For the last year, everyone has been buzzing about Olivia Rodrigo. The Disney star turned songwriter whose debut single was #1 on the Hot 100 for eight weeks in a row has been shouted out by some of the greats, and carries an army of teen (and adult) fans into her new era of stardom. With Insta-caption-perfect lyrics and a stinging sense of teen heartbreak, her debut album SOUR arrived amid summer fever and high acclaim. I listened in full and unpacked this up and coming pop princess’ debut. Here are my thoughts, track-by-track.
*brutal: Everyone knows an opener sets the tone and sound for an album, and “brutal” does this exceptionally well. With bold guitar riffs and strong drums, this track evokes memories of Avril Lavigne and Paramore for a deliciously negative burst of frustration. It’s bold, memorable, and grabs your attention up front! Rodrigo shows her versatility right off the bat, ensuring that she still has cards to play outside her smash hit singles.
*traitor: Immediately after an overload of stimulation, “traitor” strips back to what Rodrigo does best: piano ballads. The atmosphere created by backup vocals is reminiscent of Ellie Goulding’s timeless pop sound, but Rodrigo’s hints of yearning and loneliness in lyricism are evident as always. Weaving a narrative of an almost-cheater and hindsight vision on a broken relationship, Rodrigo’s vocals shine through on this track.
*driver’s license: If you haven’t heard this song in the past six months, you’ve been living under a rock. To see a debut single go supernova like this track is exceedingly rare, and it remains a great pop song! Influences from Lorde and Conan Gray (the latter her collaborator and friend) are present in this ballad, but it will last as Rodrigo’s first big breakout.
*1 step forward, 3 steps back: A catchy melody and spare piano are the bare bones of this song, and vocally it impresses. The lyrics aren’t quite as deft as other tracks, but a familiar narrative of the off-and-on-again lover will be sure to resonate with any listener. This song (again) reminds me of Lorde, and her pop influence even after a three-year hiatus!
*deja vu: The second single released from this record is the perfect summer-driving track, biting with jealousy and soaring vocals. Sonically my favorite and standout for the entire era, I think this sound is authentic and truly suits Rodrigo’s voice and lyrical style! I’ll personally be holding out for more tracks like this in the future.
*good 4 u: The final single and triumphant music video on everyone’s minds (and socials) this past week, this track is a catchy sing-along begging for live shows this summer. The video is full of pop culture references from the last 20 years, perfectly styled and on trend with everything a teen fan could want. A return to the pop-punk sound the record opened with is fun and a mid-album wakeup call.
*enough for you: Coming to a standstill with acoustic guitar, the listener is walked through the timeline of insecurity and brokenness a past lover left Rodrigo healing from. Lyrically inspired by Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers, this is a personal piece of intimacy that is sure to remain a lyrical standout.
*happier: A lullaby-like piano with an uplifting melody and stronger chorus is the backdrop for another song about seeing your ex doing well after the breakup. Clearly by this point, Rodrigo has found her niche. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and it certainly ain’t broke! In fact, the ability to craft a breakup album that isn’t redundant is rare these days–a skill Rodrigo is certainly known for.
*jealousy, jealousy: This melody is one of my favorites, and the lyrics reach broadly enough to resonate with everyone! Insecurity isn’t something Rodrigo shys away from, and a marching beat with strong piano makes this a standout track that stuck in my mind more than most. Being inventive with the internal thoughts everyone has bridges the listener with the artist, something Paramore (a particular influence) has mastered over the years.
*favorite crime: No matter the suspected subject, this song is heartbreaking from any perspective. Stripping back the production layers of the past two songs, we are once again facing Rodrigo and her guitar. Lyrical inspiration from Swift is particularly present here in Rodrigo’s crescendo of a bridge and vocals, but a personally earnest tone distinguishes it as an Rodrigo track all the same.
*hope ur ok: A somber closer with a dedication to those left behind, mistreated, or alone, this track is a rallying chorus that leaves an impression. Vivid storytelling that tells a story of breaking free from toxic homes is a joyful sound that rings and lingers after the record is over. This last thread of hope doesn’t connect in a circular way to “brutal” as an opener, but instead definitively closes a chapter.
I designate this record a 7.5/10, with strengths being attentive lyrical details that read like Rodrigo’s diary and transport the listener into a hazy soundscape of heartbreak ballads. I enjoyed the record, but find it necessary to point out how heavily it relies on influences. Not a bad thing, but bits of Taylor Swift, Lorde, Paramore and Birdy are all resonating more so than the true Rodrigo at times. As this young artist matures and finds her sound, it will be fascinating to see how her fanbase and acclaim evolves!
By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young Magnet High School