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Album Review: Olivia Rodrigo makes her debut with extremely personal album ‘SOUR’

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Breakout artist, Olivia Rodrigo isn’t just an actress anymore. She can now be constituted as a double-triple threat. Rodrigo made her claim to fame in original Disney shows like Bizardvaark and High School Musical the Musical. Through her performances on HSMTM, she showcased her natural talent of songwriting with songs for the show like “All I Want”. In case you got a little lost Rodrigo can act, sing, and write exceptional original songs. It was a no-brainer that she would release her own debut album someday. After her single “Driver’s License” gained an unprecedented amount of popularity on TikTok it was set that Rodrigo would be a star. She released her highly anticipated debut album SOUR to an already devoted fanbase.

If anything, Rodrigo has made history in climbing the charts and solidifying over 38 million devoted listeners before the release of her first album.

Images by Olivia Rodrigo

The album starts off strong with “brutal”. This track begins with a chorus of strings psyching out the listener ahead of the heavy guitar that comes in shortly after. Rodrigo shows her listener that she is capable of more than a sad breakup ballad. She carries out “brutal” with a pop/punk influence. Rodrigo ironically starts her debut album with a song about everything she hates. The lyrics encompass the narrative of being young in today’s world. Most people state your teenage years are the best in your life, but now more than ever it can feel restricting. Rodrigo directly calls out this misogyny with lyrics like “Where’s my fucking teenage dream” and “I wish I could disappear”. By starting the album with such a strong song, she shows she is truly a force to be reckoned with.

The next track is “traitor”. This song is a ballad that details the need to stay in a relationship even when you know it is failing and your partner has already checked out. Rodrigo is extremely vulnerable on her debut album despite only being 17 years old. This song is a beautiful ballad with a rise in the chorus countering the slow guitar strum in the verses. This song paints an emotional story that you can almost see through her songwriting. With lyrics like “If you were true, I know there’s no damn way that you could fall in love with somebody that quickly” and “God, I wish you had thought this through before I went and fell in love with you” Rodrigo makes a song that I wish I had when I was 17.

The third song on SOUR is Rodrigo’s first single that put her at the top of the charts, “driver’s license”. This song blew up on TikTok as everyone speculated the drama behind it as well as used it as their own coping mechanism for dealing with a breakup. A common topic on this album is a boy leaving for someone else. Rodrigo does this in excellent light as she never tears down the other female but gives her compliments even though the new girl is an aid to her recent heartbreak. This song was a creatively diverse song to release as her first single. It has small details like opening with the car beeping that adds to the essence of the story provided through the lyrics. In the music video for “Driver’s License” Rodrigo can be seen newly driving her car while the world is seemingly frozen around her due to her heartbreak.

“1 step forward, 3 steps back” is the fourth track on the album. This song begins with a familiar melody. As possibly Rodrigo’s biggest inspiration, Taylor Swift’s song “New Year’s Day” was sampled for this track. To show her talent at such a young age, Rodrigo emanates this melody in an entirely new way. While the sampled melody is at the forefront in the beginning, it is pushed to the distant background after the first chorus. The lyrics paint the frustration of a relationship that seemingly gets worse more than it gets better. Never knowing the kind of person, you will get from your love on the day-to-day. This frustration is painted in a kindly beautiful and light way.

The next track is “déjà vu”. This was Rodrigo’s second single off of her debut album. Once again, she proves her amazing songwriting capabilities in extreme detail. She rights in a way that provides the sensory images necessary to see the scene in your mind as you listen to the song. She does this with lyrics like “Strawberry ice cream in Malibu”, “You’re singing it together”, “watching reruns of Glee”, and so many more. In the music video Rodrigo can be seen copying this “new girl” with her old boyfriend in hopes to be more like her. She plays with the female-obsessive role that is seen in many popular movies and shows. Similar to that in “Killing Eve”.

The Fifth song on her debut album is “good 4 u”. Rodrigo shows that contrary to popular belief she can make more than just the slow ballad songs that people are expecting from her. She lets her pop-punk flare shine in this track. With a bass guitar punching through the verses of “good 4 u” leading up to the high tempo chorus. Another aspect in this song that shows versatility is the anger in her voice as she sings lyrics like “Remember when you swore to God, I was the only person who ever got you well screw that and screw you, you will never have to hurt the way you know that I do”, “You’re doing great out there without me like a damn sociopath”. This anger shows real emotion that is lacking in most mainstream pop songs today. This song strays from the sweet heartbreak song to the anger that comes with heartbreak.

“enough for you” plays on the concept of no longer being mad at the person that broke your heart to knowing you deserve better and wanting yourself back. In hindsight, you often lose a little bit of yourself when your heart gets broken. This song returns to the classic ballad but does it in a truly heartbreaking way. Rodrigo lets her guard down in this song as she sings about the changes, she made to herself in hopes of appealing to the person she loved more than she would have without these changes. The simple strum of a guitar allows the listener to pay extra attention to the heartbreaking lyrics that leave Rodrigo trying to regain a sense of herself back.

Images By Olivia Rodrigo

The next song on SOUR is called “happier”. This song is carried by a constant piano melody with Rodrigo singing elegantly along with this melody. This song sounds similar to a grand track played in a dramatic musical. This is another feat that she has concurred straying from mainstream pop. “happier” illustrates the stage in a breakup where you come to terms with your heartache and wish your ex the best. Rodrigo paints an interesting point of view with this song as she reveals having a love for her ex that is not just going to disappear. Once again, she sings of her ex’s new girlfriend in a polite way. With lyrics like “she’s beautiful, she looks kind, she probably gives you butterflies”. This song could easily be the new version of “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town as they both discuss yearning to be in the place of this new girl.

The ninth track, “jealousy, jealousy”, brings Rodrigo back to her edgy side with a little pop-punk influence. This song is an outlier to an album that is mostly about teenage heartbreak. This song tells the story of how it feels to be a teenager in today’s society where social media paints the perfect picture of others lives. As a teenager these perfect portrayals can make you feel insignificant and even jealous. Adults may think this concept is silly, but Rodrigo shows it is not uncommon and validates this feeling through “jealousy, jealousy”. This song has a constant heavy high-hat and bassline emphasis to carry her harsh articulation of the lyrics.

Images by Olivia Rodrigo“favorite crime” returns to the burning sensation that comes along with heartbreak. The song opens with a quiet and raw acoustic guitar strum. This allows for Rodrigo’s voice to ring out. In the chorus, her voice echoes itself in different pitches to create a full haunting sound. The lyrics tell the story of staying in a relationship that is evidently toxic due to the everlasting love you have for them in your heart. When the bridge of this song comes, Rodrigo changes tempo to singing faster than the other haunting parts of the song. The bridge appears to be a direct call-out to the person she is singing about as her anger begins to shine through her voice.

The last song on the album is “hope ur ok”. This song is incredibly raw for Rodrigo as she sings about people in her personal life. This song acts as letters to those she wishes the best to. The first verse is dedicated to a boy she used to know but fell out of touch with. The second verse is dedicated to her best friend who grew up alone because her parents did not approve of who she was attracted to. Rodrigo tells personal anecdotes that relay the information that these people did not have the easiest home life. She does this with lyrics like “he wore long sleeves because of his dad”, “his parents cared more about the Bible than being good to their own child”, and “she was brought into a world where family is merely blood”. Rodrigo leaves no words unsaid in this song as she relays to be their personal cheerleader by singing “I miss you and I hope that your okay”. This song is sweet and meaningful to not just Rodrigo but those she addressed her letters to in the song.

Listen to SOUR here.

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