By Holly Beaumont, Co-Editor-In-Chief
Olivia Rodrigo, recently 18, has become the youngest female artist to place all her tracks in the top 20 of the Global Spotify charts, with her debut album Sour.
She burst onto the scene in January this year with her single ‘Driver’s License’, which persisted at #1 on the UK chart for nine consecutive weeks – breaking the UK record. While some might be quick to dismiss her as merely a Disney star who only sings heartbreak ballads, the quality of the lyricism, diversity of sounds and raw authenticity of emotion on her debut album, Sour, should make them think twice.
Rodrigo has set the precedent at the start of her career that she will not conform to the typical censored and clean-cut Disney-star template. Her biggest inspiration, Taylor Swift, did not use explicit language in a song until her eighth studio album, Folklore, by then she was 30. By comparison, Rodrigo has defied these ‘good girl’ expectations, with six out of the eleven tracks on her debut work marked ‘Explicit’.
😭😭😭😭😭😭 thank u guys sm. number one!!!!! https://t.co/jqNKzqSg3v— Olivia Rodrigo (@Olivia_Rodrigo) May 25, 2021
She joins others, such as Arlo Parks and Lorde, in a bid to be thoroughly candid and raw about her experiences. She is uncomfortably honest, with lyrics like ‘Stupid, emotional, obsessive little me, I knew from the start this is exactly how you’d leave.’ That she does not shy away from conveying the extent of her anguish shows Rodrigo as relatable to her (mostly) younger fans. When asked in an interview with YouTube Releases, ‘What does the rest of 2021 have in store for you?’ she replied, ‘I have to graduate high school... which is so exciting.’ Despite her extraordinary life since the release of ‘Driver’s License’, she somehow comes across as a normal teenager.
Navigating the immeasurable pain of a teenage break-up, Rodrigo explores several different sounds from different genres to capture the various stages of heartbreak, specifically, pop, pop-punk, alt-pop and piano ballads.
Sour starts with a bang. Track 1, ‘Brutal’, will take even her most loyal fans by surprise. Beginning with her saying, ‘I want it to be, like, messy’, it is just that, but in a positive way. She outlines all the aspects of teen angst that we still feel well into our 20’s. With sentiments like, ‘If someone tells me one more time “Enjoy your youth” I’m gonna cry’, she captures those soul-crushing feelings, summed up by the line, ‘God, it’s brutal out here.’ The dominant drums and belting tone of the chorus are reminiscent of 90’s punk, capturing a different sound to the rest of the album, yet still aligning with the overriding message that late teenhood sucks.
Pop-punk single, 'Good 4 U', bears striking similarity with early 2000’s Paramore. The song both captures the heart-wrenching torture of suffering while the person who caused your pain is seemingly fine, and the positive point of a break-up in which you feel rage and can call your ex a ‘sociopath.' The bridge is a highlight of the whole album, with the glorious beat drop following the quiet of just Rodrigo’s voice with a softened, strummed guitar. This creates suspense for the drop in which she belts ‘Good 4 you, you’re doing great out there without me / Baby, like a damn sociopath!’
The predominant sound of the album is, however, piano and guitar ballads in which she bares her soul shamelessly. For me, highlights include ‘Traitor’, ’Happier’ and ‘Enough for You.’
It is probable that Rodrigo will be in the running for the ‘Best New Artist’ award at The Grammy’s next year - so watch this space and in the meantime, have a cry to Sour.
Featured Image:Courtesy of Chuff Media
Have you listened to Sour yet?