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Dragon Media

The student news site of Carroll Senior High School

Dragon Media

The student news site of Carroll Senior High School

Dragon Media

The only good time someone’s spilled their “GUTS”

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album is an incredible release, one that is sure to cement her presence in the music industry
Photo+illustration+by+Joe+Ferrara
Photo illustration by Joe Ferrara

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, “GUTS,” dropped Sept. 8 to massive appraisal. Her songwriting has improved, her vocals more developed, and is sonically more diverse than “SOUR,” her record-smashing debut album. 

Aesthetically, “GUTS” appears to be similar to “SOUR,” sticking with an all-purple theme, same all-capitalized album title with all-lowercase song titles, similar standard-edition length, and similar style from Rodrigo. However, “GUTS” is more outspoken, louder, more fun, more angry, and more mature than 2021’s “SOUR.” 

“I think that in general, making this album has given me a lot of confidence as a songwriter,” Rodrigo said in an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music. “I wasn’t going through my first 17 year-old-heartbreak and I think that it sort of forced me to be a little bit more creative in the way that I write.” That creativity shines through, especially on songs like “all-american b***h”, “bad idea right?”, and “get him back!”

Rodrigo’s development didn’t just produce a “SOUR” 2.0, though. While some of the same themes from “SOUR” are explored in “GUTS”, like dealing with a breakup, jealousy, and the teenage experience, this time around Rodrigo explores them much more deeply, and often in more clever ways. Rodrigo has come into her own with “GUTS”, and it shows. 

In order to break “GUTS” down, I found it easiest to explore the album in the ways Rodrigo herself thinks of it. “Do you have a pain in your guts?” Rodrigo asks in her trailer for the album. “Do you regularly suffer from the agony of  spilling your guts to complete strangers you barely met? Do you experience issues trusting your gut in matters of love and work? Do you ever hate your own guts?”

PAIN IN YOUR GUTS?

Rodrigo is known for her diaristic writing style, and “GUTS” does not lack in that department. “all-american b***h”, “the grudge”, and “teenage dream” all solidly fit in this category of the album. 

“all-american b***h” is the opening track, and has the same ability to catch you completely off guard much like the opening track off of “SOUR,” “brutal.” With crashing drums and guitar interrupting light, folksy guitar verses, it satirizes the superficial, idealized qualities society expects of women. She quite literally screams out the anger she’s been holding since she was 15, according to the Apple Music interview. 

“And we both drew blood, but man, those cuts were never equal,” is one of Rodrigo’s first times where she acknowledges that a relationship is two-sided. The maturity Rodrigo has gained between the ages of 17 and 19-20 (age writing “SOUR” vs. age writing “GUTS”) is clear in “the grudge”. While the blame is still pinned on her ex, Rodrigo is struggling with the breakup herself. One of the few piano ballads, “the grudge” has some of the best imagery of the album, and is poignantly written.

“They all say that it gets better, it gets better, but what if I don’t?” is the question Rodrigo asks in the final song of the album. “teenage dream” ties “SOUR” and “GUTS” together, unifying Rodrigo’s catalog. Stylistically, both of the final tracks (“hope ur ok” and “teenage dream”) end in spoken word outros, conversations between Rodrigo and her producer, Dan Nigro. More meaningfully, in the explosive “brutal” on “SOUR,” she demands “Where’s my f*****g teenage dream?”, but in “teenage dream,” she laments the dream she has achieved and what that means for her future. In the  trembling piano ballad, Rodrigo worries about the dream already ending and peaking in her life.

SUFFERING FROM THE AGONY OF SPILLING YOUR GUTS?

“GUTS” takes a step further than “SOUR’s” writing in terms of audience. Most of her past songs are for exes or herself, but these are addressing friends or a wider audience in general.

One of the most fun tracks on “GUTS”, “get him back!” is one of the best written songs. It’s slick and dramatic, with chanting lyrics that are ideal for a moment in a show to have the crowd scream them back. It’s a twisted song that is about revenge and getting the ex back at the same time, which is brilliantly expressed in the bridge in a series of contradictions: “Wanna kiss his face / With an uppercut.”

“love is embarrassing” is another fun, bouncy rock song. The writing is solid, but the real highlight of the song is Rodrigo’s pitchy, dramatic, gasping delivery that adds a dynamic that makes the song so fun. She expresses her annoyance with the trials and tribulations of love, especially with realizing that someone wasn’t even worth her time. 

ISSUES TRUSTING YOUR GUT?

“bad idea right?” was the second single from the album, and was a massive stylistic departure for Rodrigo with sliding electric guitar and a deadpan delivery executed perfectly. The song revolves around her asking/telling herself if it’s a bad idea to meet up with her ex again. Her delivery is off-handed and dry, which fits the ‘not thinking whatsoever’ concept of the song well. She builds the song well, with a refrain of “Seein’ you tonight,  it’s a bad idea, right” getting more high pitched and frantic, which is cut by a dismissive “F*** it, it’s fine.”

