Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album is anything but ‘SOUR’

From pop-punk tracks to heartfelt ballads, Rodrigo shows off her musical talent and versatility in a debut album made for the ages

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album is anything but ‘SOUR’
Olivia Rodrigo at the D23 Expo

Olivia Rodrigo got it right when she said “god, it’s brutal out here.” For teenagers and young adults, the world is full of insanity, confusion and emotions that don’t always express themselves in the nicest ways. Rodrigo’s debut album “SOUR” perfectly exemplifies that.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, Rodrigo is the newest Disney star turned pop sensation, and — currently — the 5th most streamed artist in the world. Rodrigo has rocketed to the top of the music charts, and just a few days ago the 18-year-old made UK chart history by becoming the first female artist to occupy three spots in the Official Singles Chart Top 5.

Rodrigo got her initial start to fame in the Disney sitcom “Bizaardvark” before moving to the Disney+ adaptation of the High School Musical trilogy, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (HSMTMTS). Though the actress has been writing and posting her own songs on Instagram since before becoming a viral hit, her musical career took off in November of 2020 with  “All I Want,” an original song she wrote for HSMTMTS.

In Jan. 2021, her debut single “drivers license” soared to success both on the charts and amongst fans, and the singer-songwriter’s fame only grew from there once she followed the single up with a psychedelic pop anthem “deja vu” in April of 2021, and a Paramore-esque pop-punk track entitled “good 4 u” in May of 2021. 

In between the craziness of her musical success, filming HSMTMTS and her senior year of high school, Rodrigo and fellow songwriter and producer, Dan Nigro, found the time to create and record her first solo album, which debuted worldwide on May 21, 2021.

Though the album only contains 11 songs and has a total runtime of 34 minutes, Rodrigo still manages to make her mark, telling stories of heartbreak, growth and the jarring awareness of how unpleasant being a teenager can sometimes be. 

Rodrigo wastes no time dancing around the uglier emotions we all experience and manages to turn the bad and the shameful into something phenomenal. She shares heart-wrenching stories of betrayal and self-reflection in songs like “traitor” and “enough for you” and her crushing admittance of wanting her ex to “find someone great but don’t find no one better” in “happier,” 

Combining harder and more punk rock-like sounds in tracks such as “brutal” and “jealousy, jealousy” with softer and more intimate tones in ballads like “1 step forward, 3 steps back” — which features an impressive interpolation of Taylor Swift’s “New Year’s Day” — “SOUR” is a combination of the good, the bad and the utterly confusing emotions that come alongside heartbreak and coming of age. 

Rodrigo’s writing shines in each song as she manages to take some of her hardest to express emotions and paints a picture with her words. The track “favorite crime” serves as a great example, where Rodrigo turns her past relationship into a metaphor of a crime, singing, “all the things I did / just so I could call you mine / all the things you did / well I hope I was your favorite crime.”

The album ends with “hope ur okay”, a track unique in more ways than one. Here Rodrigo steers away from her previous narrative of heartbreak, coming of age and relationships gone wrong to a recollection of friends she’s fallen out of touch with. The song is light in sound and heavy in lyricism, with intricate details that make Rodrigo’s friends feel all the more relatable to her audience, and accompanied by a heartfelt wish from the singer herself where she tells the listener; “I love you / and I hope that you’re okay.”

Overall, “SOUR” is a stellar debut and a solid foundation for Rodrigo to climb from. Over the course of the last year, the singer-songwriter has proven herself to be a musical and lyrical talent, and her album has only gone to show the extent of such. At the end of the day, “SOUR,” as its hit pop-punk single would suggest, really is “good 4 u.”

swinick@theeagleonline.com 

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