Most artists suffer the notorious “sophomore slump”, struggling to live up to the hype of their debut album… and then there’s Olivia Rodrigo. She set expectations pretty high for her second studio album Guts, and managed to exceed them by delving into teenage angst deeper than ever and coming out stronger on the other side.
Many wondered if Rodrigo would turn out to be a one-hit wonder after her debut album Sour – including herself. “I fear that they already got all the best parts of me,” Rodrigo sings in the final track “Teenage Dream” – but every other second of her sophomore studio album proves she’s got nothing to worry about because she’s definitely here to stay.
Rodrigo kicks things off with one of the album’s strongest tracks, “All-American B—h”, which immediately drew a comparison with Miley Cyrus’ “Start All Over”. This narrative is quite familiar, since accusations of sounding like other artists have followed Rodrigo since Sour, but she always proudly wore them on her sleeve and gave credit to her idols.
From Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift to The Cure and The Killers, Guts is an obvious love later to legends who inspired Rodrigo over the years, while still being fully her own. “Good 4 U” was a perfect archetype of an “Olivia Rodrigo song” – a breakup anthem with an angsty vibe and pop-rock-inspired sound – and many tracks on Guts follow a similar formula.
Even with some of its best songs, such as “Bad Idea Right?” and “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl”, Rodrigo made a few questionable lyrical choices – and we don’t mind it one bit because they’re very tongue-in-cheek. Guts embraces the messiness of growing pains, and even when Rodrigo delivers such silly lines as “I only see him as a friend / I just tripped and fell into his bed”, it’s obvious she had tons of fun writing them.
She once again walks a fine line between powerful ballads, such as the lead single “Vampire”, and rock-infused angsty songs in the vein of “Get Him Back!”. Guts probably contains one too many songs about reconnecting with a toxic ex, but it also does a pretty great job exploring unattainable ideals women face in the modern world.
Guts won’t give us as many radio hits as Sour, but it’s a perfect companion to Rodrigo’s debut album and it cements her status as the biggest pop star of her generation. Whatever she does next, we’ll be listening because amazing things happen whenever she decides to keep it real and spill her guts.