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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

‘GUTS’ Is a Ravishing Record

Image from Spotify

Singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo released her second studio album, “GUTS,” on Sept. 8; since then, the 12 tracks captured the hearts of many and took TikTok by storm. While her debut album “SOUR” catapulted her career, Rodrigo took a different creative direction in “GUTS.” Let’s go through the track list.  

The first song is a classic head-banger, with lyrics that take on the struggle of being an American teenage girl. “all-american bitch” is a celebration of the inward suffering of constantly having to present oneself in a certain way and hiding everything that doesn’t fit.  

The title of the song itself comes from writer Joan Didion’s book “The White Album,” in which a five-year-old hippie refers to his mother as such. To be an ‘all-american bitch’ is to scream and cry and fight but make sure your mascara doesn’t smudge while doing so. To be a ‘bitch’ isn’t inherently human; it is to exist as something controllable and admirable.  

What’s one of Rodrigo’s albums without an upbeat track about that ex you just can’t seem to run away from? “bad idea right?” explores this with a strong drum track and a catchy refrain that will reside in your head and refuse to pay rent. The background chorus strengthens the song, creating a call-and-response effect.  

“vampire” is the first ballad introduced in the tracklist — at least, the song starts as a ballad, but the drum track introduced in the second verse gives the song a heartbeat, a sort of anticipation that drives the climax home. You’ll be belting the chorus even louder than Rodrigo by the song’s end.  

The fourth song, “lacy,” features a fingerpicking guitar pattern and soft, airy vocals that gives this song a cyclical nature, akin to a lullaby. Lacy herself represents an “ideal woman,” one that embodies the perfect version of femininity. There are mixed emotions of love and worship, of being unclear whether you want her or want to be her. This song feels like a push-and-pull, with a lot of contradicting imagery in the lyrics.  

Growing up as a child actress and not having a ‘normal’ high school experience, Rodrigo sings “ballad of a homeschooled girl” as she cringes at the inevitable awkwardness of social situations. There is plenty of screaming, belting, and regretting random things you said and did three years ago. This song makes social faux pas feel more bearable, and almost catchy.  

The following track, “making the bed,” is an extended metaphor for having to confront the guilt after making bad choices. Waking up to the morning light and having to make the first ‘right’ choice, which is something as simple as making your bed: mindless, almost forgettable, but makes such a difference. Like the concept of regretting decisions made last night, it takes the smallest events to occur to alter everything you thought you knew and didn’t know.  

At times, this track sounds like a homage to her first viral single from “SOUR,” “drivers license.” Both songs capture a specific melancholy that is weaved through her most emotionally powerful pieces.  

It might sound illogical to say this, but “logical” was the flop track of this album. It’s a rite of passage for every album that has ever existed to have a ‘skip song.’ Art is subjective, though, so form your own opinion! 

“get him back!” and “love is embarrassing” retain most of the same themes as “bad idea right?” While “bad idea right?” seems more quizzical, almost like you’re debating whether it’s a good decision to make or not, the former two songs are more affirmative and aggressive. They’re anthems to shout at the top of your lungs in your car, a call to action for all unfortunate victims of incompetent men.  

“the grudge” is a passionate song, loaded with aged anger at someone who did you so dirty. The track is for the moments when you think you’ve moved on from something, but one day it all comes running back to you and it feels as though it never really went away. You try, but there will always be something slightly different between the person you were before and the person you are now. This song conveys anger more than the other tracks, in a way that feels hopeless.  

The title “pretty isn’t pretty” is a parallel to the phrase “lipstick on a pig.” In a sense, there is an image of ‘pretty’ that can be worked towards accomplishing, and an image of ‘pretty’ that transcends our control and hovers just above reach. As Rodrigo says, “I try to ignore it, but it’s everything I see.” Similar to “all-american bitch,” the song encapsulates what it feels like to be a girl, to put it simply.  

Finally, the outro song is truly the thesis of what “GUTS” is trying to convey. Unlike “SOUR,” “GUTS” feels slower, more mature, and more introspective in the way things have changed since the success of the debut album. Whilst “SOUR” was built on virality and exposure, “GUTS” takes more time to appreciate and understand life. “teenage dream” is reflective, confrontational, and nostalgic, but it’s also a collective echo of a shared female experience.  

The ending of the track, and the album, is a soundbite of Rodrigo playing with her producer Dan Nigro’s baby. You can hear her laughing and cooing as the baby responds. The graininess and context of the audio implies there is a light at the end of this doomed tunnel: ‘Do it for the baby you once were, the little girl who wanted to see you in your current state so badly. You made it here for a reason. Find out why.’ 

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