From 'Get Him Back!' to 'Vampire'
Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, Guts, dropped on September 8th, and after her smash-hit debut album, Sour, she did not disappoint. The new record displays her growth as an artist and as a person. The young girl reeling from a heartbreak in Sour has developed a deeper understanding of love, relationships, and herself. What’s even more incredible is how she seamlessly transitions between different genres and explores new sounds on this album. The artist’s first record lightly touched on the pop-punk genre, but now, Rodrigo fully leans into it with a heavy guitar, drums, and intense vocals. Guts is complex and encapsulates how it feels to be growing up in the late teens to early twenties — that awkward stage still feeling like a kid but aren’t quite sure how to navigate adulthood yet. Each song brings a new story to the table and deals with personal experiences while still managing to convey universal messages. It’s time to be gutsy and rank each song on the album based on lyricism and musicality.
12) Pretty Isn’t Pretty
“Pretty Isn’t Pretty” captures girlhood in all its messy and complex glory. Rodrigo opens up about how “there’s always somethin’ in the mirror that I think looks wrong” and dives into the insecurities that every girl and woman goes through in life. Even for adults, these lyrics hit hard. It has consistent musicality and leans more into the punk side of the album with its use of guitar and drums. The best part is the bridge; throughout the entire song, nothing in terms of singing stands out, but Rodrigo’s vocals in this specific section are interesting to listen to. This shows her growth in range as she enters her falsetto. It’s a catchy, bittersweet song, yet the only reason this song ranks last is simply because all of the other ballads and pop-punk songs outweigh it in terms of lyricism and instrumentation.
11) Love is Embarrassing
Love at any age is scary and embarrassing, and this Guts track perfectly captures that feeling of grappling with unrequited love. No matter how horrible the person is, Rodrigo recalls ending up “waiting by the goddam phone” and excusing their terrible behavior to simply be around them. It’s a painful cycle that so many can relate to. This time, that feeling comes with a fun pop-punk backing track that is easy to sing along to. The chorus emanates with a ’90s-inspired sounds as Rodrigo reflects on how she treats herself in order to get someone’s attention who is not worth her time. It serves as the perfect reminder for listeners to not dim their light for anyone who doesn’t treat them well. There are also many interesting musical elements in this song, courtesy of Rodrigo’s producer, Dan Nigro. Throughout the entire track, there are guitar riffs after each verse, which give the fairly consistent instrumentation a twist that makes it more engaging to listen to. Overall, the song is fun and cohesive with the album, but not as complex as the rest of the tracklist; it does not take many risks.
“Logical” lays out the story of an unhealthy relationship marred by manipulation and cruelty. Rodrigo takes her personal experience and uses it as inspiration to create a powerful and relatable narrative. In this piano ballad, Rodrigo reflects on her irrational actions that kept her in this relationship for longer than she was meant to, stating that “love is never logical.” Nothing made sense to her during this time with this person, so much so that two plus two ended up equaling five, and “the sky was green and the grass was red.” Her entire world was flipped upside down due to the harshness she faced at the hands of the other individual. Anyone who has gone through difficult relationships can immediately relate to this song and the feeling of being lost, even when there is someone right beside them. What makes this track incredible is Rodrigo’s emotion behind every word, but this is not the most impressive vocal performance she has given. Still, her pain is heard behind every word and note. She truly knows how to tell a heartbreaking story backed by melancholic piano and intimate vocals.
9) Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl
Rodrigo brings all the angst in “ballad of a homeschooled girl” as she tackles her struggles with social anxiety and the pressure of fitting in with people her age. Since she started in the industry as a teen, Rodrigo never had a conventional education. She didn’t get the chance to be around people her age every day like many, yet she takes this specific experience and makes it a relatable song for all those who face social anxiety. The melody and backing track match the teenage angst perfectly through the messy ’90s grunge aesthetic. A balanced amount of distortion is used on the guitars, and the drumming beat only adds to emphasize how many people with anxiety feel. It’s almost like our hearts is beating out of our chests. “Ballad of a homeschooled girl” is spunky, and edgy, and will have listeners cathartically screaming at the top of their lungs with their other socially anxious besties.
