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SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo: a must listen

You might have heard of Olivia Rodrigo from her Disney Channel days, from her Tik Tok viral song “All I Want” from her current show, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, or maybe you heard of her through her song “driver’s license,” which became a global sensation this year, garnering billions of streams on Spotify and dominated in the number one spot for 8 weeks

Her subsequent singles “deja vu” and “good for u” also were hits, and she released her debut album, SOUR, on May 21.

I had the delight of first discovering Rodrigo when I watched her TV show and proceeded to play “All I Want” and “Just for a Moment,” written by her and her co-star Joshua Bassett, on repeat since January 2020.

Rodrigo’s SOUR is a fantastic album. I was hooked from beginning to end and found myself experiencing a wide range of emotions, from rebellion and anger, to heartbreak and devastation, in just 34 minutes. 

Her two more upbeat songs, “brutal” and “good for u,” showcase the stereotypical “teenage angst.” “Brutal,” the first track on the album, starts off with a bang as she laments everything teenage girls goes through: struggles with friends, romantic relationships, being insecure and anxious, and not being able to parallel park, a lyric that nods to “driver’s license”). She sings, “They say these are the golden years, but I wish I could disappear, ego crush is so severe. God, its brutal out here,” illustrating that not everything about teenage years is as easy as it seems. Musically, the song is similar to a 90’s rock song, with lots of electric guitar and drums.

“Good 4 u” is the early 2000’s, Paramore-esque song that Gen Z has been waiting for. This song is so powerful and filled with such raw emotion of the feeling of your ex-partner moving on too quickly and thriving while you are still grieving the lost relationship. The music video is thematically stunning.

Her two mid-tempo pop songs, “deja vu” and “jealousy, jealousy,” are incredibly different, lyrically and musically, but draw from a similar feeling: jealousy.

“Deja vu” paints a picturesque picture with the opening lines, “Car rides to Malibu/ Strawberry ice cream, one spoon for two,” and goes into a story of seeing your ex-partner on social media living the same relationship that you lived with them. Rodrigo’s bridge is similar to Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer”(Rodrigo has noted on several occasions that she is a self proclaimed “Swiftie”) with the almost shout-singing that draws out the emotion in her voice of the frustration of feeling like her relationship was just another one, not something special. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“Jealousy, Jealousy” follows along the same path with talking about comparing oneself to unattainable beauty standards and feeling like someone else’s win is your loss. Her chorus is something I’m sure every teenager on social media feels like: 

Com-comparison is killin’ me slowly

I think, I think too much

‘Bout kids who don’t know me

I’m so sick of myself

I’d rather be, rather be

Anyone, anyone else

But jealousy, jealousy

Started followin’ me (he-he-he, he-he)

Started followin’ me (he-he-he, he-he)

Musically, it sounds like a song that you hear Taylor Swift doing lately with her latest albums, Folklore and Evermore. It’s not upbeat, but would definitely not be considered a ballad. 

The rest of Rodrigo’s album consists of ballads, which I think is where she shines. Her melodic voice and ability to touch people’s hearts really are what have made her songs so special for teenagers, who feel things on both a deep and naive level, without the prior knowledge or fear of knowing what it’s like to get your heart broken.

“Traitor” is the first ballad on the track with a song that, truthfully, rips your heart out. This song expresses feeling like your partner is a “traitor.” I’m not one to add fuel to the fire of gossip, but part of the reason her album has gotten so much attention and hype was because of the drama and speculation that was going on about “driver’s license.” Her alleged ex, Joshua Bassett — her co-star on her TV show — started dating former Disney actress Sabrina Carpenter(from Girl Meets World). 

“Traitor,” like “driver’s license,” is ballad. The lyrics are heartbreaking and I’m sure many teenagers can relate to feeling the raw emotions of teenage love and heartbreak. The imagery in the bridge of “red lights, stop signs” feels chaotic, like someone is spiraling after a devastating break up. In my opinion, the bridge is what caused her song to sit on the number 1 spot on the charts for eight weeks.

“Favorite crime” is also a song that could be connected to the drama that ensued after the release of “driver’s license.” Bassett was 19 and Rodrigo was 16 when the pair was first speculated to be dating. The lyrics continually use crime metaphors, such as “You used me as an alibi, I crossed my heart as you crossed the line, And I defended you to all my friends,” to illustrate the deteriorating relationship. 

“1 step forward, 3 steps back” is not quite a breakup song, but more a depiction of a declining relationship. Rodrigo sampled Taylor Swift’s “new year’s day.” Her song tells the story of an abusive relationship with a partner whose moods switch at the drop of a hat. Her chorus says,

‘Cause it’s always one step forward and three steps back

I’m the love of your life until I make you mad

It’s always one step forward and three steps back

Do you love me, want me, hate me, boy? I don’t understand

No, I don’t understand

“Enough for u” is probably the most minimalistic song on the album. It is purely a guitar and voice song. This is the song that pulls at my heartstrings the most. It feels raw and vulnerable, and I just love how it is a song that can be about more than just a breakup. Feeling unworthy is an emotion that spans across many different platforms and across many different people. This song is highly underrated thus far.

“Happier” is my favorite song on the album. It highlights jealousy after a breakup, with the undertones of truly wishing your ex the best after your relationship. Musically, it is a mid-tempo song after the chorus, but starts off with just a piano. My favorite lyrics are:

And now I’m pickin’ her apart

Like cuttin’ her down make you miss my wretched heart

But she’s beautiful, she looks kind, she probably gives you butterflies

“Hope ur ok” is the last track on the album and is different from all of her other songs. This song talks about friends she knew in the past, but who she has lost touch with. She hopes that they’re okay. The song’s bridge sounds like a Taylor Swift song, but it is purely an Olivia Rodrigo song. It is beautiful, sad, and hopeful all at the same time, truly one of the best songs on the album.

Olivia Rodrigo’s album is a hit, definitely a “no skip” album. It is different from the other Disney stars’ first albums (Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato), and feels mature and “right” for this time. I love this album, and I hope you take a listen.

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