Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album “GUTS” features confident rock ballads and emotional pop

By Grace Hogsten

Copy Editor

On Sept. 8, Olivia Rodrigo released her long-awaited sophomore album, “GUTS.”

Rodrigo first hinted at an upcoming album in late 2022 and teased new music on the two-year anniversary of “SOUR” in May 2023, according to Seventeen.

Rodrigo announced the album title and release date on June 26, according to Yahoo, sharing the album’s single, “vampire,” a few days later on June 30. A month before the album’s release, “bad idea right?” debuted leading up to the album, according to the Daily Beacon.

According to Billboard, Rodrigo’s debut album, “SOUR,” appeared in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for 52 weeks within the first 15 months of its release. The album was also critically successful, with Rodrigo earning three Grammy Awards and seven Billboard Music Awards trophies.

While “SOUR” was very much a breakup album, “GUTS” adds songs about a wider set of experiences into the mix, in addition to a more diverse sound.

“GUTS” has 12 tracks, six of which are slower and more similar to her earlier work, and six of which have a new, confident, empowered energy, and employ a rock-adjacent sound.

Some of the songs, including “lacy,” “logical,” and “the grudge” seem like they could be on “SOUR;” they depict heartbreak, resentment, and jealousy with the tender and emotional sound that made fans fall in love with Rodrigo’s debut album.

Other tracks, such as “making the bed,” “pretty isn’t pretty,” and “teenage dream” have “SOUR’s” characteristic slower tempo and heart-wrenching lyrics, but address situations unrelated to breakups.

The other half of the track list, however, consists of faster-paced rock songs addressing the pain and discomfort of relationships and of simply being a teenager, similarly to her earlier song “brutal.”

According to Billboard, Rodrigo said that her love of rock led her to write rock songs that incorporate femininity and vulnerability into the telling of a story.

“all-american bitch,” the first track on the album, embodies the concept of feminine rage. The song’s lyrics reject societal standards of feminine perfection as Rodrigo sings – and even screams – to loud, upbeat accompaniment from a band.

“I know my place, and this is it,” Rodrigo sings.

The album’s first single, “vampire,” is a ballad that confidently confronts the perpetrator of a toxic relationship. “Vampire” asserts the emotional growth between the two albums; Rodrigo takes off her rose-colored glasses and grapples with the uncomfortable.

“GUTS” also plays with new techniques and conventions.

According to Pitchfork, Rodrigo recorded several of her newest songs live with a full band. This authentic sound goes perfectly with Rodrigo’s vulnerable lyrics and masterful vocals.

Some songs includes clips of spoken words and moments where Rodrigo speaks a lyric instead of singing, a technique utilized only once in her debut album, which begins with the spoken line, “I want it to be, like, messy.”

“Get him back!” ends with Rodrigo speaking in a slightly distorted voice, saying that she “got him good.” The singer shouts, “No, I know, I know,” in frustration during “ballad of a homeschooled girl.” “Teenage dream” closes the album with a clip of herself and a child talking softly.

“GUTS” is an album of emotional catharsis both for teenagers and for anyone who remembers the awkwardness and frustration of being a teenager. It expresses a variety of emotional experiences, resulting in an album that gives us a chance to reflect, but also to sing and scream along.

Photo Caption: Songs on “GUTS,” including “all-american bitch” and “teenage dream,” touch on themes of fame, with Rodrigo criticizing her public persona and how people view her.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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