“Lacy” is what “pretty isn’t pretty” should have been. It takes the experience of girlhood and shows how crushing it is to constantly compare oneself to somebody that they see as superior. Rodrigo captures societal expectations perfectly as she sings “lacy, oh, lacy, it’s like you’re out to get me” and “I feel your compliments like bullets on skin.” Women are constantly pitted against each other so much so that it feels like there is no safe space to hide or anyone to talk to. The guitar picking and effective harmonies create a mesmerizing piece that keeps listeners hooked throughout its mellow tune. Nigro and Rodrigo continue the trend of building the song during the bridge, this time with more intense backing vocals layered onto each other, and it still lands perfectly. Compared to the other songs on the tracklist, it takes a while to warm up to and fully understand, but after a few listens, the sad reality of the ballad begins to sink in. Everyone, at one point or another, has felt envy and insecurity beyond measure while comparing themselves to somebody else.
7) Teenage Dream
This song is one of the heavier ones on the album in terms of lyrics. Here, Rodrigo reflects on growing up and whether she will continue to be good enough or ever be considered worthy after her teenage years. It truly is a gut-wrenching song that captures the insecurity and vulnerability of adolescence. Once again, Rodrigo drives it home with the bridge, saying, “They all say that it gets better, but what if I don’t?” Accompanying the lyrics are haunting harmonies that build from piano and soft singing to intense yelling and drums, showcasing the messiness of growing up and being in that in-between stage of teenagehood and adulthood. “Teenage Dream” almost feels like the comedown after Rodrigo’s song “Brutal” from Sour, in which she asks, “Where’s my f–king teenage dream?” This connection only makes the song better, as we get to see the artist’s mentality as she evolves with her music. This song is a perfect mix of emotion, both musically and lyrically. Rodrigo masterfully integrates her vocals and instrumentation to tell a universal story that many can relate to. Everyone is still growing—including her—and sometimes, that is terrifying.
6) Get Him Back!
No one knew what was going to hit them when “get him back!” started playing. The song features Rodrigo’s well-known “talk-singing” vocals throughout most of the song, a skill that she has mastered. Her singing style adds to the atmosphere of the ’90s garage-punk track as Rodrigo unpacks a tumultuous relationship that she isn’t quite ready to let go of yet. Some of the lyrics feels very simple, which isn’t a downside. But based on Rodrigo’s other tracks, more is expected. The best part lyrically is the bridge (no surprise there) as Rodrigo talks about getting her ex back in more ways than one. The dichotomy of wanting to get revenge on her ex by “keying his car” while also trying to win his heart by “making him lunch” verbalizes the whiplash one feels after a breakup. She want to get back with him, but at the same time, she hates his guts. Still, the lyrical simplicity lets the rock instrumentation shine through, making this a fun song to scream out loud with friends, which sounds like a better choice than engaging in a relationship that probably ended for a good reason. This song sounds like it was written with the Guts Tour in mind, and will surely be a crowd-pleaser. It’s fun, angsty, and easy to get into.
5) Bad Idea, Right?
The second single to come out from Guts, “bad idea, right?” initially received mixed reviews. In the end though, it proved that it was here to stay and became a fan favorite. The song doesn’t take itself too seriously and, once again, tells an interesting narrative that is relatable to many. “Bad idea, right?” features Rodrigo’s talking vocals, but this time, her emphasis on her tone packs more of a punch than previous songs. The lyrics in this track may not be complex, just like in “get him back!” But what really makes this one stand out is the instrumentation. There are many little guitar riffs sprinkled throughout the song, and the track builds really well from start to finish. The backing vocals also make this piece stand out compared to the other pop-punk songs. It sounds messy, distorted, and overwhelming, but in the best way, which also matches up with the song’s narrative. Nigro and Rodrigo took a lot of creative liberties during this one, and it paid off.
