Angsty, heartfelt and nostalgic – Olivia Rodrigo returns with her second studio album, ‘GUTS’. A 12 track wonder to follow her immensely successful debut record ‘SOUR’, Rodrigo’s next instalment has been highly anticipated and will likely dominate the US charts upon release. Nicknaming this her ‘sophomore album’ Rodrigo takes us down memory lane once again as she paints a vivid and emotionally exhausting picture of life as a teenage girl battling school, crushes and growing up.
While ‘GUTS’ doesn’t present any surprises – the music is seemingly typical of Rodrigo’s style – there is a sense her music has improved and matured since ‘SOUR’. The production behind the 12 tracks, for which she reunited with Dan Niro, is elevated and feels braver than that with ‘SOUR’, unsurprising given its success, putting Rodrigo on the music map. After receiving mixed reviews for her live performances over the past 18 months, including playing Glastonbury in 2022, Rodrigo has reminded us of her impressive songwriting talent and creative flare, and her ability to produce chart-topping tracks, with the album’s lead single ‘vampire’ sitting comfortably in the Billboard Hot 10’s top 10 every week since it’s release on June 30th.
While the angsty, rock-opera-hybrid musings of Rodrigo can sometimes seem repetitive across the album, with several songs now mimicking the alternative vibe of her previous ‘SOUR’ hits ‘good 4 u’ and ‘brutal’, this record’s songs demonstrate how her craft has evolved and matured, quite like the artist herself. There is a wiser more comforting sense to her lyrics, while still providing that relatable and confused voice of a young person trying to navigate the world and please others (ballad of a homeschooled girl). Her songwriting, influenced by female artists such as Taylor Swift, Haley Williams and Avril Lavigne is certainly one of Rodrigo’s highest skills and the lyricism on ‘GUTS’ is a clear exhibit of this.
Another of Rodrigo’s most impressive and loved qualities within her music is the maturity and rawness of her voice, developed through an early career of musical theatre training, similar to the likes of Ariana Grande. For just 20 years old, her voice is one of the most skilled and powerful in the industry today, meaning we trust her to commit to those long, difficult notes and create beautiful ballads which resonate with so many. Her vocal range is excellent on this record, and is perfectly displayed in the slower tracks, such as ‘the grudge’ and ‘teenage dream.’ Her raw, raspy tone combined with her unafraid commitments to belting solidify her reputation as a singer who should be watched and anticipated in today’s music scene.
Her consistently good ability to tell stories through complex, wordy lyrics, often disguised as fast talk-singing (such as in ‘vampire’) is a unique and well-loved trait of Rodrigo’s music, so fans will be pleased to hear this album is packed with this.
Rodrigo’s habit of contrasting angry rock-songs (bad idea, right?) with the more emotional, piano based ballads, to create her portrayal of the highs and lows of teenage girlhood has definitely returned on GUTS. Certainly establishing this as her unique style, it appears these techniques are here to stay.
Overall, ‘GUTS’ has returned Rodrigo to the music scene with quite a force. Containing many tracks that are likely to inhabit the charts for the next few months, with some already going viral on social media, Olivia Rodrigo has created another fun, varied and mature studio album, which perfectly contributes to her wider attempt to preserve her experiences as a teenager within her music.
Words: Alex Berry