Olivia Rodrigo
Guts


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
September 9th, 2023 | 252 replies


Release Date: 09/08/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: SOUR part two, but the results this time are even sweeter.

Olivia Rodrigo catapulted to the forefront of mainstream music in 2021 with SOUR, an album that combined melodic radio-friendly pop with just enough of a punk edge to differentiate her from her peers. On the lyrical front, she became known for her angst/edginess and clever wordplay – an ideal complement to the style of music she employed. Tracks like 'driver's license', 'deja vu', and 'traitor' became airwave staples, cementing Rodrigo as pop's latest shining star. It felt like she nailed the exact vibe/aesthetic she was aiming for, and that the best creative move for her in the future would likely include some kind of genre pivot to keep things interesting, even if minor. But instead of searching for an avenue of expansion on her sophomore LP GUTS, Rodrigo decided to double down on the pop-rock and punk of her debut – arguably a riskier venture than actually branching out considering that it felt like SOUR had laid all of its cards out on the table. Perhaps it shouldn't be considered a surprise, but GUTS is bolder, better, and even more bombastic than its predecessor. Simply put, it's a fuckin' blast.

GUTS' undeniable success starts with 'all american bitch', a heavily punk/rock-influenced track that alternates between acoustic picking and electric chords while Olivia explores the unattainable ideals for women in American culture, most notably in the outro when she sings, mockingly: "I'm grateful all the time / I'm sexy and I'm kind / I'm pretty when I cry, oh, all the (fucking) time." Speaking of which, Olivia's vocals – which have always been great – sound even more powerful and nimble throughout GUTS. Her versatility is on full display on the jagged and carefree 'bad idea right?' – a song that sounds so much better in context than it did as a single – and she's perhaps never sounded as heavenly as she does on the sweet melody of 'lacy', where her vocals are layered to beautiful effect before building to a satisfying electronic/synth flourish. From a songwriting perspective, Olivia took what made Sour so good and refined it to near-perfection; everything sounds a little smoother, a little catchier, and slightly better written. There's also less (arguably zero) filler, and even the weakest tracks here are still enjoyable to play within the record's broader framework. GUTS is essentially just an even better version of SOUR; so while it's unlikely to snag very many new fans for Olivia, those who found her debut charming in any way will most assuredly fall in love with this album.

GUTS' greatest strength may not even be Rodrigo's voice or the music surrounding it. Olivia's wit matches those aspects stride for stride, which is refreshing because way too many sleek pop/rock albums have been sunk by bad lyricism – and although Rodrigo isn't immune to the occasional stumbling block herself, most of this record is engagingly witty and brimming with quotable verses. One of her strongest lines comes on the lead single 'vampire', which illustrates just how easily someone can end up blinded by passion or love in a relationship, often to the detriment of their own good sense: "Every girl I ever talked to told me you were bad, bad news / You called them crazy, God, I hate the way I called 'em crazy too / You're so convincing / How do you lie without flinching?" We get plenty of critical introspection ("I'm playin' the victim so well in my head / But it's me who's been makin' the bed"), admissions of weakness and/or sheer emotional exhaustion ("It takes strength to forgive, but I don't feel strong"), guilt/regret ("I know I'm half responsible, and that makes me feel horrible / I know I could've stopped it all...God, why didn't I stop it all?"), and even bitterness towards how she's perceived because of her age and sex ("When am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise? / When am I gonna stop being 'a pretty young thing' to guys?"). One of her saddest moments comes on the gorgeous mid-tempo track 'pretty isn't pretty', where she laments the issues that she and many other women have endured with their body image: "I could try every lipstick in every shade, but I'd always feel the same...I bought all the clothes that they told me to buy, I chased some dumb ideal my whole fucking life / And none of it matters and none of it ends, you just feel like shit over and over again." The message, even if it's not immediately apparent, is a positive one: don't chase unrealistic standards, be true to yourself, and tune out the voices of those who may not have your best interests in mind. It's moments like these that, regardless of the music, make Olivia Rodrigo one of the most important figures in mainstream music.

