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The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

“GUTS” review: A spirited continuation of 2000s punk and SOUR legacy

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After a two-year hiatus following her wildly successful debut album, “SOUR” which went 4x platinum, Olivia Rodrigo steps back into the spotlight with her sophomore album, “GUTS.” This album offers a diversity of tones, from songs that remind me of old Disney Channel anthems to vulnerable, sincere moments featuring just Rodrigo and her guitar. With 12 tracks and a wide variety of emotions and sound, “GUTS” is a pop-rock homage to being a teenage girl entering her twenties. 

Born and raised in Southern California, Rodrigo started  her career in the entertainment industry at just five years old. Some of you may know her from her Disney Channel shows “Bizaardvark” or  “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” When Rodrigo’s original song, “All I Want,” which was featured in HSMTMTS, became popular on TikTok and Spotify in 2019, she attracted a significant amount of attention. After the release of “Driver’s License” in 2021, which hit 10.7 million streams within its first week of release, Rodrigo had a sizable fanbase eagerly awaiting her debut album. In “SOUR,” Rodrigo established her personal punk-pop style, which continues to evolve in her newest album.

Her energetic pop sound is immediately evident in the album’s opening tune, “all american bitch,” which wonderfully exemplifies it and sets the tone for the record. Although the track starts out as a seemingly acoustic folk song with a light and feminine tone, the chorus bursts in with an early 2000s Avril Lavigne sound. This contrast seems purposeful, suggesting the folk portion of the song as a façade she puts on with the chorus revealing that she is more complex. The constant pressure to be a “perfect all-American bitch” and “scream inside to deal with it” are references to being a woman in the entertainment industry or outside of it. Rodrigo ends the song with lyrics that sound like affirmations: “I’m grateful all the time, I’m sexy and I’m kind.” It is as if she is convincing herself to keep up this persona that holds her to unrealistic standards. The song is a strong opening for the album thanks to its upbeat, catchy chorus and relevant, relatable context.

Continuing her experiment with pop rock, Rodrigo includes songs like “bad idea right?,” “ballad of a homeschool girl” and “get him back,” which are reminiscent of her angsty sound on “SOUR.” They acknowledge the naivety of a 19 or 20-year-old girl while still having a wonderfully lively and sassy tone. These upbeat tracks highlight Rodrigo’s punk-rock aesthetic and experiences as a late-teenage girl, defining the album’s theme.

Rodrigo showcases her skill as a raw and sincere balladeer. The song “Lacy,” which features Rodrigo singing sweetly of a girl to whom she perpetually and hopelessly compares herself, is the strongest example of this. “Lacy” features a gentle melody with complementing lyrics that are full of adoration and admiration. Rodrigo further proves her talent for writing a heart-wrenching ballad with tracks “logical,” “the grudge,” and the final song on the record, “teenage dream.”  

The song “Teenage Dream,” which features Rodrigo singing with just her piano, expresses her anxiety about the future and the dread that comes from knowing that your entire life is ahead of you. She sings about her nineteenth birthday and feeling constrained by the identity of being young. The bridge of the song articulates this feeling perfectly as she repeats: “They all say that it gets better, ‘It gets better,’ but what if I don’t?” On “GUTS,” Rodrigo continues to prove herself a balladeer, which is particularly evident with “lacy” and “teenage dream.”

“GUTS” uses a wonderful variety of songs to convey the complexities of being young while navigating new relationships and emotions. Rodrigo spills her guts to us with pop-rock hits and passionate ballads, and continues to develop her youthful sound and style while effortlessly connecting with and uniting her ever-expanding fan base.

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