Album Review: 'GUTS' by Olivia Rodrigo

One of our writers reviews Olivia Rodrigo's sophomore album...

Bertie Kirkwood
23rd October 2023
Credit: Instagram @OliviaRodrigo
It takes about 52 seconds for the brilliance of Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘GUTS’ to hit. A delicately plucked acoustic guitar and sweet, almost whispered vocals abruptly give way to a clatter of drums and bratty, Avril Lavigne-esque vocals to match Rodrigo’s rage at ingrained misogyny. ‘All-American Bitch’ makes for a high-octane tone setter, landing with all the impulsive force of a teenager’s bedroom door slammed shut.

'All-American Bitch' makes for a high octane tone setter, landing with all the impulsive force of a teenager's bedroom door slammed shut

It’s a bracing opener for what should become one of the great pop-rock albums of the decade. Where her generally excellent debut record outstayed its welcome by wallowing in the same formative breakup, ‘GUTS’ sees Rodrigo venture (partly) beyond the world of misbehaving boys, in the process diving deep into the full-throttle punk music that lingered within the highlights of the debut. Gritty banger ‘Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl’ unleashes a torrent of lyrics before a restrained bridge that promptly collapses upon itself into an electrifying finale. ‘Making The Bed’ is just as eardrum-rupturing but artfully so, a wall of distortion enveloping Rodrigo as she painfully dissects the uglier consequences of her fulfilled wish to be a global superstar.

It’s a bracing opener for what should become one of the great pop-rock albums of the decade

There’s plenty of depth in the ballads, too. ‘Lacy’’s production is strikingly pretty and ‘Logical’ features some of Rodrigo’s finest lyrics, skewering the “roses are red” formula in the chorus and describing “falling for you like water falls from the February sky”. The balladic jewel, however, is ‘Vampire’, a galloping tour de force with its heart-tugging chord progression and bell-clear belted high notes that cut through the mix like a hot knife through butter. A volley of slammed piano chords signals the end of the most enthralling three minutes of pop Rodrigo has produced to date.

Image credit: Instagram @oliviarodrigo

Throughout ‘GUTS’, Rodrigo deals with the uncomfortable question of whether committing her entire young adult life as an actor for Disney was wise. It all comes to a head on satisfying closer ‘Teenage Dream’ with the desperate line “they all say that it gets better / but what if I don’t?”, a sentiment that must resonate with millions of Gen Z-ers afraid of not living up to high expectations as they enter the adult world. Therein lies the great magic trick of ‘GUTS’, an album that has the raw intensity of Rodrigo’s singular life experiences but also an uncanny ability to resonate with an entire generation. When Rodrigo sells out arena after arena on her upcoming tour, it will be wholly deserved.

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