Olivia Rodrigo – Guts

4.5

Olivia Rodrigo’s highly-anticipated second album Guts captures the joy and uncertainty of entering your twenties. Unlike Rodrigo’s breakup-focused debut Sour, which skyrocketed Rodrigo into superstardom, Guts explores other aspects of the pivotal transition from teenhood into her twenties. 

Along with the power ballads that describe the gaslighting and anguish that Rodrigo faced in her romantic life, Guts is also fun and euphoric and describes Rodrigo’s musical and songwriting growth from her debut to now. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she explains that “This album encapsulates growing up and figuring yourself out in the world, and the awkwardness of that,” she says. “I feel myself growing leaps and bounds.” 

Guts opens with “all-american bitch,” a track that captures the frustrations of being a young woman and working to be seen as the perfect “All American” girl. In an interview with BBC, Rodrigo explained that as a young woman, she personally struggled with being discouraged from expressing emotions in fear of being seen as ungrateful. The lyrics “I don’t get angry when I’m pissed / I’m the eternal optimist” perfectly juxtaposes the femininity and unfiltered rage Rodrigo sings about in the song and through the album.

“vampire,” the first single from Guts, is the power ballad that Rodrigo is well known for and beautifully describes the suffering she faced at the hands of her ex’s gaslighting and being left to pick the pieces for herself. The song expresses Rodrigo’s pain and heartache but also includes an underlying layer of rage and anger. The lyrics “I used to think I was smart / But you made me look so naive / The way you sold me for parts / As you sunk your teeth into me” represent Rodrigo standing up for herself and taking her power back. 

For Rodrigo, Guts was an opportunity to demonstrate that she was also capable of writing clever songs that aren’t just rooted in heartbreak and breakups. She demonstrated those writing chops in the tracks “bad idea right” and “get him back!” Both tracks are toy with the idea of getting back with an ex, whether it’s just for a night or for revenge. In “get him back!” Rodrigo debates taking her ex back and recalls “He said I was the only girl, but that just wasn’t the truth / And when I told him how he hurt me, he’d tell me I was trippin’” and cleverly followed up with the lyric “But I am my father’s daughter, so maybe I could fix him.

Rodrigo has been open about her own struggles with anxiety and insecurity, and she’s harnessed her songwriting abilities to create art out of her struggles and let listeners know that they’re not alone. In the “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” Rodrigo is open and honest about her own struggles with dealing with social situations because she was homeschooled, playfully chastising herself for saying the wrong thing, liking the wrong guy, and making things weird. But her most raw and sincere reflection of her feelings is in the song “lacy.” The song, which started out as a poem, conveys the envy and insecurity that Rodrigo feels when she describes the perfect “lacy” and how inferior she feels in comparison. The song captures the raw emotions and turmoil many women of color especially struggle with when comparing themselves against European beauty standards. Rodrigo croons about Lacy’s “skin like puff pastry” and describes her as “Bardot reincarnate”  in comparison herself. While she tries her best, Rodrigo admits that she does care but “despise[s] my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you / Yeah, I despise my rotten mind and how much it worships you.”

Rodrigo closes Guts with “teenage dream,” a ballad that describes the anxieties and pressures of what is ahead. She sings about her fear of reaching her peak too early singing, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” In her interview with Rolling Stone, she explained that the song is “about a fear of not being a teenager anymore and not having this image of being some type of ingénue or prodigy kid. I grew up in this weird environment where everyone praised me for being talented for my age, and it’s about me facing the pressure of making a sophomore record while also facing this pressure of wondering if people would still think that I was cool even when I wasn’t a 17-year-old girl writing songs anymore.” While Rodrigo sings about her fears of entering her twenties, that fear and uncertainty is something that doesn’t go away, which makes the messages in Guts feel relevant through all stages of life. 

While Rodrigo’s uncertainty and anxiety are clear throughout this album, one thing she can be sure of is that Guts will be a part of a long line of iconic sophomore albums and solidified her rightful place as the ultimate pop-rock princess of the 2020s.