STORY AND PHOTO BY HAL SAGA, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
From a song about societal standards for girls to one about self-blame, pop-star Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album “GUTS” was released to critical acclaim to critics and fans alike.
“GUTS” debuted on Sept. 8 after anticipation gathered when her two singles “vampire” and “bad idea right?” were released in June and Aug., respectively. The anticipation led to positive reviews, with magazine Rolling Stone rating it with a score of 100 out of 100 and music publication Pitchfork giving it an 80.
People worldwide put the album on repeat the second it came out. As of Sept. 15, all of Rodrigo’s songs from the album are listed in the Spotify Top 50 Global Charts for its listeners with “vampire” leading at number four.
Fans Alyssa Cortez and Mei Luo shared their thoughts on the album from Los Angeles, the last city in which the Rodrigo plans to perform at Aug. 9 to 17, 2024 for her GUTS World Tour.
The opening track to “GUTS” is reminiscent of acoustic songs from Rodrigo’s 2021 debut album “SOUR”, starting off with a guitar strings being plucked in a similar progression to her song “enough for you”.
“All-american bitch”, however, does not allude to the mourning of a failed relationship as “enough for you” does. With a drum-heavy chorus that juxtaposes its verses, the song speaks about the societal expectations women undergo; the ending lyrics “All the time/I’m grateful all the time/I’m sexy and I’m kind/I’m pretty when I cry” show Rodrigo’s sarcastic response to those expectations in a sopranic voice that sets the tone for the entire album.
Cortez said “all-american bitch” is one of her favorite tracks due to its ending. “It just makes me appreciate how she’s letting herself go a little free this album,” said Cortez.
bad idea right?
As one of the leading singles, “bad idea right?” is an upbeat song that toys around with the possibility of Rodrigo going to see her ex-boyfriend when everyone is telling her not to.
The pre-chorus “Seeing you tonight/it’s a bad idea, right?” went viral on TikTok for its fun repetition, with users such as Portuguese content creator Mariana Araujo posting a before-and-after makeup look with the said lyrics that earned around 25,800 likes.
Upon first listen, one could tell that Rodrigo took the playfulness of “SOUR” song “brutal”. Both songs’ talk-singing and emphasis on the electric guitar only show her growth from the previous album.
When Luo first heard the song, they initially didn’t like it. As they listened to more of the album by the time all the songs came out, it grew on them.
“It took me a second to get used to, because it didn’t feel like her usual style,” Luo said. Rodrigo made a statement as a musical artist in the past with “SOUR” being primarily ballads about heartbreak.
“I ended up kind of liking it more [than her other single, ‘vampire’].”
On the other hand, Cortez thought it was fun. “She’s not taking herself too seriously, which I love. She’s showing more of her personality.”
“Vampire” was released on June 30 as an announcement to her sophomore album.
It gained traction once people on TikTok began to speculate that the song is about Rodrigo’s ex-boyfriend and record executive Zack Bia. The line “‘Cause girls your age know better” was seen as a possible reference to how Rodrigo and Bia had a large age gap — she was 19 and he was 26.
Beginning as a ballad, it shifts into a passionate chorus about being taken advantage of; “The way you sold me for parts/as you sunk your teeth into me.”
When first released, Cortez said, “I feel like it was […] kind of over-the-top, which gave an idea of what the rest of the album could look like.”
The fourth track of the album is a song that originated as a poetry assignment for a college class, according to Rodrigo in an interview with Wired.
“Lacy” borders on the obsession Rodrigo has with a girl she’s jealous of, going so far to call her smart and sexy in the second verse. While she speaks of admiration, she also recognizes that she’s upset by what Lacy has. Rodrigo sings in the chorus, “You got the one thing that I want.”
For Luo, “lacy” was one of their least favorites on “GUTS”.
Luo disliked the pacing of the song. The rest of the album relies on heavy and fast instrumentals, which Luo preferred, but “lacy” consists of Rodrigo’s voice in a gentle, almost whispering tone in front of a backing track of various guitar chords being plucked.
ballad of a homeschooled girl
Rodrigo’s angst comes out in “ballad of a homeschooled girl”, a rock song about struggling about fitting in with her peers. Rodrigo grew up with a different life than other people her age, acting on Disney Channel and eventually getting homeschooled for high school, hence the title.
The lyrics “Everything I do is tragic/every guy I like is gay/the morning after I panic/oh God, what did I say?” were teased by pop culture media company Pop Crave’s X account a day before the album’s release.
Some fans disliked the teased lyrics. X user @ultrapunched said in a quote tweet to Pop Crave, “I can understand her frustrations but this is so dramatic and weird.”
Albeit there were mixed reactions to the initial lyrics posted, fans liked the song for its upbeat tempo and dramatic wording how of Rodrigo perceives embarrassment; “Each time I step outside/it’s social suicide.”
making the bed
Proceeding Rodrigo’s song about struggling with her peers is a song about struggling with herself in terms of stardom.
