Saturday, May 29, 2021

Olivia Rodrigo: Gen Z’s Newest Superstar?

Every generation has its own essential breakup artist. In the 90’s it was Alanis Morrissette, in the 00’s it was Kelly Clarkson, and the 10’s had Taylor Swift. In 2021 it looks like we have Olivia Rodrigo, who has reinvented the break-up genre with her debut album ‘SOUR’.

You cannot discuss this album without mentioning the lead single and the sound of lockdown for many people, the song in question being the Tiktok sensation that is ‘drivers license’ which launched Rodrigo into stardom overnight. The song itself is a superb piece on reminiscing over a teenage romance that would make even the likes of Lorde jealous.

The sincereness and young naivety of Rodrigo is what really sells the song and avoids the pitfalls of sounding like the Disney manufactured pop song that it could have easily been written off as. 

deja vu’ follows this formula to a tee and might even be better than 'Drivers License'. Releasing a follow up to the biggest song on the planet is a difficult task for even the most seasoned of songwriters, but Rodrigo does it with a confidence and swagger that writes away any doubts of her being a one-hit-wonder with a stunning ballad on comparing herself with an ex’s new partner. With her sarcastic laughs and Billy Joel references, ‘deja vu’ is a funnier, stronger progression from the previous track. Gone is the girl mourning the loss of a relationship and in her place is a woman sneering at her ex for reusing everything he did before. 

The latest single is a side of Rodrigo we haven’t seen before, with her rock sensibilities shining through. ‘good 4 u’ is pure pop-punk right down to the heavy guitar riff and thumping drums. This is Rodrigo at her best, the heir to Hayley Williams’ throne, making videos with ‘Jennifer’s Body’ references and setting a room on fire with a smile.

It’s not a one-off either with ‘brutal’ and ‘jealousy, jealousy’ both being angsty rock anthems, ‘brutal’ especially with lines like “I’ll die before I drink” and “I’m so sick of seventeen, where’s my f****** teenage dream” which wouldn’t look out of place on tracks by some of rock’s heavyweights. 

SOUR’ started its life as an EP and was only extended to an album post-'Drivers License', which does show in the second half of the album with songs like ‘happier’, ‘enough for you’ and ‘favorite crime’ getting lost in the album and sounding like filler.

This is unfortunate as with some streamlining we could’ve had an album of the year contender, but with the second half of the album being almost exclusively comprised of forgettable acoustic ballads, the first half somewhat loses its shine.

That’s not to say all the acoustic ballads are poor with ‘traitor’ and the Taylor Swift interpolation ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ both being excellent pieces of songwriting that will no doubt be finding their lyrics being written in teenager’s diaries around the world. Overall, this is a very strong debut from Olivia Rodrigo who could very well be following in Billie Eilish’s footsteps as the poster child for Gen Z, with an album that is definitely more sweet than sour.

Dominic Asher

Twitter: @domasher99

Instagram: dom.asher

Image: SOUR Official Album Artwork

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