It's worth mentioning that GUTS is far from overly-serious, though; the massive, chorus-driven anthem 'get him back!', for example, delivers some of the most hilarious lines on the entire album as the play on words (illustrating a "win him back" vs. "revenge" mentality) unravels: "I wanna key his car, I wanna make him lunch / I wanna break his heart, then be the one to stitch it up / Wanna kiss his face...with an uppercut / I wanna meet his mom, just to tell her her son sucks." Replete with a huge, addicting melody and a refrain worthy of stadiums, it just might be the funniest and funnest song she's ever written. 'ballad of a homeschooled girl' is similarly humorous only with more of a self-deprecating edge: "I laughed at the wrong time, sat with the wrong guy (Uh-huh) / Sеarchin' "how to start a conversation?" on a website (How to flirt?)...Each time I step outside, it's social suicide." Olivia weaves fairly effortlessly between insightful remarks and disarming humor, leaving us with a satisfying range of emotions to take away from this experience.

GUTS will, without a doubt, blow up and become just as big as SOUR did. Even if the album doesn't really offer us anything new on the heels of her 2021 debut, her consistency and ability to improve upon an already excellent formula is commendable. Few current pop stars with this graceful of a voice are applying their talents to something so recklessly fun, which makes Olivia Rodrigo a welcome stick of dynamite in a mainstream music culture that often feels too safe, sterile, sanitized, and boring. On SOUR she was a budding superstar; on GUTS, her sound has fully bloomed.



s
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user ratings (235)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2023


10832 Comments


Good review, may check this out.

I've been reading what follows, in tandem:
http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2023/09/olivia-rodrigo-guts-review/675260/

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2023


32073 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Great review Sow, fun album.

OzeanKudaH
September 9th 2023


8 Comments


Thank you for the review, I like her.

Get Low
September 9th 2023


14405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This alb is basically just an improved version of Sour, with better hooks imo

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2023


5555 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

sowing more like slaying

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2023


2407 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loving this album. Great review!

cycosynner
September 9th 2023


165 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Best part of this thing is certainly the lyrics. That said, I enjoyed it. The Paramore/No Doubt influence is all over it.

RadioSuicide
September 9th 2023


2660 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Brendan from Counterparts was going to bat for this album, and I like a fun pop record every so often, so I gave it a check



Couldn’t make it past the first stretch of songs. Glad you guys are digging it tho

Djang0
September 9th 2023


895 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"this is basically an improved sour" (2) yeah basically, and I was really hoping for more of an upheaval in her sound. after the first few songs it kinda gets locked into the same tropes from Sour. albeit way more refined and with pretty stellar production, instrumentation, and Olivia's performances are killer, so I can hardly complain for a pop album

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2023


61310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

did not have Olivia Rodrigo releasing an infinitely preferable record to Paramore on my 2023 checklist

33% of these songs are disarmingly good, 33% are fluff, 33% should probably not exist. 3s all over the shop here

Sowing
Moderator
September 9th 2023


44150 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That Paramore album was fairly disappointing, and this exceeded the aggressively medium expectations I had, so I'm definitely on board with saying that GUTS > This Is Why.

vult
September 9th 2023


2412 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It seems like Sput’s nuts for GUTS

Spec
September 9th 2023


39715 Comments


Better than Paramore agreed.

hasan
September 9th 2023


988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

pop on the page.. staff talking on the web site on the CD, good songs and a big hit here



HasanMedia

madrigal30
September 9th 2023


1583 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i just know like sixteen other 20 year old women making wayyy better guitar pop music who could be doing crazy shit with the budget she's afforded. why her?

samwise2000
September 10th 2023


1875 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

had a better time with this than sour

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2023


61310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

she has a far bigger platform than many infinitely more talented artists for sure

but also taylor swift and avril lavigne have even bigger ones, and she's shredding both at their own game so?

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2023


61310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

less current hype for sure, but more celebrity weight to make up for it. will wager her name resonates with a broader demographic at least

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2023


61310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

in terms of olivia being far more savvy on the socials and having more autonomy over her own platform, yeah

in terms of there being a greater scale to things when someone (likely significant) platforms avril, probably not so much

not a rivalry i had ever thought much about in-depth lol

Trebor.
Emeritus
September 10th 2023


59912 Comments


Is this person good or is it just a Gen Z psyop?



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