Like a lot of people, I first heard of Olivia Rodrigo through her record-breaking song ‘drivers license’ that spent eight weeks at number one. What I did not know was that she had originally become famous through acting on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Because of her multipotentiality, however, she has excelled in both. Having released her debut album SOUR on the 21st of May 2021, there is a lot to marvel at.
Aptly named, SOUR reflects the post-break-up resentment and bitterness and the melodramas of teenagehood. The first track of the album is ‘brutal’, a heavy riffed self-deprecating song that feels reminiscent of punk rock. It reminds me of songs from Kate Nash’s album Girl Talk, which also acts as a representation of a modern angry sceptical female perspective. This musical depiction of Olivia’s emotions is something that is consistent throughout the album. As a consequence, the listener is drawn into her story over and over. In particular, I was captivated by the depiction of the repercussions of her relationship ending. This can be seen in the songs ‘traitor’, ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ and ‘good 4 u’.
Had this album come out during my first break-up, I would have sobbed along to these songs. There is something so very pure and relatable about ‘traitor’. Yet, for me, it is missing the anger that ‘good 4 u’ skillfully conveys. In addition to this, it seems a little naïve, which can be seen as endearing and feels like a type of hindsight. If I had it my way, I would have ordered the songs differently as it is somewhat jarring to have all these different emotions crashing into each other track by track. However, at the same time, it makes sense for this to be the resounding theme of the album, a confusing reevaluation of identity. Therefore, if a stylistic choice, it is artful and introspective.
Continuing on from this, ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ hurts in a young, vulnerable way. With the twittering of birds in the background and a laughing lilt to her singing, Olivia has managed to write a song that paints a picture with the listener as its protagonist. You are welcomed into her bedroom to watch her phone her ex-partner and can see her hanging out of her window on a late summer afternoon. The way the piano is played seems almost playful and enticing. Contrastingly, ‘good 4 u’ has a deep bass groove that makes you want to dance around irrationally. The sharpness in her tone is exciting and makes the lyrics all the more raw and honest. Currently, this is my favourite song on the album and really epitomises the amount of effort and emotion poured into SOUR.
At the age of 18, Olivia Rodrigo has all the potential to keep on bringing out bops and SOUR is proof of that.