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Olivia Rodrigo Beats Sophomore Jinx With Fun ‘Guts’: Album Review



A sophomore jinx could be a horrible factor to undergo earlier than you’re sufficiently old to have a authorized drink to slug down the frustration. It’s not one thing Olivia Rodrigo has to fret about. “Guts,” her second album, does really feel at occasions like “Sour, Too” — a picking-up-right-where-we-left-off extension of her Grammy-winning 2021 debut — however that may solely be counted as factor, if the spark continues to be there. It’s, in spades. Two years of maturation haven’t completed something to place a dent in how a lot achieved and rocking enjoyable her music was proper out of the gate. One of many 12 months’s canniest, most pleasant albums, once more? After all it’s.

The phrase “rock” shouldn’t be used inadvisably right here. The Rolling Stones’ long-awaited comeback single was presupposed to be the rock occasion of the week, however don’t make sure it isn’t “Guts,” which has all of the glory, guitars and impertinent spirit you may want out of a file for the time being, whether or not you’re nearer to her technology or theirs. Her and co-writer/producer Daniel Nigro’s tackle pop-punk is barely a bit of greater than half of the image right here, after all, as piano-based ballads within the realm of “Drivers License” nonetheless play a big half within the image. However she does love her dynamics, and typically the quiet components look like an excuse to jolt you again awake when her whispery voice turns right into a candy snarl and he or she pumps up the amount once more.

Anybody who’s heard the primary two singles previous to the full-length launch has an honest sense of the extremes to which Rodrigo will once more be taking issues — not simply by way of loudness and softness, however from pure melodrama to pure comedian irreverence. “Vampire” at first threatens to perhaps be a bit too “Drivers License”-y in its sense of Steinway emo, however she and Nigro have the great sense so as to add a double-time pulse to the proceedings after the primary refrain, giving the distress a cathartic place to go. “Bad Idea, Right?,” in the meantime, is pure guitar banger from the beginning — and the stuff of guffaws, too, as Rodrigo employs probably the most deadpan a part of her voice to drag off a collection of punchlines in regards to the folly of ex-sex. She does prefer to play the droll comedienne in a few of these songs, when she’s not emphasizing the world-shattering points of breakups in others, as any emotionally attuned 20-year-old fairly ought to.

Rodrigo is considering her age quite a bit in a couple of of those new songs, contemplating the precipice she’s on as teendom offers solution to maturity, with out writing something fairly so cloying as a full-scale “not a girl, not yet a woman” anthem. “I know my age and I act like it,” she sings within the opening quantity, “All-American Bitch,” a rocker through which she embraces not-so-resting bitchface, for shits ‘n’ giggles. The singer is being considerably tongue-in-cheek in that irreverent opener, however she’s on to a giant a part of her enchantment, to this point: that plenty of her stuff has been flagrantly about being an adolescent, with out attempting to sound too seasoned earlier than her time. The semi-self-effacing rudeness continues with “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl” — which is definitely a contender for the ballsiest music title of the 12 months, for starters. There’s no letdown in listening to the precise tune, a tackle terminal social awkwardness that seems to be nearly her tribute to Nirvana. (Right here we are actually, allow us to stay awkwardly within the kitchen on the celebration.)

She strikes on to delivering one thing that sounds much more like a tribute to the Treatment’s sound with “Pretty Isn’t Pretty,” an in any other case very un-Robert-Smith-like lament about not possible (however typically self-imposed) feminine magnificence requirements, a subject that can certainly imply probably the most to Rodrigo’s core demographic, but in addition imply one thing to 35- and 60-year-old girls. Come the tip of the album, with “Teenage Dream” — a music that appears to have been written on or round her nineteenth birthday — Rodrigo actually dives deep into what it means for her teen-prodigy standing to be coming to a detailed: “When am i gonna stop being great for my age and just start being good… / When am i gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise… / You’re only 19, but I fear that they already got all the best parts of me, and I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.”

