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Explore the mess of growing up with Olivia Rodrigo's "Guts"

Jump into a unique mesh of scream-worthy alt-rock tracks and soul-searching ballads in Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album.

By Kara Co | Thursday, 14 September 2023

Olivia Rodrigos’s billboard-hit debut album, Sour, had left fans anticipating her next release, and on Sept. 8, she delivered. The singer-songwriter published her second album, Guts, filled with all the angst of her first album with a touch more introspection and growth with songs such as “Bad Idea, Right?” and “Teenage Dream.”


Rodrigo’s sophomore album takes an uncertain tone as she navigates the liminal period of growing up with the same rock sounds in her previous album, albeit more experimental. When asked to compare Guts to her previous album, the singer-songwriter admitted in an interview with Apple Music 1’s New Music Daily host Zane Lowe that the pressure and circumstances made it a unique yet rewarding process. 


I think this time I was in a different place and I was having a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations placed on me and I think I really had to try to block out the noise and just focus on the craft of songwriting,” she said.


Guts captures the anguish of growing up and repairing shattered hearts in main-character-moment tracks with the raw intensity of a 19-year-old's diary posts. “In hindsight, I think that a lot of this album is about the confusion that comes with becoming a young adult and figuring out your place in this world and figuring out who you want to be and who you want to hang out with and all of that stuff,” she explained.


“I think that that’s probably an experience that everyone has had in their life before, is just that rising from that disillusionment,” Rodrigo added. 


With the album’s theme centering on growth, young adults and teenagers alike find solace and catharsis in this new release. 


Buckling down and growing up

The album opens withAll-American B*tch, Rodrigo's personal favorite. The song criticizes the societal norm and pressure to be a perfect woman while expressing a burning desire to break away. There's an indie-rock fusion that begins quietly, almost meekly, then explodes into a full-fledged rock chorus with emotional screaming in the bridge. This first track expresses a yearning to escape society's expectations.


Continuing the struggle against societal rules, “Ballad of a Homeschool Girl” laments the challenges to fit into the status quo which torments not only homeschooled girls but also any socially-anxious listener. As the singer-songwriter belts out, “Everytime I step outside, it's social suicide,” she narrates how she failed to read social cues from talking to the wrong person to spilling the wrong secrets.


Jumping to the latter part of the album, “Pretty Isn’t Pretty” is an emotional pop song about the pains of unattainable beauty standards. Despite using makeup, trying diets, and taking medicine, pleasing society remains to be elusive. The song has a defeated tone as the singer-songwriter compares herself with everyone who seems to conform to society’s norms successfully with the reminder of her failure everywhere. 


Like, love, and other feelings

Lauded as the best song in the album by Billboard Music, “Get Him Back” speaks of the paradox of the desire to reunite and retaliate against an electric yet toxic ex-partner. The music supports the singer's bewilderment and hot emotions with brawny electric guitar and drumming elements. Moreover, in “Love is Embarrassing,” Rodrigo regrets her humiliating infatuation with her crush with the sobriety of cracked rose-colored glasses. The song will undoubtedly become an anthem for failed crushes and zany displays of affection: all in the name of love. 


Next is the album’s pre-released single, “Vampire,” a pop track that fits right into a musical with its dramatic pauses and instrumentals. The lyrics reveal a story of manipulation, representative of the toxicity of bad relationships. It’s an anthem some listeners can relate to while others claim in triumph that they deserve better. 


Finally, “Teenage Dream” is the album-ender ballad about uncertainty. The song, which is accompanied by modest strings and a soothing piano, expresses worries about maturing and losing the opportunity to make errors as teenagers with insufficient life experience. The song reaches a crescendo with Rodrigo voicing her doubt, “They say it gets better, it gets better, but what if I don’t?” closing the album with a space for growth for the artist and her listeners. 


Teenage happy 

Guts is a preview into the singer-songwriter’s career as she develops her style and identity as an artist. While the lyricism borders on prose, Rodrigo has managed to capture a fraction of a teenage girl’s emotions, experiences, and desires. 


Supplementary Recommendations

  • “Bad Idea, Right?” - A track about returning to a toxic relationship despite acknowledging its irrationality. 
  • “Making The Bed” - A pop-ballad that touches on the disillusionment of success and the struggle of monetizing a hobby.


Rodrigo has shown both her creativity and guts to make quite a vulnerable album. As she revealed that only 12 out of 25 tracks of her song-writing process were released, fans definitely have more to look forward to from her music in the near future. 

While waiting though, listeners can check out Guts on all streaming platforms.