Olivia Rodrigo has done it once again with her sophomore album, GUTS.
Released on Sept. 8, 2023, The singer/songwriter’s second full length LP was met with incredible acclaim all around, and this review will be no different. All 12 tracks, spanning for 39 minutes and 18 seconds are phenomenal, making this the greatest sophomore album of the decade.
A small note before the review. This will cover the digital album. There is a deluxe album with four extra tracks. One problem with that, Olivia must have done a semester at the Taylor Swift School of Marketing because the four tracks can only be found on the four vinyl variants. One track per variant. Those tracks will eventually be reviewed as part of a redux review but until then, I am not dropping $120 for four tracks (yet). Now onto the review.
The intro track titled “all-american bitch” starts off with some soft acoustic guitar and a sweet ballad from Rodrigo. It then switches to a pop-punk inspired break for the chorus which channels Rodrigo’s inner rage. For the second verse it goes back to the acoustic guitar but continues with some of the previous drums, showing the lines blurring between the sweet tone and the pure, raw emotion that will be the main theme on this album.
“bad idea right?” like I’ve said before, on the summer recap is a very tongue and cheek track about getting back together with an ex despite her friends constant warnings. It hit before as a single and it hits even more in the context of the album. The same goes for “vampire.” It hit before and hits harder now.
If this album had to have a bad track it would be “lacy.” It is a sweet, acoustic-driven ballad. Rodrigo’s smooth vocals build along with the production as the song goes along. It all eventually culminates at the bridge, exploding with wavy synths with Rodrigo harmonizing throughout. The only problem is it takes away a bit of momentum from the album. It could easily be moved to the last third, but that’s a real nitpick at this point.
The fifth track, titled “ballad of a homeschool girl” continues with the more rock portions of this album. With fantastic, overdriven guitar, crashing drums, and a full bassline, just the production of this is phenomenal. The vocals, on the other hand, are beyond phenomenal. The first verse and chorus are traditional rock type vocals, but second verse takes a more rhythmic delivery. It’s not rap but it’s pretty close. The second chorus is the first with exponentially more energy. The third starts slow and picks up and finishes with a bang, with the lyrics and tongue and cheek like “bad idea right?” but even more (if that makes sense). With stingers like “I’m on the outside of the greatest inside joke” to whatever “Every guy I like is gay” is.
The album then slows down with “making the bed,” a sorrowful ballad about realizing that she is the one to blame for her unhappiness with her fame and her life in general. This purely pop ballad is absolutely soul crushing. The instrumentals hit exactly where they are supposed to. The vocals on the chorus are reminiscent of some of Taylor Swift’s “evermore” and “folklore.”
“logical” is, again, another sorrowful ballad. This time it’s about the inability to find the rationality of a breakup. The lyrics are about the irrational nature of love. It’s said beautifully in the chorus “Two plus two equals five, And I’m the love of your life, ‘Cause if rain don’t pour and sun don’t shine, Then changing you is possible, No, love is never logical.” Love doesn’t make sense, and it never will. This song is a perfect representation of that messed up, illogical concept.
And away we go right back to the tongue and cheek rock with “git him back!” With an unserious intro that leads straight into some darker vocals, this track hits you in the face. The overdriven bass and deep drum groove keep a slower tempo but with enough energy for it to explode in the chorus. The lyrics are the conflicted feelings of hating yet wanting an ex back. “Wanna kiss his face/With an uppercut,” this lyric sums up the entire song perfectly.
‘love is embarrassing” has a driving beat with some short blasts of a rhythm guitar during the verses. The chorus increases the intensity of the drums by adding some hi-hat action along with louder guitar. Lyric wise, it’s a substantial track about a broken heart, nothing new but still fantastic to listen to.
“the grudge” slows it down to another ballad about a manipulative relationship. The production is similar to one of her previous songs “drivers license.” The slow piano chords and the post-choruses humming. It’s sorrowful and beautiful. The crescendos leading up to the first chorus and the faint harmony on the second chorus gave me chills the first time listening to it.
The penultimate track, “pretty isn’t pretty” has an early 2000’s rom-com style beat. This would be the type of song that would be playing when the male lead is on his way to hold a boom-box outside of the female lead’s window. That’s the beat, the lyrics are a different story. They are about Rodrigo struggling to keep up with the fashion trends and the fear brought on by social media of the same vein. It’s a reflection of self value and it’s heartbreaking yet uplifting at the same time.
The digital album closes out with “teenage dream.” In the same way that her previous album ended, it is a gut-wrenching ballad. Another break-up song but this one hits differently. It is the pure emotion of a teenage relationship that ended. Rodrigo is filled with the sorrow of not being able to be enough in the relationship. Then it follows up with the worry of the impact of the relationship. “They all say it gets better/It gets better the more you grow/Yeah, they all say that it gets better/It gets better, but what if I don’t?” It encapsulates the feeling of sorrow, remorse and worry that follow a breakup. It is beyond perfect.
Overall, this album is perfect. The upbeat, rock and punk influenced songs that you can’t help and dance like no one is watching are phenomenal. The emotionally-charged lyrics, paired with the beautifully-produced ballads, bore a hole in your heart that only more Olivia Rodrigo can fix. This was the only thing I listened to when it came out, I only listened to it for the days prior to writing this and I will probably have a hard time writing the next few reviews because this album is so damn good.
I felt the emotion going into each and every syllable on every single track. Her vocals alone gave me chills. The writing is beyond perfect. The way she can completely flip the song on its head when she hits the bridge and bring it right back is inexplicably genius. This blows almost every single pop album for the last 10 years out of the water. I can’t wait for her junior album but until then, this will be in constant rotation. 10/10.
Featured Image: The album cover for “GUTS.” The LP released on Sept. 8, 2023.