Courtesy of Geffen Records

Review: The impact of ‘GUTS’: How Olivia Rodrigo connects with her young audience

By Jessica Silverio, September 26, 2023

After a two-year hiatus following Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album “SOUR,” fans were elated when her highly anticipated sophomore album, “GUTS,” finally released Sept. 8.

As a fan of Olivia Rodrigo since her breakout single “Drivers License,” I’ve been eagerly awaiting her next album, and “GUTS” did not disappoint. From the moment I pressed play, I was taken on an emotional rollercoaster through the difficulties of love, heartbreak and self-discovery.

The album’s title is fitting. It takes guts to be as honest and vulnerable as Rodrigo is in her music. She bares her soul, addressing issues like self-doubt, insecurity and the pressure to conform, all while showcasing her strength and resilience. It’s a message that’s empowering for her fans, especially young women, who can see themselves reflected in her music and find solace they’re not alone in their struggles.

The album opens with “All-American B—-,” a folk song that abruptly turns into a pop-punk song midway and immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album. Rodrigo’s distinctive voice is as powerful as ever, and her lyrics are fearless. The track is a bold statement of independence and self-assuredness, showcasing her growth as an artist since her “SOUR” days.

There is also a noteworthy similarity between “All-American B—-” and a cherished song from her debut album. Fans of Rodrigo will undoubtedly recognize a parallel situation, specifically the track “Good 4 U,” sparked comparisons to Paramore’s “Misery Business.” In the case of “GUTS,” “All-American B—-” unmistakably mirrors Miley Cyrus’ 2007 song “Start All Over.”

One of the standout tracks on the album is “Vampire.” This track is a hauntingly beautiful ballad that transitions to a rock opera,. The addition of electric guitars and powerful drums adds a sense of intensity. Rodrigo’s ability to convey complex emotions through her music is truly remarkable, and “Vampire” is a prime example of this. Her vocals are both raw and captivating as she sings about the intoxication of a relationship.

Another track on the album, “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl,” deserves a special mention. This introspective song delves into Rodrigo’s personal experiences and vulnerability where she struggles in figuring out who she is, who she wants to be and where she fits in this world as a young adult. A lot of listeners can identify with her lyrics because we all have grappled with questions of identity and belonging.

As “GUTS” unfolds, it becomes evident Rodrigo isn’t just an artist who can capture the essence of heartache and teenage angst; she’s a versatile musician who can navigate a wide range of emotions and musical styles. Tracks like “Pretty Isn’t Pretty” and “Making the Bed” explore themes of beauty standards set by society and the complexities of becoming famous. The instrumentation on these tracks beautifully complements the lyrical content, creating a rich and immersive listening experience.

The production quality on “GUTS” is also worth noting. This album showcases a dynamic fusion of elements, from tender piano ballads to electrifying guitar arrangements, and from energetic drumming to mellower beats. The album’s sound is a testament to the collaborative effort of Rodrigo and her trusted producer, Dan Nigro, who have successfully created a musical landscape that resonates with a wide audience.

One of the most remarkable aspects of “GUTS” is its ability to speak to a broad audience, while maintaining a deeply personal and introspective tone. Rodrigo’s lyrics are often confessional, touching on her own experiences and emotions, but they also tap into universal themes. Whether a listener is a teenager navigating the complexities of first love or an adult reflecting on past relationships, there’s something in “GUTS” that will strike a chord with anyone.

As the music industry continues to evolve, Olivia Rodrigo’s “GUTS” reminds listeners there is still a place for heartfelt and thought-provoking music. It’s an album and invitation to listen, reflect and maybe shed a tear or two. She has firmly established herself as a voice for her generation, and “GUTS” cements her status as an artist with staying power in the ever-changing landscape of music.

Feature image courtesy of Geffen Records

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