It’s good of her to a minimum of entertain the prospect that, with all her acclaim, she has been graded on an adolescent curve to this point, however the girl doth self-protest an excessive amount of. You in all probability don’t make an album pretty much as good as “Sour,” and now “Guts,” with out having the self-confidence to know that you simply’re killing it, by any grownup normal, even in the event you’re writing at occasions from the p.o.v. of a child. However Rodrigo has been capable of keep the relatability of a lovable loser by apparently doing what many of the nice famous person songwriters do: discover a boyfriend or two who’ll make you’re feeling lower than in copious sufficient quantities to gasoline a dozen or so tracks that stability deep insecurity with vengeful cockiness.

Or one thing in-between. “Get Him Back!,” one of many album’s most charming tracks, trades on the ambivalence of its title: Does she imply “get him back” by way of revenge, or by way of successful again his love? It’s each, because the music’s wordplay works out: “I want to key his car, I want to make him lunch,” she declares, in some of the flagrantly blended messages in pop. “I want to meet his mom,” she coos, “just to tell her her son sucks.” It takes a robust girl to jot down a music that squishy.

“Get Him Back!” has a type of gang-vocal refrain that will make you consider, say, “Cruel Summer” or “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” Which makes this pretty much as good a time as any to deliver up the entire Taylor Swift concern and, their private dynamics apart, simply how influenced by Swift Rodrigo is. The reply, clearly, may be very; there in all probability received’t be any copyright points this time, however you may hear her heroine’s phrasing or sensibilities right here and there — in pretty sensible absorptive methods. It will be bizarre, and possibly terribly flawed, if Rodrigo weren’t deeply steeped in a few of these mannerisms that Swift has made into a complete new pop lexicon: It will be like a rock band within the early ’70s going out of its solution to not be influenced by the Beatles. However after all she’s additionally sublimated plenty of different seemingly previous-gen sources, from Avril to Billie (together with the aformentioned Kurt and Treatment nods). On this album’s spunkiest or scream-iest moments, you get the satisfying rush of what it’d really feel like if Taylor Swift determined to not simply befriend however be Paramore for a day.

So, are any of the songs about Swift? That appeared like an actual stretch, when, in current weeks, some followers supposed that perhaps “Vampire” was about her hero-as-frenemy, the place each real-world indication was that the only got here out of a really particular, recognized, romantic relationship. However having mentioned that, there’s one other music on the brand new album that can in all probability encourage plenty of hypothesis alongside those self same strains, perhaps with extra advantage this time: “Lacy.” On the very least, whoever may need sparked the lyrics, it’s a ballad that fairly deftly traces how admiration, jealousy and resentment can add as much as a bizarre cocktail in a same-sex friendship. “I feel your compliments like bullets on skin,” Rodrigo sings — and instantly you’re put in thoughts of how “Bad Blood” may come off if it was slowed right down to a gorgeous ballad and made to be actually ambivalent and self-owning as an alternative of strictly indignant. “I despise my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you / Yeah, I despise my rotten mind and how much it worships you,” Rodrigo sings. It’d be bracing stuff even when we had no imagined context to attempt to squeeze it into.

There are plenty of moments in “Guts” through which Rodrigo tries to be a brat, and succeeds, fairly winningly. However knowledge turns into her, too: “Hurt people hurt people, and we both drew blood, but man those cuts were never equal,” she sings in “The Grudge,” fairly adeptly balancing therapy-speak with a way of defensive satisfaction. “Making the Bed,” in the meantime, could characterize Rodrigo’s greatest leap towards a extra seasoned self-realization on this file — a music that eschews retribution or blame in favoring the thought that she’s mendacity in a mattress of her personal making. (Trying inward to simply accept accountability: it’s brutal in there.)

However for nonetheless lengthy it lasts, let’s benefit from the Rodrigo who’s impudent sufficient to work F-bombs into almost each different music, and who isn’t bashful about portray herself as a confused, pissed, sub-21 nerd, with plenty of depraved humor to go together with all that melodrama. Not rising up on any file any greater than she wanted to takes some guts, truly. As intelligent because the album persistently is, it nonetheless maintains the aura she’s established of transmitting real-talk teen vérité proper into the grooves. Wherever her 20s take her from right here, could it grow to be simply as affectionate, cheeky and brash.

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