With three smash-hit singles under her belt, Olivia Rodrigo presents us her debut studio album, ‘SOUR‘. A collection of heartbreak, teenage misery and everything in between. It’s new, it’s fresh and it’s exactly what we need right now. What makes Rodrigo so captivating and endearing is the fact that she’s a product of the 2000s who grew up in the 2010s. She takes heartbreak and the teenage experience and sings it from a perspective we haven’t really heard from in mainstream music yet. She sings from the heart in a brutally honest manner and she goes about it in the most unapologetically angsty, teenage way. ‘SOUR‘ is a Gen-Z’s teenage diary, performed out loud.
The beauty of coming-of-age movies and albums which talk about the teenage experience is that no matter the time period they’re set in, chances are they’re going to be timeless. Teenagers will always more or less share the same experience. It’s why movies like ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ have such a timeless quality. Yes, the latter is not even ten years old yet but times change fast. The biggest change to hit society as a whole is social media which Rodrigo even tackles here with ‘jealousy, jealousy’. Rodrigo may be sour about this breakup but I would say she’s sick of the teen struggles. The brilliant opening track, ‘brutal’ details the burdens of growing up. The lyrics “And I’m so sick of 17 Where’s my fucking teenage dream? If someone tells me one more time “Enjoy your youth”, I’m gonna cry” is perhaps the most relatable lyric of all time. The matter of the fact is that teenagehood is rarely, RARELY ever as aesthetically pleasing and fun as these movies make it out to be. I only started experiencing key-teenage events at 18. It can be stressful, confusing and borderline miserable at times. You don’t really know who you are yet. You question everything about yourself and it’s only till you start entering your twenties that your childhood self and your teen self merge into what is essentially, you as an adult. The modern beauty of ‘SOUR‘ is that there isn’t a single uplifting song lyrically but the production varies. Just like a teenager’s emotions, ‘SOUR‘ has quiet, introspective moments with songs like ‘enough for you’ and ‘favourite crime’. However, it also has absolute bops like ‘brutal’, ‘jealousy, jealousy’ and ‘good 4 u’ which are still sad but you can’t help but bop along and I don’t know if there’s anything more Gen-Z than that.
Being completely honest, I had a slightly underwhelming initial listen. It happens more often than you’d think actually. In fact, I had a pretty mediocre reaction to all three singles but the more I listened to them, the better they got. It’s how I would describe the entire album, I’ve made every single song my top song and it hasn’t even been two weeks. My initial reaction to the album changed so drastically that I couldn’t do justice to the album if I wrote this a week ago. The notes I wrote then don’t even hold up anymore. The only constant for me has been the fact that ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ is what I consider to be my first ever “skip”. I have listened to a fair amount of albums but this is the one song I will always skip. From the musical placement to the fact that it’s the weakest musically and lyrically, I genuinely don’t care for this one. The interpolation of Taylor Swift’s ‘New Year’s Day’ actually hurt the song more than it helped it. It doesn’t sound that compelling melodically which was made up for in the original song with Swift’s descriptive lyrics. Rodrigo’s writing here is decent but considering the rest of the album, it’s arguably below the standard she’s set for herself. The rest of the album is miles better.
The seventh track, ‘enough for you’ was a grower and it’s now a favourite. Even in my initial reaction, I noted how the stripped-back production gave way to what is essentially, a performance. If there’s one constant throughout the album it’s that Rodrigo sings from the heart. You feel every ounce of emotion she pours into each song. ‘Enough for you’ is the best example of that. The iconic ‘driver’s license’ holds up immensely well and remains one of my favourites. The build-up to the chorus and the bridge gets me every single time. It’s overplayed for a reason! ‘traitor’, ‘happier’ and ‘favourite crime’ are constantly competing for my personal favourite. It honestly depends on the moment which is incredibly rare for me to say. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about an album before, I usually have a solid pick that I stick to but that’s not the case here. With the exception of track four, the album flows incredibly well. I also love how manic the album sounds. It emulates that teen headspace. It can be angry and bitter at times but then there are moments of self-doubt and insecurity. It genuinely feels like a collection of thoughts like pages ripped straight from a diary.
Melodically, ‘SOUR‘ doesn’t feel like Rodrigo has necessarily found her sound yet. Because the album feels so manic, you don’t really associate a certain genre or sound with her. It breaks the mould of what a debut album should sound like and I think that’s why people have embraced it so much. It’s insane that she has delivered something of this quality in less than a year of her singing career. Her inevitable growth alone makes her one of the most exciting artists at the moment. There is room to grow of course. The only Taylor comparison I will make is that this album actually feels like a darker, sadder version of ‘Fearless‘ even though it stands completely on its own in comparison. I’d say ‘SOUR‘ feels more inspired by her fellow Swiftie, Conan Gray than anyone else. From the album structure to the songwriting and especially down to the closing track. It reminded me a ton of Gray’s first album ‘Kid Krow’ which was my favourite album of 2020. They’re incredibly similar at times but there is enough of a difference in the production and the songwriting to make both of them stand as a different body of work. I cannot wait to get the ‘SOUR‘ vinyl to put next to my ‘Kid Krow’ one!
Overall Olivia Rodrigo busts through the music scene with an impressive debut album with ‘SOUR‘. The talent showcased here is nothing short of impressive and inspiring. Her ability to capture the multitude of feelings centred around heartbreak is genuinely scary as I’ve never been in a relationship but I felt every single word she sang. This is an album that gets better with each listen and I’m reluctant to say that I’ve listened to it at least twice a day since its release. It’s honestly concerning at this point. Every song has a special quality whether it’s the songwriting, melody or Rodrigo’s refreshing vocals. There may be room to grow but make no mistake, this debut album is fantastic and Rodrigo is here to stay.
Also, I’ve been dying to rank the songs because I’m curious myself to see how much it’s going to change! There are so many great songs that even if they’re at the bottom, they’re still fantastic like I would put all ten songs at number 1 if I could. Drop your ranking below!
RANKING OF SONGS:
1. favourite crime
3. deja vu
4. driver’s license
6. enough for you
8. good 4 u
9. jealousy, jealousy
10. hope ur ok
11. 1 step forward, 3 steps back
Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, ‘SOUR‘ is now available for streaming and purchase!