Olivia Rodrigo breaks sophomore slump with ‘Guts’ | Inquirer Entertainment

Olivia Rodrigo breaks sophomore slump with ‘Guts’

/ 12:10 AM September 14, 2023

Olivia Rodrigo in “Guts” cover art

Olivia Rodrigo in “Guts” cover art

In her sophomore album, “Guts,” Olivia Rodrigo bares her soul in a raw and honest exploration of the complexities of youth and empowerment. The 20-year-old Grammy-winning singer-songwriter manages to break the dreaded second album curse.

“Guts” is a powerful and relatable testament to the experiences of young women, as Rodrigo confronts themes of heartbreak, regret, burnout and self-discovery with unflinching vulnerability.


While lead single “Vampire,” where she expresses anger toward an older ex with its production and her strong vocals, is a great song, it sounds all too familiar (like her previous release “Sour”).


In 2023, there’s a big expectation for every new pop song to have its own unique style, signaling a new era in music. “Vampire,” her first since the shift from Disney fame to Grammy success, still follows the template of her highly successful debut single, “Drivers License,” which explored young love from an adult perspective.

Right from the get-go, the album opens with “All-American Bitch,” where Rodrigo boldly challenges societal expectations that often demand women and girls to hide their true emotions. The title was inspired by a line she read in a Joan Didion book. This assertive declaration sets the stage for a collection of tracks that delve deep into the raw, unfiltered emotions of youth.

This begs the question if the Gen Z’s popstar poster girl is more a rising rockstar than a popstar. Because “Guts” is definitely an album with a rock/indie-rock touch. Gone are the synths, shiny productions and melodic hooks—instead, there is a prominent use of electric guitars, bass guitar and drums, often with additional instruments like keyboards.

Rodrigo in “Vampire” —SCREENGRAB

Rodrigo in “Vampire” —SCREENGRAB


As the album progresses, Rodrigo delves into themes of regret and burnout in tracks like “The Grudge” and “Making the Bed,” revealing her reflective songwriting prowess. Each song flows seamlessly into the next, creating a cohesive story of introspection and growth.

“Bad Idea Right?” injects humor and infectious energy into the album, backed by a cheerleader chant that adds a spirited touch. In this track, Rodrigo unabashedly embraces her neediness, creating a memorable moment that stands out in the narrative.


The journey through “Guts” continues with “Get Him Back!” as Rodrigo employs her sharp wit to dissect the end of a relationship. Clever barbs and humor infuse the song, showcasing her ability to confront heartbreak with a lighthearted yet empowered attitude.

Amidst the spirited tracks, “Lacy” emerges as a standout with its whispered tones and stripped-down instrumentation. It delves into the raw complexities of heartbreak, highlighting Rodrigo’s vulnerability.

“Love Is Embarrassing” adopts a punk-rock edge, chronicling the shame of falling for someone unworthy. Rodrigo’s candid exploration of romantic misadventures adds depth to her storytelling, further enhancing the album’s narrative cohesion.

In “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl,” Rodrigo reflects on societal pressures and body image issues, shedding light on the expectations placed on young women. This track seamlessly transitions into “Pretty Isn’t Pretty,” which continues the exploration of beauty standards, urging listeners to question society’s unrealistic ideals.

As “Guts” nears its conclusion, Rodrigo confronts the romanticization of youth and societal pressures in “Teenage Dream.” Her introspection leaves listeners with a sense of reflection, bringing the album’s journey full circle.

Scene from “Bad Idea Right?” —SCREENGRAB

Scene from “Bad Idea Right?” —SCREENGRAB


Compared to her debut album “Sour,” “Guts” marks a significant transition. While “Sour” primarily delved into teenage heartbreak, “Guts” explores a broader spectrum of experiences and emotions. Rodrigo’s growth as an artist is evident, as she navigates themes of empowerment, self-identity and societal pressures with remarkable depth and maturity.

Sonically, “Guts” fuses pop-punk and alternative rock influences, giving the album a distinctive sound that flows seamlessly from one track to the next. Rodrigo’s vocals are layered with atmospheric nuances, enhancing the emotional resonance of her songs. Her musical performance becomes an integral part of the narrative, adding authenticity to her storytelling.

Comparisons to artists like Miley Cyrus, Paramore Avril Lavigne and even Kathleen Hanna and Jack White are apt. Rodrigo’s ability to channel diverse influences while maintaining her unique and powerful voice creates a cohesive musical journey that resonates deeply with listeners.

However, “Guts” is not without moments of vulnerability. Some ballads may lack the dynamic complexity of the album’s spirited tracks, but Rodrigo’s lyrical fearlessness consistently carries the narrative forward.

Rodrigo does not shy away from difficult topics, and she tackles them with honesty and grace. The album is a reminder that it is OK to be messy and imperfect, and that it is possible to find strength in vulnerability.

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While not without imperfections, “Guts” solidifies Rodrigo as an artist with boundless potential. Will she continue this trajectory, or shift into a whole new sound?

TAGS: Olivia Rodrigo

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