads and driven aesthetics, Olivia’s sophomore album easily gets a 9.5/10 on the Intersect Rating scale.


Stream the album below.





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