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Olivia Rodrigo proves her artistic ability on ‘GUTS’

Graphic by Ethan Nelson

After a two-year hiatus, singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo has returned to the music scene with her sophomore album, “GUTS. 

In 2021, Rodrigo released her long-anticipated debut album “SOUR,” with a number of notable tracks including “drivers license,” “good 4 u” and “deja vu.” However, her historic affiliation with Disney has caused many to question if Rodrigo was truly talented or just an industry plant. 

“GUTS” proves to many critics that her talent sees no end, as she delves even deeper into her hypnotic pop-punk sound. While the actress-turned-pop star has some incredible high points on the album, there are lulls on the tracklist worth acknowledging. 

Equipped with somber piano riffs, electric hooks and lyrics that will make you feel like you’re reliving sophomore year of high school, Rodrigo ramps up her artistic ability two-fold on this project. 

While other artists consider musical evolutions to be the discovery of a new sound or a deviation in delivery from past projects, Rodrigo keeps it simple. She sticks to the teenage rage she embraced on “SOUR,” and adds an even stronger sound and delivery. 

The album, consisting of 12 tracks across 39 minutes, opens with a powerful track titled “all-american bitch,” establishing the rebellious spirit Rodrigo echoes throughout “GUTS.” Rodrigo acknowledges the absurdity of unrealistic expectations placed on teenage girls. She embodies a satirical version of herself that adheres to each one of these expectations: being grateful, sexy and classy all at once. 

Other standouts include “ballad of a homeschooled girl” and “bad idea right?” Rodrigo teams up with songwriter and producer Daniel Nigro on the latter to produce lush instrumentals, amplifying Rodrigo’s vocals. Sonically, these two tracks are favorites on the album and will undoubtedly be in many fans’ rotations. 

In between are songs with unremarkable sound. Rodrigo attempts to balance moments of intensity on tracks like “bad idea right?” with periods of tranquility on “logical” and “the grudge.” While this delivery style worked well for Rodrigo in her debut album, her whisper style of singing blends into the shadows of louder fervent tracks, making these low-key songs mostly unexceptional. 

Regardless of the album’s lows, the final track “teenage dream” provides an exceptional sense of finality. Rodrigo reconciles with her age and the fear that she has not entirely fulfilled her teenage dream. Her whole life, she’s been told, “life gets better as it goes on.” Yet, this song uses a cathartic climax to showcase a vulnerable moment of apprehensiveness where Rodrigo highlights her biggest fear: stagnation.

“GUTS” highlights Rodrigo’s talent, vulnerability and reliability. She immerses herself in a sound that complements her voice and mesmerizes her fans. This latest project shows that Rodrigo is much more than what meets the eye and has the potential to cultivate a long and successful career. 

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