After one listen of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single, “Driver’s License,” I was left wondering who hurt this poor teenage girl. Not being too fond of Disney stars or High School Musical, I was pretty out of the loop when it came to Rodrigo’s music. Prior to its release, though, the song had already gained attraction online. Like many others, I only discovered the song after its widespread success and, by then, its melodic tragedy was already following us everywhere.
After her first number one Billboard debut, the hits just kept coming. With the release of her second song, “Deja Vu,” the world was officially captivated. Her newest song was catchy and more upbeat, taunting her ex, rather than pleading to him. It gave people more of a feel for Rodrigo—it let them know she wasn’t just some wounded, weepy ex-girlfriend, but rather a girl with a vendetta.
That’s the thing about Olivia Rodrigo. She is not just some random teenage girl singing sad songs about heartbreak and wanting her ex back. She is unhinged, bordering on being unstable. Her emotions are raw and dripping with contempt. They are so shockingly direct that many are surprised when they hear her targeted lyrics. As humans, we have these kinds of awful, unspoken emotions. But also, we fear being the target of these lyrics. Her music is honest and goes beyond what most mainstream songs are willing to say.
So with the release of her debut album, Sour, many were taken aback by her range of emotions and subjects.
Unhinged Heartbreak and Utter Insanity
I was initially hesitant to listen to Sour upon its release. As unpopular as this opinion is, I’m just not cut out for listening to the painful albums—Folklore, Stranger in the Alps, etc. My pain threshold is Melodrama. Quite honestly, I was scared to listen to Sour because I didn’t want to feel sad. A lot of people like to listen to an album so they can experience the full range of emotions, and I do too, but when it comes to sad albums, not so much.
However, I gave it a chance. From the first track, I was already feeling a wide array of emotions, and it surely didn’t include sadness. It was adrenaline and anger, mostly from the 2000s pop-punk sound and intense bass line. But also from the fact that she was expressing her emotions directly, rather than skirting around her true feelings with delicate metaphors and whispery notes. Rodrigo screams her contempt for her ex, asking if “this is the kind of thanks [she] gets” for trying her best. There is no self-blaming or shying away.
It’s essentially the “Good for Her” genre of film compiled into an album. Movies like Gone Girl, Jennifer’s Body and Midsommar captures these sentients, where the audience hopes the unhinged female protagonist gets the revenge she’s seeking for her male-mistreatment. Watching Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” music video, I was completely enthralled by her screaming-and-jumping meltdown. The whole time I was just thinking, “this is how teenage girls feel!” We are just a little irrational and entirely emotional, which is normally mocked, but not by Rodrigo. She is putting her borderline insanity on display as she watches the place go up in flames, gasoline can in-hand. While we don’t condone arson, I do admire her boldness.
She captures the feeling of not wanting to hold someone back from being happier, but not wanting them to be better off without you in “Happier.” If you ask anyone for an honest answer, of course they’d never want their ex to be happier without them, much less with another person. And it’s almost like people are afraid to be candid about that. Rodrigo captures the idea perfectly: “I want you to be happy, but don’t be happier.”
She shows that teenage emotions aren’t just defined by acting out and being irrational. As seen in her other tracks, such as “Traitor” and “Enough for You,” it’s the raw vulnerability too. She lets her ex know how bad he hurt her, describing her undying dedication and even loss of herself in him. Normally, this kind of heartbreak goes unseen and the heartbreaker gets to feel guiltless. And while most people find guilt trips to be toxic, it shouldn’t be a guilt trip at all. Expressing how someone made you feel and what they’ve done to you always so taboo, but Rodrigo isn’t letting her ex off the hook. Because how can someone have a true peace of mind when the other person is destroyed by their actions?
Sour‘s True Teenage Relatability
The reason why a lot of sad, teenage albums are not truly relatable is because they’re not written by teens. As much as Taylor Swift’s Folklore hit home for many and comforted them through the fall quarantine, it just simply wasn’t an authentic teenage perspective. Sure, it was from the perspective of teens and almost mirrored Rodrigo’s love triangle-esque story, it was a fictional point of view. Rodrigo’s album caters to teenagers, of course, but most importantly, it caters to her true emotions and experiences.
Of course the album was meant to reach others and comfort them, but she wrote the songs to cope with her own sadness and other ugly emotions. That is why it seems so accurate to the authentic experience of heartbreak—because she is going through the exact same thing you are going through at the same time. And more than that, she has opened the door to girls being able to express how they feel. With her seemingly unhinged album, she is showing that no matter how extreme your emotions may seem, or are, you deserve to get them out.
Because so many girls are left wondering if they did something wrong and why they weren’t enough for someone. And because you’re left with that empty, unanswered question in your head, you begin to change and try filling voids where there truly were never voids. Rodrigo is attempting to show that there are questions that you’ll never get the answer to, but that doesn’t mean you should take it out on yourself. You were enough for them, more than enough, but they will never be satisfied. And the comforting line, “I’ll be everything to someone else,” reaffirms you will one day feel you’re finally enough.
All of the questions and feelings that most people are afraid to speak openly about, to others and to their ex, are spoken by Olivia Rodrigo. She captures the full scope of teenage heartbreak, insanity and insecurity authentically, applying her own experiences to her songs. She tells people everywhere that it’s okay to feel jealous and angry; to be hurt and not have all the answers; to want the answers. But she does not want you blaming yourself. Instead, look to the future and yourself for worth, and most importantly, blame the boy.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a Hot Girl Summer album, Sour is definitely not it unless you plan on crying or committing arson all summer.
Featured image via Olivia Rodrigo on Instagram
Listen to Sour here: