Section: Arts

Review: GUTS is a relatable, vulnerable sophomore album

Review: GUTS is a relatable, vulnerable sophomore album

GUTS | COURTESY OF INTERSCOPE RECORDS

Olivia Rodrigo’s new album GUTS, released Sept. 8, has gained the attention and love of millions of fans and music lovers worldwide. With lead singles “vampire” and “bad idea right?,” Rodrigo’s second album had sparked widespread excitement before its release. Fans waited in anticipation for the entire album to drop and it did not disappoint.

My first impression of the album was a mix between love and empathy. GUTS represents a transformation in Rodrigo’s life, both musically and personally. Compared to her first studio album, SOUR, this album was another turning point for Rodrigo. While SOUR depicted coming of age, GUTS is a more mature view of growth and heartache. 

The album’s first song, “all-american bitch,” begins as an acoustic rendition of life as a teenage girl. Rodrigo refers to innocent games like ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ while embarking on the reality of growing up. During the chorus, the song takes a stylistic jump; drum fills, electric guitar and Rodrigo’s powerful voice take the track in a new direction. It ends with repeating lyrics about the expectations of womanhood. “I’m grateful all the time/ I’m sexy and I’m kind/ I’m pretty when I cry,” Rodrigo sings. While the album is a prime example of musicianship, it also calls attention to the endless societal standards women are forced to live up to.

Rodrigo uses her artistic and vocal talent to bare her soul to the listener. She creates music as self-expression that remains widely relatable. Throughout the album her lyrics remain honest and down to earth, as if to say that we each live different experiences, but we can all unite on common ground. 

The song that has gained the most traction on the album by far is “vampire,” with over 300 million streams and counting on Spotify. The song begins with piano in a minor key as Rodrigo echoes reflections on a past relationship. She describes the pain she felt after being strung along and painted as naive by a significant other. Similar to other tracks on the album, “vampire” speeds up the tempo during each chorus. However, my personal favorite spot was during the bridge, beginning with the beating of a chord and accented by the percussion. “You said it was true love, but wouldn’t that be hard?/ You can’t love anyone, ‘cause that would mean you had a heart,” Rodrigo sings. 

Her lyrics are a strong point in all of the songs on GUTS. They remain clever, using witty word choices, creative metaphors and banter–like dialogue with the listener. The song “get him back!” is a perfect example of this. “He said he’s six-foot-two, and I’m like, ‘Dude, nice try’” sings Rodrigo. In a line that could be easily mistaken for a Sunday brunch conversation with friends, Rodrigo makes listeners feel like they’re in on a secret. Along with lyrics, each instrument and chord progression is carefully placed. Together these elements form songs for every mood and experience — the relatable, the vulnerable, the GUTS.

Some songs on the album draw upon musical genres that Rodrigo has previously used. Popular songs like “bad idea right?” and “ballad of a homeschooled girl” have a combination of melodic singing and cadenced speech. Immediately I thought of a similar song, “brutal,” featured on SOUR. While fans will recognize Rodrigo’s signature style in both of her albums, GUTS introduces listeners to Rodrigo’s versatility as an artist with songs like “pretty isn’t pretty,”  which examines body image and self love in a melodic pop to oppose the lyrics.

It’s apparent that GUTS has a diverse range of song genres and topics. Tracks like “teenage dream,” “lacy” and “making the bed” are all performed as a ballad. However, each stems from different experiences and emotions: “lacy” is a display of insecurity and longing, while “making the bed” is a self–reflection saying that it’s okay not to be okay. The album draws upon shared experiences of independence, societal standards, falling in love and accepting that not everything can be perfect.

Whether you want to dance it out in your room alone or have a good cry with friends, GUTS has a song for you. Select music videos of GUTS have been released on Olivia Rodrigo’s YouTube channel. This week, Rodrigo officially announced a GUTS world tour set to begin Feb. 23 in Palm Springs, CA. Until then, fans can find the album on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. 

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