“vampire” has some of the most biting lyrics of the entire album, and was the first single. Rodrigo played into the expectation that her new material would be remarkably similar to “SOUR”, starting off with soft piano, but the song picks up quickly and by the end has explosive punches of drums. The piano plays throughout the entire song, another signature of Rodrigo’s. The extended metaphor is harsh and cathartic, “Blood sucker, dream crusher / bleedin’ me dry like a godd**n vampire.” While the song is missing the guitar and full-band sound of the rest of “GUTS,” Rodrigo pulls it off. When it came out in June, “vampire” made it clear that “GUTS” was going to pull no punches, and was far angrier than Rodrigo’s previous material.

 “And I know I’m half responsible, And that makes me feel horrible,” exemplifies Rodrigo’s newfound maturity. “logical” is Rodrigo’s most mature breakup song, as Rodrigo acknowledges not only the struggles in the relationship, but also her role in it. The relationship was confusing and hard, but still Rodrigo thought that she could help to “fix him.” She expresses immense regret about keeping the relationship going when she knew that it wasn’t going to work out. It’s emotional and builds incredibly well, as it follows Rodrigo’s new formula to build a song, consisting of a refrain gaining intensity.

DO YOU EVER HATE YOUR OWN GUTS?

This section is much more inwardly focused, and has some of Rodrigo’s most intimate writing. 

“Everythin’ I do is tragic, every guy I like is gay,” is just one of the humiliating moments Rodrigo sprinkles into “ballad of a homeschooled girl.” If you want to hear about every embarrassing moment you could possibly have, this is the song for you. While the title seems like it’s directed towards a niche audience, Rodrigo ensures that everyone can relate to it, plus she adds on her own specific humiliating moments from her own life. “ballad of a homeschooled girl” is one of the messiest and free songs on the album, and has a great moment when the bridge is coming back into the chorus, the words pick back up and the drums and guitar come in out of time with the words.

“lacy” is one of the best examples of the intense bitterness Rodrigo creates in “GUTS.” It follows a concept that has been explored through her contemporaries, Conan Gray and Gracie Abrams. Gray’s song “Heather and Abrams’ “Amelie both are about infatuation and jealousy in a relationship. Rodrigo’s “lacy” is similar, but is far angrier than both of the earlier songs. “lacy” is comparative, airy, and completely and utterly obsessed. The soft guitar-picked instrumental accompanies lyrics that appear purely romantic in the beginning, however, as the song develops, the romantic tone is poisoned with barbs of jealousy, as Rodrigo describes “Lacy’s” compliments like “bullets on skin”. 

“making the bed” is the song that represents this section the best. Upset about how messy and complicated her life is, Rodrigo comes to the realization that it’s her making the mistakes, and now she must lie with them. This song is also more proof of the maturity Rodrigo has gained, and shows the growth and how much she’s learned from her past few years of fame.

“When pretty isn’t pretty enough, what do you do?” Rodrigo ponders the beauty standards she earlier explored in “all-american b***h”, but far more in depth in “pretty isn’t pretty”. She talks about makeup, skipping lunch, and seeing the unrealistic standards all around her. The smooth, guitar-driven song ends on a more upbeat note, with Rodrigo acknowledging that the standards don’t really matter. Overall, it isn’t the most inventive song on “GUTS,” but it’s still solid.

DELUXE

Rodrigo has taken a page out of one of her musical role models, Taylor Swift, in terms of marketing “GUTS.” Prior to the album’s release, four variations of vinyls were available to purchase from her store (G Red, U White, T Blue, S Purple). Creating a set of records to make a set is a brilliant marketing technique Swift employed with her 2022 release of Midnights, with four vinyl variations that make a fully-functioning clock with the back covers. Rodrigo’s four variations have one bonus track from the deluxe version, which was teased on YouTube in the trailer for the album. The “G Red” vinyl has “obsessed”, the “U White” vinyl has “scared of my guitar”, the “T Blue” vinyl has “stranger”, and the “S Purple” vinyl has “girl i’ve always been”.

“GUTS” is a strong piece of emotional integrity and rawness from Rodrigo, and is sure to continue the meteoric rise of Olivia Rodrigo. If the Disney career, the record-shattering “driver’s license, and award-winning debut “SOUR” wasn’t enough to prove that Rodrigo was here to stay, “GUTS” certainly is.

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About the Contributor
Joe Ferrara, Staff
Joe is a senior at Carroll Senior High School, and is a first-year member of Dragon Media. He’s always had an interest in writing, and recently worked on the 2023 Literary Magazine Club. Besides writing, he’s also active in the Carroll Art Department, is an Eagle Scout, and works part-time at Starbucks. He plans to major in journalism in college.