Two albums in two to three years. When I think of this idea, artists such as Alicia Keys and Kanye West come to mind. Olivia Rodrigo made her Grammys splash just like these legendary artists. Following a few listens of her latest offering, I wouldn’t place her alongside them per se. However, she’s not too far off, in my opinion. As an artist progresses their sound and grows as a person, the truly special ones come into their own faster than most. Her sophomore effort GUTS sees Rodrigo advancing her debut’s tone and improving upon it. That’s how she relates to giants like Keys and West. A self-aware approach goes a long way. She’s still not over it. She’s still a little sour about things. So, if that is indeed her truth, then why not explore it further? If it ain’t broke… You know the rest.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Artists around the world beat the dead horse of their signature sounds each and every year. Yet on GUTS, Olivia reinvigorates previously discussed topics. By injecting fresh angles of thought and revealing re-opened wounds so to speak, she breathes new life into her material. Vocal moments like “vampire” and “pretty isn’t pretty” give this pop-punk endeavor its savory sheen. She glides along each track whether belting or essentially rapping. An effortlessness not only exists but rather shines within this digestible two-thirds of an hour. Here honesty reigns supreme. A refreshing realization to say the least. Olivia’s pen, despite being stuck in the past, exceeds the hype and pushes her artistry clearly forward. While an obvious Swift descendant, GUTS separates the two for good. For my money, Rodrigo blends genres and experiments with much keener taste. Remember: Just my opinion.
As far as notes go, I have two primary criticisms. Around the midpoint of the album the tracklist begins to jolt back and forth stylistically. Somber piano chords and pop-punk confetti gun-like tracks aren’t an overt pairing. Ms. Rodrigo certainly strikes a healthy balance between the two. Yet with a more meticulous sequence, as well as a more memorable production choice for the “making the bed” lyrics, I believe GUTS could have been a near-perfect pop experience. In spite of minute gripes, here Olivia pours forth her creative prowess in brilliant fashion. Seldom do teen stars display this level of poise. Honestly, I wasn’t completely sold on her at first. Nevertheless with time I have come to see Olivia Rodrigo as one’s today’s sharpest musical minds. I simply hope whoever brought her pain finds their way out of her thoughts.