Gentle guitar plucks and sweet, lilting harmonies usher in the first track of Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album, GUTS. It’s an unremarkable start to such a highly anticipated album, especially following her record-breaking and Grammy-snagging debut, SOUR. But right at the first chorus of “all-american bitch,” the drums kick in, and the song shifts into frenzied rock. Rodrigo rages against society’s expectations of female perfection, ultimately crescendoing into high-pitched screams in the bridge.
Her first track’s abrupt transition from ballad to banger foreshadows the record’s trajectory. Throughout the album, Rodrigo alternates between slow-paced, “drivers license”-esque tunes and drum-heavy, pop-rock anthems, prioritizing the latter.
One of the album’s standouts is the singer’s newest single, “get him back!” in which she details her paradoxical, love-hate relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Rodrigo affects a disinterested tone while dissecting her former flame’s every flaw, from his infidelity to his tendency to throw money at their problems. The song leans into both meanings of the titular phrase, using lines such as “I wanna break his heart / then be the one to stitch it up” to reveal Rodrigo’s dueling desires for revenge and reconciliation.
Another highlight is “ballad of a homeschooled girl,” the singer’s ode to social anxiety. Rodrigo recounts her past gaffes in excruciating detail over drums and synths befitting a 2000s teen rom-com soundtrack. She even quotes perhaps the most iconic teen flic, Mean Girls, labeling her drunken clumsiness and ill-timed jokes as “social suicide.”
In “pretty isn’t pretty,” Rodrigo provides a scathing critique of impossible beauty standards. In “lacy,” she transitions to a story of toxic female friendship with sapphic undertones, which some theorize confirms an alleged feud with Taylor Swift.
The most poignant track is the album’s sweeping closer, “teenage dream.” The song provides a response to SOUR’s opener, “brutal,” in which the then-17-year-old Rodrigo asks, “Where’s my fucking teenage dream?” Now, an older and wiser version of Rodrigo grapples with the classic wunderkind’s fear of never living up to one’s potential. She shouldn’t worry, though—with its clever lyricism and unique meshing of genres, GUTS blows its predecessor out of the park.