Coming off the success of the Grammy-winning album SOUR, Olivia Rodrigo brings us GUTS, an album that could be considered a follow-up to her last. This is more evident with the purple dominant album cover, this one having a darker hue, reflecting the mood compared to that of SOUR. According to Rodrigo, GUTS is meant to be a more introspective album, giving the audience a glimpse as to how her life has changed since transitioning from a child actress to an accoladed pop star.

Last year, I decided to give SOUR a spin, since it had just won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album (should’ve gone to Billie Eilish) and with Rodrigo winning the Best New Artist award. Needless to say, I wasn’t too impressed with Rodrigo’s performance or the pop-punk songs that dominated the album, along with boring acoustic pieces. Granted, it wasn’t as awful as MGK’s mainstream sellout, but it’s a style that should be left back in the 2000s when it was kind of good.

The main question I asked myself before listening to GUTS was this:

How much has Olivia matured?

With confidence, I can say that I got a clear answer.


The album starts off with the appropriately titled “all-american bitch”. The song begins with Olivia singing a good melody over a nice acoustic instrumental. Of course, in a predictable fashion, the song transitions to that good ol’ teenage angsty pop-punk we can’t seem to get enough of. In fact, it is more present here than on SOUR, though I think it is done a tad better. We’ll get into it later.

What follows are the two lead singles from the album – “bad idea right?” and “vampire”. “bad idea right?” is an interesting song lyrically, describing the all-too-familiar trope of two exes hesitantly sleeping with each other. While it is a tale as old as time, I believe it to be relevant today with the toxic “situation-ship” phenomenon, which I’m sure many of Rodrigo’s fans (and many others) can relate to. Musically though, I find the sound and vocal flow outdated yet again, and the riff to be completely ripped off from Roy Orbinson’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” (seriously, compare the two).

“vampire”, on the other hand, is a song I have to completely appreciate. Sure, it’s a soft piano ballad with a progression I’ve heard many times before, and I would usually just end with that. However, the excellent hard-hitting lyricism, combined with Rodrigo’s passionate vocals, makes “vampire” to be one of the songs that has left its mark on me this year. Lyrically, Olivia reflects on a relationship she had with an older man who used her for her status. What strikes me more is how honest the reflection is, with Rodrigo partially blaming herself for being immature and naïve to the situation, leading herself to a trap that we’ve seen many in her position unfortunately fall into.

Most of the other ballads on the album were also great. “lacy” is a sweet song that incorporates nice vocal harmonies and a lovely melody; the airy atmosphere is also complimented by a simple acoustic guitar passage. “logical”, arguably the best song here, has nice instrumentation that also builds up a nice atmosphere. The song is also an example of great lyricism and wordplay, complimented by passionate vocals.

On that note, I like to add that I don’t think Olivia is a particularly great singer. Not saying that she isn’t good, because she does the job well (and at times, very well), but it’d be hard to distinguish her from other female pop singers. However, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, you can tell when she’s passionate about what she’s singing about and pouring her heart out, and I think that’s what matters most in this case.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of that anymore as the album progresses. Yes reader, as the sun is expected to rise in the morning, so do my critiques around this time. “making the bed”, another ballad, is the worst song on the album. The melody on the track is painfully boring, reminding me of some of the snoozes off of SOUR. There’s also this horrible solo where I can’t even discern between a guitar or synth lead, which just shows you what the production was like.

Returning to Rodrigo’s pop-punk roots, let’s finally address it. “ballad of a homeschooled girl” is catchy for sure, but like the rest, it still needs to be sent back two decades. “get him back!” has a catchy chorus, though I find the lyrical content to be in a bad taste, though it’s the only time the angsty meter hits too high. It definitely isn’t as excruciating as listening to a SZA album, that’s for sure. However, I want to highlight “love is embarrassing, ” the only pop-punk song I dug from the album. This song is WAY more catchy than it had any right, I can’t dislike it if I tried.

The last three tracks are pretty good, though I don’t think they hold up to many of the other strong tracks on the record. “the grudge” has Rodrigo giving us a nice performance, but it just isn’t as interesting as some of the other ballads. The same can be said for “pretty isn’t pretty”, taking the form of a soft rock song, which is catchy for what it is.

On the final track, “teenage dream”, I originally found it to be a bit of a snooze, sounding like a bland version of the Lana Del Rey song “Sweet”. However, I was sold on it being the perfect ending after a few more listens. The strong chorus of “they all say that it gets better the more you grow” is hard to overlook, being another moment of self-reflection on Rodrigo’s part as she matures as an artist and as a woman.

Here are my ratings for each song on a scale of 0-4:

  1. all-american bitch – 2
  2. bad idea right? – 2
  3. vampire – 4
  4. lacy – 4
  5. ballad of a homeschooled girl – 2
  6. making the bed – 1
  7. logical – 4
  8. get him back! – 2
  9. love is embarrassing – 4
  10. the grudge – 3
  11. pretty isn’t pretty – 3
  12. teenage dream – 4

SCORE/Good: Don’t get it twisted, this almost got an “Excellent” rating, but that’s not to say that this album didn’t impress just as much if it did. To answer my question in the beginning of my review, I can say that Olivia has shown growth and maturity, which is most clearly seen in her lyricism and the themes she presented throughout GUTS. The only thing she needs to do is diversify her musical palette; it’d be a shame if she brought back another album that’s just half pop-punk and half ballads, even if it was good. Regardless, my expectations were beaten, and I’m interested to see where Olivia takes her career from here.

[We rank albums on a scale of Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding]

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