Review Summary: "where's my fucking teenage dream?"
As a nineteen year old “seasoned” music journalist/writer at this point in my life, the one thing I’ve never quite properly prepared for is people younger than me to soar up into the mainstream faster than the speed of light, like Olivia Rodrigo has and other stars like Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Billie Eilish, etc. all before her did, so I don't know why this album has been so much of a shock to me, but Olivia Rodrigo has been making the most of her fame by using it to express creativity that no “social media influencer” has really set a precedent of before. With SOUR
, Olivia Rodrigo makes more than enough of a case for herself that she’s not just another 17 year old who got famous on Disney’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and yes, I wish that was a joke, but Rodrigo also exploded on TikTok because the algorithm was being generous, giving her a much wider audience to express herself to. But don’t let the numbers get it twisted, Olivia Rodrigo is likely one of the first of many to use these platforms to propel themselves into genuinely heartfelt creative levels that aren’t necessarily expected of a social media influencer, but rather, a true artist. So the question has already been answered that yes, a 17 year old Disney star can make better music than all of us combined, and has already made massive strides in songwriting on her first full length than most musicians have made in the past 10 years, but what's important to really as is will the record be a product of its era, or is SOUR
quality enough to withstand the test of time?
Well, while there’s a lot of debate on where her influences come from, what irks me most is hearing “she’s just a _______ clone!!” because one of her songs might resemble influence from contemporaries like Billie Eilish and Phoebe Bridgers, yet another might resemble one of that from the “Riot Grrrl” movement, only more refined, and cleanly executed. The absolute dynamics Olivia Rodrigo brings to the table just within the first half of SOUR
is demonstrative enough to disprove any dismissive and disillusion any listener might have because of her background. Of course the cynic in me would be initially indifferent towards a new Disney star’s solo debut in 2021, but Olivia Rodrigo makes a case for herself as a genuinely talented musician with creative-enough songwriting, paired with some genuinely compelling production and Rodrigo’s soon-to-be signature breathy yet passionate vocals. The lyrics aren’t necessarily anything to remark as a poetic masterwork, yet it’s definitely one step forward (no pun intended) than 95% of mainstream pop lyrics, especially from someone as young as Olivia Rodrigo.
Blowing any and almost every expectation out of the water, Olivia Rodrigo subverted the expectations set by her singles by truly taking an individualist approach to her debut, even if a good chunk of her sound at the moment could be considered indebted to contemporaries like Phoebe Bridgers or Hayley Williams, Rodrigo still finds a way to set herself apart from the pack on her impeccably produced debut SOUR
at just the age of 17, than most of us would be able to craft with 30 of us and a year’s time. All cynicism one might have towards giving open praise to this album, do not be worried. If you’re into this album, then hell yeah, there’s many reasons to. If you don’t enjoy this or singer-songwriter/pop-rock type music at all in any capacity, I don’t really know what to tell you reader; perhaps read a book or maybe touch some grass; if possible maybe even both? Anyways I’m lost and trying to find my place in this piece, which (not really) funnily enough, is SOUR
’s biggest flaw, as it jumps between sounds so frequently and often inconsistently, making the overall experience kind of a roller-coaster of a listen if played in normal sequence. Regardless of nitpicks and tracklisting, everything from the composition of each individual piece on SOUR
serves its place, even if it could’ve been sequenced a bit better. Each song portrays its own side of Rodrigo’s personality and that comes off both lyrically and vocally intricately layered enough to warrant repeated listens, and with her debut Olivia Rodrigo rightfully has cemented herself at the top of the mainstream while still being one of the most artistically expressive musicians to come out in the past few years. SOUR
might not be entirely perfect on a surface level analysis, but with the passage of time and the gift of hindsight/retrospect, I feel like Olivia Rodrigo’s debut will be much more appreciated than it has upon release, being ignorantly dismissed/written-off as a full-length album, while it still stands as one of the strongest pop singer-songwriter debuts of the past 10 years.