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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Rodrigo sends mixed messages with latest album ‘Guts’

Peyton McKenzie

Olivia Rodrigo, who burst on the scene two years ago with heartfelt and relatable narratives about modern breakups, attempted to branch out of that shell with her sophomore album “Guts,” which was released on Sept. 8.

And obviously — as three 20-year-old men in committed relationships — we are supremely qualified to review her efforts.

She opens her latest collection with “all-american bitch,” focusing on the ironies of life as a woman today with a punk-rock tone-setter. The song’s calm opening verse gives way to an instantly memorable chorus, exclaiming that her “place” in the world as a 20-year old woman is perfect as it is.

She keeps up her rock-infused style later on in the album with “bad idea right?” and “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” though the latter features a strange vocal filter that masks much of her natural talent. It’s a strange choice, and lends to a feeling of “overproduction” that takes away some of the impact of her lyrics.

But while on the subject, Rodrigo’s lyricism is a standout element throughout “Guts.” Her commentary on societal expectations speaks in many ways to the eldest members of Gen Z, touching on the unattainable pursuit of perfection in the digital, and highly judgemental, modern world we now live in.

Her best-written work across the album is “making the bed,” which summarizes her frustrations with fame and the superstar status that suddenly befell her after “Sour” first released. Its slower pace breaks what could easily be a monotonous set of singles, and her use of metaphor is simple but easy to latch onto as a listener.

Particularly, her line “And I’m playin’ the victim so well in my head, But it’s me who’s been makin’ the bed” highlights an interesting take on the responsibility of fame, and how she blames herself for the current state of her public image. If the entire album focused on deconstructing this message, “Guts” could be a real tour-de-force.

Unfortunately, several songs seem to work against this far more interesting narrative.

The aforementioned “bad idea right?,” a proper single on its own, fails to fit its own message within the confines of the entire album. The idea of returning to one’s ex makes for a fun song to blast with friends in the car, but it simultaneously undermines the very next song “vampire,” which discusses her ex as a toxic manipulator.

It seems Rodrigo was trying to make an album of ironic contradictions, given the strange juxtaposition of these two songs, but it comes across more random and off-putting than anything else.

This same pattern rears its head later on with “logical,” “get him back!” and “love is embarrassing” making up a middle chunk of the album. In “logical” and “love is embarrassing,” Rodrigo’s stream of consciousness about loss in relationships is striking and interesting, matched by the melancholic pacing of these two songs.

But once again, that intrigue is nearly unraveled by “get him back,” a loud anthem that speaks to revenge over her ex. On its own, it’s also fun, light and easy to revisit. But like the aforementioned singles, it doesn’t have a proper home within the album.

She concludes “Guts” with a set that thankfully returns to her themes of self reflection and brutal honesty. But, as nice as it is to see this new thematic direction round out the album, the songs themselves are not as easy to revisit. Outside of their fitting lyrics, “the grudge” and “teenage dream” in particular feel like rhythmic filler and more of a production afterthought.

Essentially, what can be taken away from “Guts” is a handful of memorable singles, but an unfortunate realization that Rodrigo hasn’t yet branched out of the teenage lighting-in-a-bottle perspective that shot her to the top of the charts in 2021.

It would have been a breath of fresh air to hear her thematic underpinnings of reflection, healing and growth make their way across the full 39 minutes. The meltdown of young love that she so brilliantly deconstructed in “Sour” was amazing two summers ago, and it’s unfortunate that many of her singles here try a bit too hard to mimic that same success.

But again, we’re just three guys. And we’ll definitely be listening to “Guts” on repeat for weeks to come.

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About the Contributors
Jack Muscatello
Jack Muscatello, Digital Managing Editor
Peyton McKenzie
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director
Michael LaRocca
Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor

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