Olivia Rodrigo debuts new album, and it’s anything but SOUR

When writing an article about new artists and their albums, the first thing a journalist has to do is introduce them to the world, in case outside readers are not familiar with who they are or what they’re known for. However, this 18-year-old pop star needs no introduction, as she has introduced herself to the world with her viral songs and immense talent. Introducing Olivia Rodrigo: a teenage singer and songwriter that is well known for her characters on Disney shows like “Bizaardvark” and “High School Musical: the Musical: the Series (HSM:TM:TS).” In 2021, Rodrigo has pushed beyond her acting talents and scored once again— this time, with music. Specifically, a debut album titled “SOUR;” and trust me, it is anything less than sour: it’s sweet.

It would be a mistake to assume Olivia Rodrigo is inexperienced or an amateur in writing her own songs or performing, as this star is far from sophomoric. In the case of the first track on “SOUR,” “brutal” shines brightly on Rodrigo’s talents. The song has a very punk-rock sound; with elements of bass guitar and loud drums, it gives off a very Paramore feel. “brutal” takes on the perspective of generational trauma, as Rodrigo sings about betrayals and disappointments within the world. It also is about Rodrigo’s experience and perspective on navigating the journey of the “brutal” music industry, as well as growing up and being a teenager.

“It’s a really angsty song I suppose, and I sort of just talk about everything that I’m upset about in the song, to put it very plainly and broadly,” Rodrigo said in a YouTube RELEASED interview.

She sings in the first verse, “And I’m so tired that I might quit my job, start a new life / And they’d all be so disappointed / ‘Cause who am I, if not exploited?,” talking about the intense pressure of the infamous music industry, which is known to be harsh on artists (perhaps, Taylor Swift with Big Machine Records would be good to take into consideration). Rodrigo’s chorus is evidently strong-minded (“All I did was try my best / This the kind of thanks I get?”) and it is clear to see she is passionate about how she’s feeling, which only strengthens the song as a whole.

The second verse is more focused on Rodrigo’s thoughts and insecurities, with the lyrics of, “I only have two real friends, and lately I’m a nervous wreck / ‘Cause I love people I don’t like / And I hate every song I write / And I’m not cool, and I’m not smart / And I can’t even parallel park.” The fact Rodrigo has experienced what “brutal’s” lyrics withhold makes the song even better, as her listeners can relate to her while they grow out of their golden years and into adulthood just like Olivia has done; it is sure to have listeners blaring the ever so relatable lyrics out of speakers.

As the first track slows out, Rodrigo ends with, “Got a broken ego, broken heart / And God, I don’t even know where to start,” which is a cleverly ironic lyric, considering she’s about to tell her story of why she has a broken ego and heart for the next ten songs.
The second track of SOUR, “traitor,” has taken on a different approach to what “brutal” has done, and Rodrigo has executed it flawlessly. This track is more of a sad ballad, with Rodrigo reflecting on what went wrong with a past relationship, and essentially the feeling of being betrayed. “traitor” has a right person, wrong time feeling to it, with lyrics in the first verse expressing, “I played dumb, but I always knew / That you talked to her / Maybe did even worse / I kept quiet so I could keep you.”

The song takes on a chronological story; the first verse is during the relationship, with “brown guilty eyes and little white lies,” the pre-chorus is just after the breakup, and the second verse and the rest of the song is in the present, with Rodrigo reflecting on her feelings. The ballad is Olivia’s perspective after the relationship has ended, and the song summarizes a relationship where betrayal was overscored. While dating the unknown person, Olivia begins to question whether her partner is loyal or not (“And ain’t it funny how you said you were friends? / Now it sure as hell don’t look like it”). The person denies and says she’s “paranoid” and that “they are just friends” (“Ain’t it funny, remember I brought her up / And you told me I was paranoid?”); however, Olivia explains that the partner and their love interest had talked during the relationship, which explains why he ran to her so quickly after they broke up (“It took you two weeks to go off and date her / Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor”). The bridge is one of the strongest points in “traitor,” with Olivia’s vocals expressing, “God, I wish that you had thought this through / Before I went and fell in love with you / When she’s sleepin’ in the bed we made / Don’t you dare forget about the way you betrayed me.” There are also speculations that “traitor” is about ex Joshua Bassett and Sabrina Carpenter, but there is no official proof.

“drivers license:” the iconic third track of “SOUR” that caught Olivia Rodrigo’s audience with just a few lyrics. Everyone knows the classic “but today I drove through the suburbs, crying ‘cause you weren’t around,” that Rodrigo sings brilliantly. “drivers license” was originally released on an Instagram post in July of 2020 with the caption, “wrote dis the other day. vv close to my heart. gonna call it drivers license i think lol.” The song is theorized, if not the most, about ex Joshua Bassett, and Olivia moving on from the 20-year-old after their past relationship. In case you need a recap about the timeline of this relationship, you can click here— there are an immense amount of parallels that refer back to this within the album.

“To me, ‘drivers license’ was never one of those songs that I would think: ‘It’s a hit song.’” Rodrigo said in an Apple Music interview. “It’s just a little slice of my heart, this really sad song. It was really cool for me to see evidence of how authenticity and vulnerability really connect with people.”

