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Olivia Rodrigo ‘GUTS’ Review: Embracing Her Imperfections

Two and a half years after she sang earnestly about love lost on “driver’s license,” Olivia Rodrigo is now claiming that “love is fucking embarrassing.”

The declaration arrives on the aptly-titled “love is embarrassing,” a standout track from her sophomore LP, GUTS. Rodrigo explains her romantic reevaluation in the line, “Just watch as I crucify myself/ For some weird second string loser who’s not worth mentioning.” There’s plenty to extract about Rodrigo’s songwriting in just this single line: “Crucify” is her verb of choice (very dramatic), “Weird second string loser” is how she describes her crush (genuinely funny), the chorus it lands in is full of bright guitars and a motorik, New Wave-style beat (very “my parents are Gen X” of her).

And yet, despite her sounding like she’s totally over it, she reminds the listener that she “keeps coming back for more,” and the cycle of unreliable dudes and self-deprecation continues. This is a significant theme in GUTS as a whole: Now 20 years old, Rodrigo can interrogate her own habits and attitudes in a much more comprehensive way than on her debut album, SOUR. In other words, if SOUR was her high school album, then GUTS is her “college” album — except she’s not in college, and instead is a pored-over pop star with an ever expanding, occasionally encroaching audience.

But growing up — even and perhaps especially in the spotlight — allows for the kind of messiness that her debut album could not exactly wield. Now, Rodrigo snarls, shouts, and seethes; she opens the album by proclaiming she’s a “perfect all-American bitch,” she wants to “curl up and die” because she doesn’t deem herself to be socially savvy on “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” and she rails against beauty standards and her own personal issues with body image on tracks like “pretty isn’t pretty.”

Then there are the relationship-oriented tracks, which are even more fraught and calamitous than on SOUR. There are fun ones, like the cheeky power pop number “bad idea right?”, where Rodrigo makes a hedonistic reunion with a former lover intoxicating and rousing; or “get him back!,” which finds her shouting for the return of a past fling with a playboy and is best summed up by the line, “I wanna key his car/ I wanna make him lunch.” Meanwhile, “logical,” as well as lead single “vampire,” find Rodrigo taking out her righteous fury towards an ex, the pain of the experience still fresh, wounds slowly turning into scars.

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