Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Album Review | Guts by Olivia Rodrigo


Olivia Rodrigo became an overnight superstar after the release of her debut single, “Driver’s License,” two years ago. She followed this success with the release of her debut album, Sour. Now a three-time Grammy winner, there were big expectations for her with this next album.

Rodrigo released her second album, Guts, on Sept. 8. Many fans were curious about how she would follow up a classic like Sour and what creative direction she would take on this new album. Guts certainly does not disappoint and contains some of her best work yet. The album is full of a wide variety of emotions and this is portrayed not only in the lyrics but in the production. 

Rodrigo flipped the switch on Guts. On Sour, there were many slow-paced, vocal-focused songs. On Guts, she showed her true versatility as an artist. Though she stuck with a slower-paced style for songs like “lacy,” “teenage dream,” “making the bed” and “the grudge,” she completely blew me away with the incorporation of pop-punk on “bad idea right?,” “all-american bitch,” “love is embarrassing,” “ballad of a homeschool girl” and “get him back.” When I listened to these pop-punk songs I felt like I was transported back to the early 2000s, listening to artists like Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson and Paramore. Rodrigo’s vocals on the aforementioned songs fit the genre so well, and I was very impressed. 

When Sour was released, I resonated with “good 4 u.” It was an electric song that I found addicting to listen to. Its fast pace made it the perfect gym song. Going into Guts, I was curious if I would find a song that would lead me down the same path. After multiple listening sessions, I pinpointed the “good 4 u” of this album: “love is embarrassing.” It is short, but it gives off so much energy while lyrically displaying the things we do for love and how foolish it can make us. This is something many listeners can relate to. What makes this song so unique is the bridge and the outro, where she changes her vocals to a sassy tone, giving off an addicting sound that leads me to play the track over and over. 

One thing Rodrigo has always done so well is make music with relatable lyrics, both for her and the listener. This is what I think makes her such a big draw to teens and young adults. An example of this is in “pretty isn’t pretty.” She sings about the struggle of self-image and trying to look perfect for everyone.  This is represented in the opening lyrics:

Bought a bunch of makeup, tryna cover up my face /

I started to skip lunch, stopped eatin’ cake on birthdays /

I bought a new prescription to try and stay calm /

‘Cause there’s always somethin’ missin’ /

There’s always somethin’ in the mirror that I think looks wrong. 

 Insecurity is something many people deal with, and Rodrigo does a great job describing different struggles for everyone. Another song she lyrically shines on is “bad idea right?” This song tells the story of someone going back to an ex-lover, with the subject knowing it is not a good idea but also thinking there is a possibility of a good outcome: 

Yes, I know that he’s my ex /

But can’t two people reconnect? /

I only see him as a friend /

The biggest lie I ever said /

Oh, yes, I know that he’s my ex /

But can’t two people reconnect? /

I only see him as a friend /

I just tripped and fell into his bed.

The last song I’d like to note for its relatable and personal lyrics is “ballad of a homeschool girl.” Rodrigo sings about her difficulties socializing with people her own age. As she stated in the title, she was homeschooled, making her childhood different from those of most students. Being secluded from peers for an extended period can make things hard when you jump into the world. This is something many experienced and struggled with coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why I think it is relatable. Some lyrics to demonstrate this are:

Cat got my tongue /

And I don’t think I get along with anyone /

Blood runnin’ cold /

I’m on the outside of the greatest inside joke.” 

Rodrigo goes even further in the following lyrics: 

“I stumbled over all my words /

I made it weird, I made it worse /

Each time I step outside, it’s social suicide /

It’s social suicide, wanna curl up and die /

It’s social suicide.

Both of these passages describe positions we have all been in and been embarrassed about: the times when we wonder why we said a certain thing or why people aren’t talking to us. Rodrigo has already shown that her songwriting with Dan Nigro is impeccable and only has more room to grow. 

Lastly, I’d like to speak on this album’s production. Guts is filled with classic piano backings, which fit on the slower songs. One of my favorite instrumentals is on “all-american bitch”: We hear the slow strumming of a guitar, then the track jumps into hardcore drums and background screaming, then back to the soft tone. It fits the song perfectly and makes it a very fun listen.

On “bad idea right?” we’re hit with some of my favorite synths on the whole album. I feel like they signify the chaos Olivia is writing about when it comes to going back to an ex. In “get him back,” we hear head-banging rock drums as Rodrigo plots to make an ex-lover jealous so that he comes back to her. I also love the outro’s background conversation in which she talks about getting him good. There are so many fun instrumentals on this album that make it so diverse. On one song we hear head-banging drums and guitar and on the next we hear a slow guitar or piano. 

Rodrigo has surpassed all my expectations for this album. She showed true growth from Sour to Guts all over the board. The sky is truly the limit for her, as her popularity seems to only be growing by the minute. Soon, she will embark on a world tour set to rock several arenas around the globe. 

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