“Making the bed” is the first melancholic, consistently slow ballad from “GUTS”. Rodrigo speaks about how she has everything she’s wanted, but is dissatisfied with it due to the consequences of her own actions; “I got the things I wanted/it’s just not what I imagined,” she sings.
Alongside “lacy” for its slower tempo, Luo also disliked “making the bed.” Although Luo said they liked it when she sings about her life as a celebrity, they also thought it was difficult to find a way to somehow relate to Rodrigo in the song.
“Everyone loves [‘making the bed’], but it’s kind of too funny,” Luo said.
Rodrigo continues with the sad piano ballads in “logical”.
Manipulation plays into the main theme of the song; the chorus “Thinkin’ two plus two equals five/and I’m the love of your life/’cause if rain don’t pour and sun don’t shine/then changing you is possible/no, love is never logical” describes the willingness that she underwent to be in a toxic relationship.
Rodrigo, in a mournful voice, reminisces on the relationship, shattering the rose-colored lens she viewed her ex-partner through.
Cortez said “logical” is one of her favorite songs off of the album, having said that she was a “sucker” for the “cheesy” aforementioned chorus.
get him back!
The mood shifts with “get him back!”, a pop-rock song that Rodrigo performed at the MTV Music Awards on Sept. 12 much to the excitement of many fans.
“Get him back!” is explanatory with the title itself. Rodrigo wants to win back her ex-boyfriend by making him envious, thus feeling bad.
The bridge in particular has become famous among her fans; “I wanna key his car/I wanna make him lunch/I wanna break his heart/then be the one to stitch it up.” TikTok user @ba.nanapeel made a video that earned 159.7 thousand views, depicting her mouthing the bridge with the caption saying that she will sing the song to herself with passion.
Cortez appreciated the duality of the bridge. “The contrast of the lyrics between wanting to get revenge versus wanting to literally get back with him was so clever of her.”
“Get him back!” has been Luo’s favorite listen so far due to its similarities to singer Avril Lavigne’s 2000s songs. “I like that pop-punk, kind of Lavigne style she has now,” Luo said.
love is embarrassing
Rodrigo’s least spoken about track on the album opens up with a chord progression and a beat similar to band a-ha’s 80s song “Take On Me”.
Rodrigo explores the tumultuous ups-and-downs of a young relationship, from the excitement to tell her friends about a new person she likes to her comforting said person about them being heartbroken over their ex-girlfriend; “And I consoled you while you cried/over your ex-girlfriend’s new guy/my God, how could I be so stupid?”
Although the lyrics scream of hiding in the corner due to embarrassment, Rodrigo’s up-tempo beat screams of fun.
As one of the faster paced songs of the album, Luo said that they considered “love is embarrassing” to hail as one of their favorites.
“The grudge” turns away from the fun of the previous two songs and heads straight into another piano ballad about how “it takes strength to forgive/but I don’t feel strong,” Rodrigo sings.
Considerably one of the most expressive songs from Rodrigo out of her entire discography, she puts some melodic strain on her voice as she painfully speaks about how one could hurt her; “How could anybody do the things you did so easily?”
Luo personally connected to the song after seeing an unnamed TikTok user who viewed the song from the perspective of a child-parent relationship.
“When I listen to it in that perspective, then I can relate,” Luo said.
pretty isn’t pretty
Another one of her least talked about songs, “pretty isn’t pretty” tackles the same themes as “lacy” and “jealousy, jealousy” from “SOUR”. It comments on the insecurities that Rodrigo faces, particularly that of criticism on beauty from social media.
Although upbeat with a sound reminiscent of early 2000s teen drama soundtracks, the song has lyrics such as “I could change up my body and change up my face/I could try every lipstick in every shade/but I’d always feel the same/’cause pretty isn’t pretty enough.”
Rolling Stone ranked it as number 18 out of Rodrigo’s 23 song discography, calling it, “A candid tale of negative body image and tortuously low self-esteem.”
When looking at the title, people may think it holds the same similarities as singer Katy Perry’s 2010 song of the same name that speaks about a happy relationship. Instead, it’s a track that encapsulates how Rodrigo feels about growing older and facing more pressure as a musical artist.
She sings, “Got your whole life ahead of you, you’re only 19/but I fear that they already got all the best parts of me/and I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.”
Rodrigo said in an interview with news media outlet The Guardian, “They [the press] always used to praise me for being this precocious young girl, that’s so much of the praise I get.”
Rodrigo ended off “GUTS” in the same way she ended off “SOUR” — with a heartbreaking ballad that dotes on her past, looking forward to what the future has to bring for her.
“I just really liked seeing her development of writing songs for ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ and […] her growth,” Cortez said. “I feel like her progression has been very good.”