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arts music

COLUMN: Life lessons from Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘GUTS’

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Pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo released her sophomore album, “GUTS,” Sept. 8, which quickly became a favorite among fans and critics. The album runs 39 minutes long and includes 12 songs.  

Rodrigo’s rise to stardom began on Disney Channel after she showcased her vocal talent on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” in 2019. In Jan. 2021, she released the single “driver’s license,” which rose to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her debut album, “SOUR,” was released later that year and garnered similar acclaim. 

“SOUR” detailed the challenges of being 17, but Rodrigo has plenty of teen angst left to share on “GUTS.” She wrote most of this album at age 19 and her message is clear: growing up is hard. 

Rodrigo adds maturity to the themes explored in “SOUR,” sharpening her sound with increased angst and sonic experimentation. 

Rodrigo spills her guts in every song, using powerful lyrics and clever melodies to provide listeners with messages about life and love.  

Here is a look at some of the key takeaways from “GUTS.” 

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Love is complicated 

“GUTS” makes it apparent that Rodrigo, like many of her young fans, has experienced her fair share of heartbreak. The album features a range of emotions – from pining for someone to the anger that follows a bad breakup – and creates a powerful narrative of what it feels like to be young while navigating love.  

On “lacy," Rodrigo faces jealousy, wishing for the qualities of another girl and envying how easily people are drawn to her. On “love is embarrassing,” she regrets putting too much effort into a person who wouldn’t do the same for her, adding vibrant electric guitar to emphasize her frustration. 

On “the grudge” and “vampire,” Rodrigo makes it clear that she hasn’t yet mastered the art of forgiveness. She showcases her impressive vocal range while scorning a cold-hearted past love who treated her with disrespect. Rodrigo supports her powerful belt with piano, letting the  lyrics – and their powerful expression of anger and heartache – speak for themselves. 

Self-worth is hard to find 

Tracks like “teenage dream,” “pretty isn’t pretty” and “ballad of a homeschooled girl” get intimate as Rodrigo explores the obstacles that come with self-discovery. 

Rodrigo describes feeling inadequate and worrying that her best years are behind her (although it’s hard to imagine she’s jaded at only 20 years old), accompanying these thoughts with a tasteful mix of acoustic guitar, bass and drums. She also details her experience trying and failing to fit in, a struggle many young adult listeners know all too well.

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Bad decisions happen 

Rodrigo knows that every action has consequences — and that’s okay. 

On “bad idea right” and “get him back!” Rodrigo wields a 2000s pop-punk influence (think Hayley Williams) to give the album an upbeat, nostalgic feel. She waxes on about the desire to rekindle past relationships – despite knowing better – along with the knowledge that her friends may not approve. The addition of electric guitar and catchy melodies rounds out these tracks, encouraging poor decision-making with an energetic flair. 

No one has it all figured out  

While “GUTS” is particularly relatable to young adults like Rodrigo, it contains messages that apply to anyone navigating life and love. The angsty 2000s influence and strong vocals throughout the album are sure to make listeners feel exhilarated, while the mellow, intimate melodies will give them the space to reflect on their own emotions and past heartache. 

 

“GUTS” is well-rounded and relatable, making it the perfect addition to any playlist. Fans who want to hear more of Rodrigo can collect the album’s four vinyl editions, each one including a unique bonus track. 

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