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Olivia Rodrigo GUTS review: Angry, witty, and rockier sequel

Olivia Rodrigo's second album, GUTS, showcases her angrier and wittier side as she moves away from her Disney image.

Olivia Rodrigo, the young artist who rose to fame with her hit song "Drivers License," is back with her second album, GUTS. In this album, Rodrigo takes us on a journey through her recurring dream of driving through a city with failing brakes, symbolizing her life feeling out of control. This is a departure from her previous song, where she felt stuck at "red lights/stop signs."

It has been two years since Rodrigo, at just 18 years old, debuted at the top of the US Billboard 100 chart. Her minimalist account of teenage heartbreak, suburban isolation, and stalled expectations resonated with people around the world during the pandemic. The unexpected use of an F-bomb in her song struck a chord, mirroring the slow-motion explosion of her success while she was confined to her bedroom. This period of isolation gave her the space and confidence to complete her debut album, Sour.

Now, with GUTS, Rodrigo has moved on from her Disney days and relocated from LA to New York. Her new album showcases a more angrier, wittier, and rockier side of her. Songs like "Vampire" and "Bad Idea Right?" give us a taste of what's to come.

Rodrigo may not directly address the pressures faced by young female stars in the entertainment industry, but she is well aware of the history of Disney stars transitioning to more autonomy, from Britney Spears to Miley Cyrus to Ariana Grande. She kicks off the album with "All-American B****," a track that can be seen as a commentary on the expectations placed on her by the corporation. The song challenges the notion of constantly being "grateful all the f***ing and kind...pretty when I cry..." These expectations have trickled down to all girls in the same culture. The song starts off sweetly but quickly transforms into a snarling, guitar-driven anthem.

"Vampire" also plays with the contrast of soft and hard elements. Rodrigo takes aim at an older lover, criticizing their behavior while showcasing her signature piano skills. The song then explodes into a chaotic mix of electric guitar and keyboards. Despite her concerns about alienating her audience with her lyrics about celebrity pitfalls, Rodrigo's genuine rage shines through. Anyone who has felt used can relate to this song.

"Bad Idea Right" brings a pop energy with a rubberized bass line that propels Rodrigo back into the arms of an ex. She takes full responsibility for her own mistakes and the song is a blast. This personal accountability continues on "Making the Bed," a track that recalls the melody of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" and nods to Taylor Swift's confessional style. Rodrigo reflects on leaving old friends behind and partying with a new crowd, expressing her exhaustion with being the person she has become. She admits to playing the victim in her own head but acknowledges that she is the one responsible for her actions.

"Get Him Back!" is a pogo-pop revenge anthem that captures the spirit of young Debbie Harry's "I'll get ya!" Rodrigo delivers the lyrics through a distorted microphone, expressing her desire to confront her ex's mother and kiss his face with an uppercut.

In an interview, Rodrigo mentioned her admiration for Tori Amos, and this influence is evident in the delicately finger-picked "Lacy." The song explores Rodrigo's fascination with a starlet who brings poison into her life. Betrayed trust is also a theme in "The Grudge," as Rodrigo recounts arguments she has won only in her head.

"Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl" is an American indie anthem about feeling like an outsider. Rodrigo raps rapidly, listing her cringeworthy social blunders. "Pretty isn't Pretty" floats on a warm current of guitars reminiscent of The Cure, as Rodrigo laments her inability to live up to the standards set by "s***ty magazines."

GUTS concludes with "Teenage Dream," a tender piano ballad that reflects on Rodrigo's 19th birthday and the fear of losing the best parts of herself. This song captures the grief for childhood that is often experienced at her age, intensified by the fact that she missed out on a traditional high school experience due to her acting career. GUTS marks Rodrigo's transition from the small screen to real life, breaking free from the confines of her previous success. There are no more red lights or stop signs in her way.

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