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Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401

THE MUSE

Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts | 501 S. Sapodilla Ave, WPB, FL 33401

THE MUSE

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Ballads of a Teenage Girl

Olivia Rodrigo’s second album brings a grungier contrast to her debut album with similar themes regarding girlhood and the teenage experience
Olivia+Rodrigo+dons+silver+rings+for+her+new+album+%E2%80%9CGuts.%E2%80%9D+%28Photo+by+Geffen+Records%29%0A
Geffen Records
Olivia Rodrigo dons silver rings for her new album “Guts.” (Photo by Geffen Records)

Life as a teenage girl is hard; it’s filled with turbulent emotions like passion, heartbreak, rage, and bliss that can be hard to express. However, singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo still manages to encapsulate what teen years are like through her honest and personal songs in her newest album “Guts.”

After the release of her debut album “Sour,” Rodrigo had fans waiting on more relatable hits for two years. Once she announced her second, or sophomore, album this summer, teenage girls everywhere anticipated the crying-in-our-rooms and screaming-in-the-car listening sessions that the album would bring.

When Rodrigo released her singles “Vampire” and “Bad Idea, Right?” from her new album, some fans (me included) were apprehensive of the difference in energy and sound compared to “Sour,” which was primarily filled with heartbreak ballads with soft piano and only a few songs with grungier sounds. “Guts” brings a bolder, more mature energy that reminds me more of 2000s pop-rock music from a coming-of-age film, but I’m not mad at it.

Olivia Rodrigo crosses her arms for her debut album “Sour” (Photo by Geffen Records)

Typically, I struggle with change, but the start of my favorite musician’s new era is an exception. Two years is a long time, and 17 and 19 are two distinct ages, so I’m not surprised by Rodrigo’s development as a musician between her two albums. It almost feels as if I grew up with her — since Rodrigo released “Sour” when I was 15 and “Guts” just after I turned 18. Both albums capture the struggles of teenage girlhood and navigating impending adulthood, relationships, and heartbreak. And while “Sour” has my 15-year-old heart, 18-year-old me is loving the way Olivia Rodrigo spills her guts in this new album. On the way to school the day it came out, my car shook from how loud I blasted the tracks, and the 30-minute drive gave me plenty of time to reflect on the album.

My car ride started with an angry song titled “All-American *****,” where Rodrigo sings about dealing with the pressure society puts on teenage girls. That first track connects to the last one, “Teenage Dream,” where Rodrigo discusses how true adulthood is approaching and she’ll soon be forced to move past teenagedom now that she is now 20 years old (after writing most of the album at 19). The song carries over elements from “Sour’s” first track, “Brutal,” where Rodrigo sings “I’m so sick of 17. Where’s my teenage dream?” With the “Guts” perspective, Rodrigo has lived her teenage dream but wonders if that was her peak, singing “They all say that it gets better … the more you grow … but what if I don’t?”

Olivia Rodrigo acknowledges the crowd as she performs at the Met Philadelphia on May 6, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Heather Khalifa/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

I turned 18 a couple days before “Guts” came out, so all of these songs about growing up have hit me hard. The lines I connected to the most came from “Teenage Dream,” where Rodrigo sings “When am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise?” and “Got your whole life ahead of you. You’re only 19. But I fear that they already got all the best parts of me.” As I look toward my future with college applications, adulthood, and independence, I too wonder if the best parts of my life have already happened. Just as I scream-sang “Brutal” leading up to my birthday, now with “Teenage Dream,” I see my life reflected in her lyrics.

Especially with songs regarding comparison, jealousy, and insecurity, Rodrigo’s music does a good job of representing a girl’s inner monologue. With lines like “I could change up my body and change up my face … but I’d always feel the same ‘cause pretty isn’t pretty enough anyway” from “Pretty Isn’t Pretty,” she sings about how difficult it is to feel beautiful when you can’t escape beauty standards and can’t stop comparing yourself to other girls. These themes carry on in the fourth track, “Lacy,” where she points out how she can’t get her mind off the fact that a fictional girl named Lacy is more angelic and perfect than her, a feeling that most girls know all too well. 

On my first listen through the whole album, I didn’t understand the purpose behind the emotional whiplash I experienced between listening to sad heartbreak anthems like “Logical” with booming, vengeful lyrics in “Get Him Back!” But then it hit me: the tracklist evokes many, often conflicting, emotions, so juxtaposing the soft ballads with angry bangers represents the harsh intensities of the teenage girl experience. Our lives are never put in perfect order, and these songs can’t be put in an order that transitions perfectly from emotion to emotion.

I see this album as a more mature, more raw version of “Sour” since her debut album seemed to be real yet naive, just like typical teenage girl experiences. “Guts” brings a more elevated energy, considering that she censors herself less, in terms of both her words and her emotions. 

While both her debut and sophomore albums maintain themes of insecurity, heartache, and all the other emotions that come with being a teenage girl, “Guts” is more raw and blunt. Through Rodrigo’s changes in sound and maturity, she still hasn’t lost her relatability, allowing fans like me to blast her music as if she took our diaries and sang from them. 

Which Olivia Rodrigo album are you?

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Yemaya Gaspard, Production Managing Editor
Yemaya Gaspard is a third-year staffer and production managing editor on The Muse. She enjoys analyzing her surroundings, giving advice to those who ask, and proving people wrong. She takes pride in accurately guessing zodiac signs and her strong intuition. Besides editing for the publication, she encourages everyone to hustle and bustle through their deadlines with a smile.
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