“drivers license” is essentially the ballad to her relationship with Bassett, reminiscing about their memories like a diary entry. Getting her driver’s license was speculated to be one of the things Bassett and Rodrigo wanted her to do so they could hang out more (“‘Cause you were so excited for me / To finally drive up to your house”); Bassett instead taught Sabrina to drive in their relationship. Ouch. The first verse is almost a letter to Bassett, telling him she finally got her driver’s license, “just like they always talked about.” The second verse expresses Rodrigo’s unfiltered insecurities (“And you’re probably with that blonde girl / Who always made me doubt / She’s so much older than me / She’s everything I’m insecure about”); even though she’s unhappy with how things ended and she’s insecure about the “blonde girl” her ex-lover is now with, Rodrigo still loves him. Though they weren’t perfect, she hadn’t felt this way for anyone before, and is unsure of how to cope through the breakup, when he has moved on so fast. One of the catchiest and strongest parts of the song, the bridge of “drivers license” is Rodrigo flipping through memories of her old relationship (“I still see your face in the white cars, front yards,” and, “Sidewalks we crossed / I still hear your voice in the traffic, we’re laughing”), and finally coming to terms with the fact they won’t be together again (“God, I’m so blue, know we’re through / But I still f***in’ love you, babe”).

The next track, “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” is a narrative about the ups and downs of a sad relationship with an inconsistent partner. Rodrigo sings about how every time she takes “one step forward” with her partner, she takes “three steps back” due to such inconsistency with the relationship. The song can be correlated with a toxic relationship, or the cycle of abuse, as Rodrigo questions herself in the bridge of the song. (“It’s back and forth, did I say something wrong?”). Rodrigo expresses, “And I’d leave you, but the rollercoaster’s all I’ve ever had,” leading to the idea that the singer is afraid to leave the toxicity, as breaking up with them would force her to lose one of the few pieces of ‘normalcy’ in her life.

The song has a piano accompaniment from Taylor Swift’s song of “New Year’s Day,” whom Rodrigo is extremely close with and has been called “Taylor’s Child” multiple times. Rodrigo takes massive inspiration from Swift, as “1 step forward, 3 steps back” gives very “Dear John” and “All Too Well” vibes— both about heartbreak and overwhelming sadness, as well as having an inconsistent partner, and wondering which side of them they’ll see today (“Like, which lover will I get today? / Will you walk me to the door or send me home crying?”). Rodrigo even echoes “Dear John” with her lyrics of, “And maybe in some masochistic way / I kind of find it all exciting / Like, which lover will I get today? / Will you walk me to the door or send me home crying?,” compared to Swift’s, “You paint me a blue sky / Then go back and turn it to rain / And I lived in your chess game / But you changed the rules everyday / Wonderin’ which version of you I might get on the phone, tonight.”

“deja vu” is the second release since the viral hit of “drivers license,” and Rodrigo definitely did not disappoint. It is also the second song to be theorized about Joshua Bassett, as multiple parallels have been found throughout the track. Her conviction is that her ex-lover is not yet over her, since he is recreating memories that the two did together; the whole song centers around the idea that nothing is new, it’s all deja vu.

Rodrigo is no longer in the heartbreak stage; instead, she is now reminiscing about their relationship. She wonders if he gets deja vu when he’s with his new girlfriend, since he does the same things with her that he did with Rodrigo (“So when you gonna tell her that we did that, too?”). The “deja vu” singer has accepted that they won’t be together again (from “drivers license—” “God, I’m so blue / Know we’re through / But I still f****ng love you, babe,” to now “deja vu—” I hate to think that I was just your type”) and is now looking back on memories like eating strawberry ice cream in Malibu and watching reruns of “Glee.” There are many parallels that connect it back to former boyfriend Bassett; for instance, the Billy Joel reference in which Rodrigo sings, “And I bet she knows Billy Joel / ‘Cause you played her ‘Uptown Girl,’” is referring to one of Bassett’s musical inspirations, as well as Rodrigo teaching Bassett “Uptown Girl.” As Rodrigo vocalizes, “Do you call her, almost say my name? / ‘Cause let’s be honest, we kinda do sound the same / Another actress,” she not only wonders if her ex-partner has moved on, but hints towards Sabrina Carpenter being the “actress” that Bassett has gotten with.

If you didn’t think “SOUR’s” bridges weren’t one of Rodrigo’s strong points, you are sorely mistaken, considering the bridge of “deja vu.” With inspiration from Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” it is wholeheartedly one of the best parts of the song, and it embodies the entire concept of “deja vu,” with lyrics like, “Play her piano, but she doesn’t know / That I was the one who taught you Billy Joel / A different girl now, but there’s nothing new.” It alludes to prior verses but with slight variations, and it is a lovely listen.
“good 4 u” is the third and most recent single from “SOUR,” and the entire embodiment screams girl boss. “good 4 u” is stated to be part of a “three-song cycle” that Rodrigo goes through, starting from “drivers license,” “deja vu,” and finally, this spectacular track. Rodrigo is now longer sad or reminiscent in this “Misery Business” by Paramore-esque song, and her anger about the situation seems to build up as the song progresses. By singing “good for you,” the “SOUR” singer is simply being sarcastic, knowing she was heartbroken, and he never seemed to be affected whatsoever (“Well, good for you, I guess you moved on really easily,” and, “And good for you, I guess that you’ve been workin’ on yourself”). “good 4 u” is essentially about Rodrigo being angry about her ex-partner looking “happy and healthy” while she has “lost her mind.” The chorus is very strong in this song, and it seems like Rodrigo’s talent keeps shining more and more with each lyric she writes.

