Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album had big shoes to fill after the massive success of “Sour,” Rodrigo’s four-time platinum debut album. We all remember hearing “Driver’s License,” the chart-topping lead single on “Sour,” blasting from almost every teenage girl’s car in January 2021. After a two-year break between albums, “Guts” has arrived, and Rodrigo truly has spilled out her guts in a confessional coming-of-age record. “Guts” explores the nuanced complexities of being a “20-year-old teenage girl,” a term which has recently taken over the internet in the summer of the “Barbie” movie and Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
Many of the pop ballads found on “Sour” were replaced with punk-rock-influenced tracks, vocal runs traded out with cheerleader chants and clever-one liners: “And when hе said, ‘Something wrong?’ He’d just fly me to Francе / So I miss him some nights when I’m feeling depressed.”
One of “Guts” biggest influences is namely Avril Lavigne, with the comparison being made upon the release of “Guts” second single, “bad idea right?”
In one of the most Lavigne-esque tracks, “get him back!” Rodrigo pulls off a hilarious double-entendre: “I wanna make him feel jealous, wanna make him feel bad / Cause then again I miss him and it makes me real sad.” Rodrigo’s shift to pop-rock is a genius move in an oversaturated pop industry ruled by TikTok. The generation-wide nostalgia for the early 2000s makes Rodrigo’s new sound that much more enticing.
Lyrically, Rodrigo continues to be a standout among her pop star peers. The album’s opening track title, “all-american b***h,” is a nod to a Joan Didion essay of the same title; on “lacy,” Rodrigo describes her female competition as “dazzling starlet, Bardot reincarnate.” Rodrigo confesses to playing the victim in “making the bed” with one of the few references to her superstardom status: “I got the things I wanted, it’s just not what I imagined.”
Heart-wrenching break-up songs — reminiscent of fan-favorite “Traitor” — revolve around a common theme of manipulation by an older boyfriend. Rodrigo’s confessional songwriting reaches new heights on “logical,” a track co-written with producer Dan Nigro and Julia Michaels: “I know I’m half responsible / And that makes me feel horrible / I know I could’ve stopped it all.”
In “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” Rodrigo steps down from the pedestal of superstardom and places herself in the shoes of the average 19-year-old girl: “I’m on the outside of the greatest inside joke.” As Rodrigo runs through a list of her own quirks, she lands on this line: “Everythin’ I do is tragic / Every guy I like is gay.” Although Rodrigo’s witty lyricism usually hits the nail on the head, this particular line ends up feeling just a little cheeky.
Of all the complicated coming-of-age feelings Rodrigo explores in “Guts,” one of the most interesting is the pendulum that swings between reckless confidence and hopeless self-doubt. On “pretty isn’t pretty,” the big sister to jealousy jealousy” on “Sour,” Rodrigo sings “You can win the battle, but you’ll never win the war / You fix thе things you hated and you’d still feel so insecure.”
Rodrigo closes her 39-minute album with “teenage dream,” a song that encapsulates the trials of being a 19-year-old, as well as the notion that women become less valuable as they get older: “Got your whole life ahead of you, you’re only nineteen / But I fear that they already got all the best parts of me.” But with a sophomore album that far exceeded expectations, Rodrigo has proved that she is far from peaking. She’s bold, funny and most importantly, she’s unafraid to be the voice of a new generation of twenty-somethings.