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Review: Olivia Rodrigo spills her “GUTS” in latest album

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Courtesy of Spotify
“GUTS” was released on Sept. 8.

Two years after the virality of “Driver’s License” established Olivia Rodrigo as the youngest person to debut at the top of the US Billboard 100 chart, the singer-songwriter has returned with her second album, “GUTS.”

Released on Sept. 8, “GUTS” features Rodrigo’s heartfelt lyrics with an unapologetically punk rock edge. In many ways, “GUTS” feels like a more grown-up version of Rodrigo’s debut album, “SOUR.” In the course of two years, Rodrigo has gone from weaving wistful lyrical ballads about love and loss to writing hard-hitting songs about fame and maturing, both as an artist and a woman.

The opening song on the album, “all-american bitch,” perfectly embodies this transformation. The opening verse, which features Rodrigo’s soft-spoken vocals accompanied by gentle instrumentals, sounds like it belongs on “SOUR.” However, this energy changes when an electric guitar cuts in just before the chorus. “I forgive and I forget / I know my age, and I act like it / Got what you can’t resist / I’m a perfect all-American.” The chorus is abruptly cut off before the singer can finish her thought.

The messaging is clear: Rodrigo is grappling with the double standards of the music industry. She goes on to say, “I’m grateful all the time / I’m sexy when I cry / I’m pretty when I cry,” with each lyric heavier than the last.

One of Rodrigo’s main themes in “GUTS” is her age. The singer-songwriter, now 20, was 18 during the wild success of her debut album. She reflects on her youth in “teenage dream.” “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? / When will it stop being cool to be quietly misunderstood?”

It also sounds like Rodrigo doesn’t know if her early rise to fame was worth it. In the melancholic sixth track on the album, “making the bed,” Rodrigo quietly observes, “I got the things I wanted, it’s just not what I imagined.”

This message coming from a former Disney channel star and a multi-million dollar singer-songwriter could easily sound disingenuous. While there are aspects of the album that one could easily roll their eyes at—Rodrigo’s reliance on profanity to convey her emotions, the pitiful awkwardness described in “ballad of a homeschooled girl” and the on-the-nose nature of the title of “love is embarrassing”—Rodrigo’s vulnerability is so genuine that her messaging lands nearly every time. The title of the album is accurate; Rodrigo is effectively spilling her “GUTS” to her audience.

For fans who enjoyed the edgier rock sound of “good 4 u” from “SOUR” mixed with the authentic emotion of an ever-growing artist, “GUTS” does not disappoint. 

Rating: 9/10

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