Rodrigo’s progression of her feelings about this past relationship really shows in “good 4 u;” rather than singing “And I just can’t imagine how you could be so okay now that I’m gone,” Olivia sings, “It’s like we never even happened / baby, what the f**k is up with that?,” signaling her anger about her ex-partner, presumably Bassett, moving on so fast. In the second verse, Rodrigo sings, “And good for you, it’s like you never even met me / Remember when you swore to God I was the only person who ever got you? / Well screw that, and screw you / You will never have to hurt the way that I do,” which parallels Rodrigo and Bassett’s love song “Just for a Moment” that they wrote together for “HSM:TM:TS,” in which they sing, “I fell in love with the only girl who knows what I’m about.” Judging by the amount of parallels I have gone over in just six songs, Rodrigo is exceptional at them.

Like “deja vu,” the bridge of “good 4 u” is nailed once again. She sings “Maybe I’m too emotional / But your apathy’s like a wound in salt / Maybe I’m too emotional / Or maybe you never cared at all.” By saying she’s “too emotional,” it may seem like Rodrigo is trying to put the blame on herself; judging by the tone of the song, she’s being simply sarcastic. Since her ex is seemingly unbothered by their breakup, she uses the words “apathy” and “salt in the wound” to imply their breakup was a small wound to him that closed quickly, which made the situation worse for her.

An international pop star at only 18-years-old, Rodrigo has shined her talents brilliantly with her new debut album, “SOUR.” Fans are ecstatic and raving about the song; comments on social media include, “I love the fact she’s staying stuff our generation can relate to,” “‘brutal’ deserves to be in a coming of age movie,” and, “She used her debut album as an omen to all the artists that inspired her and I stan that.” The question has even arisen: will there be a deluxe version of “SOUR?” If there is, will it include the fan-favorite, unreleased “gross?” Though said questions have not yet been answered, let’s take this time to enjoy this spectacular album from Rodrigo. While listening to this album many times on repeat, my mood has never been “SOUR,” and it is safe to say that it is a no skip album.

Upon first listen: rankings of “SOUR”*
*it is noted that “SOUR” is a no skip album, and this list will probably change in the next month
“favorite crime”
“1 step forward, 3 steps back”
“good 4 u”
“enough for you”
“jealousy, jealousy”
“deja vu”
“hope ur ok”
“drivers license”

Short and sweet summaries of “SOUR:”
“enough for you:” “enough for you” underscores Rodrigo’s insecurities in a relationship as she compares herself to her lover’s exes. She tries to change herself to change her lover’s perspective in order for him to “like her more,” and not leave; but in the end, Rodrigo was left heartbroken, singing, “I’d say you broke my heart / But you broke much more than that / Now I don’t want your sympathy / I just want myself back.”
“happier:” “happier” is a lovely, post-breakup song, in which Rodrigo has accepted the fact her lover has moved on, but hopes to remain a significant memory in their life. Perhaps she’s jealous (“But she’s beautiful, she looks kind / She probably gives you butterflies”), or just in the stages of moving on, but Rodrigo nonetheless wishes immense happiness for her past lover with his new relationship… just don’t be happier.
“jealousy, jealousy:” “jealousy, jealousy” is a song written about unrealistic expectations and standards society has set for young women in the present times; girls are “too good to be true, with paper-white teeth and perfect bodies.” The song follows the same comparison as “happier,” except instead of comparing herself to her past lover’s new partner, Rodrigo compares herself to the people she sees on social media. Rodrigo talks about the song in an interview, saying, “In this time period, I was super obsessed with social media. I would look for things that would hurt my feelings all the time and compare myself to everyone. I felt like my life was only what I showed to others. I didn’t feel like my life was any deeper than my Instagram feed.”
“favorite crime:” Undoubtedly one of the best songs on “SOUR,” “favorite crime” is about Rodrigo starts the process of moving on. She implies that she is partly responsible for the heartbreak because she let herself get treated so badly; Rodrigo also references “traitor,” with the lines, “The things I did / Just so I could call you mine.”
“hope ur ok:” “hope ur ok” is about Rodrigo reminiscing about old friends, specifically part of the LGBTQ+ community. Though they seem to lose contact, Rodrigo wishes them well, and reminds them that not everything is as bad as it seems, specifically in the outro (“Well, I hope you know how proud I am you were created / With the courage to unlearn all of their hatred / But, God, I hope that you’re happier today / ‘Cause I love you / And I hope that you’re okay”). It’s truly a lovely song to end the album.