Olivia Rodrigo Proves Growing Up Takes ‘GUTS’ on Sophomore Album

If “SOUR” is the naive, teenage party girl, then “GUTS” is the wiser yet reckless, grungy older sister.

Olivia Rodrigo’s highly anticipated sophomore album “GUTS” revisits the aches and pains of teenage angst and, once again, she’s not here to sugarcoat her feelings.

The Sept. 8 release mirrors Rodrigo’s 2021 debut album “SOUR” which explored the highs and lows of young love through an unapologetic tone and raw lyricism, turning Rodrigo into something of an overnight sensation.

If “SOUR” is the naive, teenage party girl, then “GUTS” is the wiser yet reckless, grungy older sister. 

“I know my age, and I act like it,” Rodrigo sings on the album’s first track “all-american bitch.”

The part-pop-part-rock anthem embraces the contradictory and often derogatory labels placed on young women. Rodrigo wears these like badges of honor, calling herself “a perfect all-american bitch with perfect all-american lips and perfect all-american hips.”

The album’s second track and Aug. 11 single “bad idea right?” is fun and flirty, pondering the ramifications of on-again-off-again relationships. Spoken verses and upbeat drums are reminiscent of sleepover gossip sessions and conversations in party bathrooms.

“Yes, I know that he’s my ex / But can’t two people reconnect?” Rodrigo asks.

Released June 30, “vampire” built anticipation for “GUTS” while climbing the charts as one of the summer’s top hits. The song analogizes a predatory older man to a “bloodsucker.” With a passionate tone, Rodrigo accounts for her mistakes while recognizing she isn’t the one to blame for being taken advantage of.

“lacy” captures the duality of Rodrigo’s brilliance as a singer-songwriter, conveying the agony of envying those with seemingly perfect lives. Rodrigo’s sarcastic bites create hints of lingering tension.

“Lacy, oh, Lacy, skin like puff pastry / Aren’t you the sweetest thing on this side of Hell?” Rodrigo sings.

The 20-year-old reflects on her social skills — or lack thereof — in “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” a punchy rock anthem in which she acknowledges her faux pas. She oversteps boundaries and misunderstands social cues — blunders that ultimately lead to “social suicide.”

The tempo quickens and instrumentals mesh together towards the end, simulating the overwhelming nature of a panic attack.

“making the bed” follows a subdued, raw moment of introspection where Rodrigo claims to have played a part in her own demise. She takes on a somber tone as she analyzes the life choices she’s made.

In the same vein, “logical,” with only a piano and pained vocals, showcases Rodrigo milling over past mistakes. But this time, the blame isn’t on her — it’s on love.

“Love is never logical,” Rodrigo repeats continuously, as if trying to convince herself.

“get him back!” screams of early 2000s alternative rock, with the spoken verses echoing songs like Beck’s “Loser.” The title’s double entendre signifies both a longing to return to a past relationship as well as the need for retribution — a complex inner-battle afflicting those damaged by the turmoils of romance.

“I wanna key his car / I wanna make him lunch / I wanna break his heart / Then be the one to stitch it up,” Rodrigo sings.

Rodrigo’s ‘90s rock influences shine through on “love is embarrassing” where she disassociates from past experiences, repressing her emotions to get over someone.

“the grudge,” at its core, is a song meant to cry to, balancing out the heavy drums and upbeat vocals of “get him back!” and “love is embarrassing.” The song mirrors Rodrigo’s hit “drivers license” with its soft piano and exasperated tone. But where “drivers license” wages war, “the grudge” raises a white flag.

“pretty isn’t pretty,” similar in sound to The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979,” marks a return to the faster paced although the message is anything but positive. The song portrays a dilemma enforced by modern beauty standards — “pretty isn’t pretty enough,” and the ideal image of what a woman should look like isn’t attainable.

On the album’s final track “teenage dream,” Rodrigo wonders if she hit her peak during her teenage years. The song, which starts as a pensive piano ballad, grows eerie and chaotic, becoming a loud chorus of intrusive thoughts.

“Yeah, they all say that it gets better / It gets better, but what if I don’t?” Rodrigo asks earnestly as the music escalates.

The song ends with a continuous chord, the same chord that ends “hope ur ok,” “SOUR”’s final track. Perhaps a callback to the person Rodrigo was when recording “hope ur ok,” or just a nod to the circular nature of her discography, the chord acts as a reminder that people grow and change from one season, or album, to the next — and how it really does get better.

“GUTS” demonstrates just how much Rodrigo has grown since “SOUR.” She’s unafraid to delve into the deeper and darker aspects of relationships and mature enough to admit to her own faults when it comes to love. She toes the line between unapologetic and loud and honest and reflective. The album builds upon the foundation “SOUR” constructed, proving that no one really stops being a teenager.

“GUTS” is available to stream on all major platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Hillary Siskind / Interscope Records

Caroline Bell

Caroline Bell