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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Olivia Rodrigo Offers a Taste of the ‘GUTS’ Bloodbath

Photo from Spotify

Amid the disorienting quarantine era in 2020, 17-year-old Disney actress Olivia Rodrigo seemed to manifest out of thin air into the music industry as a beacon of engagement. After entering the pop world with the record-breaking debut power ballad “drivers license,” Rodrigo quickly amassed a devoted core fanbase with her incorporation of nostalgic early 2000s pop punk sound mixed with starkly mature lyrics addressing the agonizing pain of teenage heartbreak.  

By the time of the release of her debut album “SOUR” in 2021, Rodrigo had showcased her mastery in seamlessly transporting her listeners into the universal atmosphere of youthful chaos, solidifying her place as a pop culture figure for both adolescent fans and older adults reminiscing on their own teenage years. However, our society has now pushed past the longing for reflection caused by the pandemic and associated lockdown. With the added factor that many of Rodrigo’s younger fans have grown out of their adolescent years, how does she plan to meet the heavy expectations of the general public and retain her queenlike status?  

Three years after her debut, and now as an adult herself, the 20-year-old singer represents sonic evolution along with an even more dangerous form of personal dysfunction reflected in her newfound experiences. While her unexpected lack of emotional maturation after her previous album may appear repetitive and stagnant on paper, Rodrigo refuses to be constrained by the expectations of the mainstream media.  

Rodrigo is even more confused as a young adult than as a teen, especially with more predatory figures around her as she entered the music industry. She refuses to hide her emotions, rather choosing to embrace her deviation from the stability of her previous journey of self-reflection. Rodrigo exerts hypocritical, unsophisticated and immature energy in “GUTS” — the perfect amount of human imperfection to provide a deeper perspective on the turbulent rollercoaster of young adulthood.  

In “vampire,” the first single released for her sophomore album, Rodrigo marks her return with a graphic retelling of a vulnerable chapter of her newfound musical life. The song takes the form of her signature ballad style mixed with hard-hitting rock elements that are now allowed to last longer throughout her production, further making this punk-rock infusion a staple for Rodrigo’s catalog.  

The track has Rodrigo recounting her naiveté during her dealings with a manipulative older man, who preyed on her innocence and fame. Rodrigo condemns herself for not listening to the warnings from the older women around her as well as her ex-boyfriend for his predatory tactics. “vampire” serves as both an unleashing of fury and a cautionary tale to young listeners about the dangers of a relationship built on power imbalances.  

In contrast to the poignant and somber atmosphere of “vampire,” Rodrigo’s most recent single, “bad idea right?” takes a sharp turn towards a sardonically demented tone. In a transparent retelling of a moment in what appears to be the same relationship, Rodrigo basks in her detrimental act of sneaking away from her friends to visit her unworthy ex.  

Filled with powerful drums and strings, striking glitch effects, and spine-tingling voice echoes, “bad idea right?” is one of Rodrigo’s most atmospheric and experimental songs to date. Rodrigo uses a moment of self-critique to create a deliciously toxic pop-punk anthem in which she simultaneously confronts her hypocritical actions and revels in the chaos that surrounds her. The song and video showcase a relatable tale of proudly embracing bad decisions and turning a blind eye to the potential consequences.  

Although it’s not yet clear what kind of journey a complete “GUTS” will have listeners embark on, Rodrigo has displayed a commitment to taking greater risks with both her sound and writing to further evolve her artistry. These unique songs will certainly ensure that eyes are on the alluring sneak peaks for her upcoming album. Each receive 4.5 out of five crabs from me! 


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Najee Manning, Senior Staff Writer
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