It makes sense why “vampire” was the lead single–the essence of this song can be heard in all of the other tracks. It holds the entire album together, and Guts would be hollow without it. The story follows—based on assumption—the same toxic relationship mentioned in “logical.” However, this time, listeners are shown the exploitative side of the person Rodrigo was in a relationship with, as she calls him a “bloodsucker” and “fame f–ker.” It commences sounding like a piano ballad but eventually crescendos into an intense melody with solid drums in the background. What’s really impressive about “vampire” are, of course, Rodrigo’s vocals. Her growth as a singer and songwriter truly is remarkable, and “vampire” is the perfect song to showcase this.
3) The Grudge
If “the grudge” isn’t constantly replaying in your head the same way a driver’s license is, then you clearly haven’t listened to it enough and gotten to the root of the song. The song tells the story of a relationship gone sour. Rodrigo takes this painful experience and crafts a beautiful, sorrowful narrative. A sense of longing and heartbreak is woven between every powerful line as Rodrigo asks the person she is singing to, “how can anybody do the things you did so easily?” The lyrics are truly what stands out in this song. Matched with her powerful vocals (especially during the bridge), this is easily one of the best and most impactful songs on the album. The music builds and falls in just the right places, creating an emotional experience for the listener. Even if audiences can’t relate to the song, they find themselves getting lost in the story she is telling. Rodrigo really drew blood with this one.
2) All-American Bitch
Rodrigo is truly that “all-american bitch,” and this song has solidified that. It’s arguably the most fun and dynamic song in the album. The anger and confusion of growing up are reflected through the lyrics and crazy instrumentation. Everything starts off soft and mellow, then listeners are thrown into a full pop-punk chorus. Most times, this can be jarring, but it works perfectly here, especially with the message behind the song. The tone shift was a great way to set up what was to come in the rest of the album. Throughout the entire track, there is a duality between every line written in order to hammer home the message of how difficult it is to be a woman in society. Societal standards want women to constantly be everything and nothing all at once, and Rodrigo proves this through lines such as “I am built like a mother and a total machine” and “I am light as a feather and as stiff as a board.” It feels like she can never win, which only lets the frustrations of the chorus come through clearly and effectively. Speaking of the frustrations underlying this song, the sections where Rodrigo is screaming fits add a raw intensity to the overall emotional experience of the track. “All-american bitch” is an all-American pop-punk masterpiece.
1) Making the Bed
Contrary to popular opinion, but “making the bed” takes first place. It is the most self-reflective track on the album, as Rodrigo looks back on the decisions she previously made to end up where she is today, and how it is all because of her own actions. She discusses the level of fame she has reached and how that changed her life, but it is still heart-wrenchingly relatable to every person in the world. We all have those moments where we ask ourselves how we ended up where we are, and usually, we only have ourselves to blame. It should be a crime to have lyrics this painful. Some standout ones throughout the song include “I’m playing the victim so well in my head, but it’s me who’s been making the bed” and “They’re changing my machinery, and I just let it happen.” It’s evident that she spilled her guts on this track. On top of the lyricism, the instrumentation is absolutely stunning. This could have been a simple piano ballad, but Rodrigo and Nigro went in a slightly different direction by adding a steady drum beat and distorted synths throughout the song. In some moments, the music gets so intense and loud that it feels like listeners are drowning in it, which is a perfect connection to the overall feeling of the song. Being unhappy due to one’s own actions hurts. You made your bed, and you might feel like you can’t change much, but at least this relatable song exists now.
All 12 tracks on Guts are brilliant songs that bring different stories and emotions to light. The entire album is a cohesive and fun project that will resonate with many people, and it’s hard to truly pick a favorite. Guts is now streaming on all music platforms.
Official Vevo Music Video for “bad idea right?”