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I Hate His GUTS and I Want to Get Him Back

An exploration of girlhood in Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album

There’s something special about Olivia Rodrigo’s first album that I’ll never forget. SOUR (2021) was, just as its name indicates, filled with songs that express raw, abrasive emotion. A scathing story of heartbreak and betrayal, SOUR shows us how it feels to be stabbed in the back and completely disregarded. An album worthy of a follow up act, many listeners were left wondering: what will she do next? A month ago Rodrigo dropped a brand-new album: GUTS (2023). In this album, Rodrigo takes that sour feeling a step further. If she held back at all in SOUR, she definitely didn’t hold back this time; Rodrigoabsolutely spills her guts. While SOUR serves as the initial album designed to lift you up when you’re feeling down, GUTS is the sequel that supports you as you pick yourself back up.

The media is currently riding a “girlhood” wave. In the film industry, the resurgence of female-led cult-classics  like The Virgin Suicides (1999) and the release of stories like The Barbie Movie (2023) and Bottoms (2023), have catapulted the girl experience to the forefront of everyone’s mind. And with the rise of trends on TikTok like “girl dinner” and “girl math,” it seems like girls are having their moment in the spotlight. 

Before the height of this girlhood craze, Olivia Rodrigo emerged with SOUR, a perfect album with all the right words that nailed how it feels to be a girl being absolutely dragged by life. Pain, heartbreak, and jealousy – all themes central to Rodrigo’s first album – are intrinsic aspects of girlhood. With SOUR, Olivia Rodrigo completely aligned her artistic identity with the girl experience. Not only was “Drivers License” incredibly popular commercially – it became a staple in many girls’ lives by so accurately defining the era that they grew up in. 

“I wanna key his car, I wanna make him lunch / I wanna break his heart, stitch it right back up” Olivia Rodrigo, “get him back!GUTS

GUTS has been adored by Rodrigo’s loyal fanbase, and it has had similar success as SOUR. In her first album, Olivia Rodrigo established herself as the kind of singer who voiced our most secret emotions (think Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”). She honed in on feelings we’ve all felt when we were younger, stupider, and more susceptible to fall for the kinds of guys that play Billy Joel. SOUR validated us. It gave our most raw, yearning emotions a place to call home. GUTS is different; not in the sense that it doesn’t concern very similar feelings, but it approaches them with less delicacy. In SOUR, Rodrigo (and us too) were the victims. Things were happening to us, and we had no control. In GUTS, Rodrigo steps out as a perpetrator. She isn’t just affected by things that happen to her; she’s the cause. 

“Seeing you tonight / it’s a bad idea, right?… I only see him as a friend / the biggest lie I ever said… I just tripped and fell into his bed”  – Olivia Rodrigo, “bad idea right?GUTS

Songs like “bad idea right?” are so electric because Rodrigo firmly plants herself as someone who’s doing the wrong thing, and for the wrong reasons. In this song, her lyrics speak so clearly about the battle between delusion and reality – a struggle so many young people face. Even though she knows it’s a bad idea she goes for it anyway. “Bad idea right?”  plays with the idea of having two conflicting selves, a theme that runs rampant throughout the rest of GUTS. 

One of the most distinctive aspects of an Olivia Rodrigo song is the contrasting elements of punk rock and very calm acoustic guitar. This kind of dichotomy was present in SOUR, mainly serving to illustrate Rodrigo’s escalating emotions about a particular situation. However, in GUTS this kind of musical contrast also occurs when Rodrigo is showing a different side of herself. Typically, Rodrigo employs her rock style to signal her frustration, while the acoustic guitar signifies her vulnerable moments. This sort of switch-up usually slowly emerges from something that was previously hidden in the slower, more emotion-ridden parts of the song. The first song of GUTS, “all-american bitch” is a perfect example. The entire song alternates between acoustic and Paramore-esque rock guitar, but at the very end it resolves to an unplugged, acoustic sound that’s even smoother than the beginning. 

“I don’t get angry when I’m pissed / I’m the eternal optimist / I scream inside to deal with it like, ‘ah!’”  – Olivia Rodrigo, “all-american b*tchGUTS

Here, Olivia Rodrigo claims her identity as an “all-american b*tch,” but acknowledges that sometimes it’s stifling. In the acoustic sections, she sings about the sweeter, frillier parts of girlhood, but reveals some of her frustration with the label when the tempo changes. In a viral trend on TikTok, people would twitch their eyes or show aggression at the lyric “grateful” in “all-american b*tch” to show the effort required for girls to always be saving face. Rodrigo perfectly encapsulates the stress of being forced into the box of the “eternal optimist,” regardless of how she really feels. 

“I’m grateful all the time (all the f*cking time) / I’m sexy and I’m kind / I’m pretty when I cry” – Olivia Rodrigo, “all-american b*tchGUTS

GUTS shows the parts of girlhood that aren’t just about innocent heartbreak. Rodrigo presents herself as a confused, mistake-prone young adult. She’s still able to tap into certain aspects of SOUR when she discusses her insecurities and anxieties in songs like “lacy” or “ballad of a homeschooled girl”, but by embracing more obscure sides of herself, Rodrigo shows her growth as an artist. She can be the innocent girl to whom terrible things happen, but she can also be the girl who does things that she knows are bad for her. She can enjoy the simple pleasures of girlhood, but also experience complex emotions including, and even especially, rage. 

With GUTS, Olivia Rodrigo pushes the idea of duality within girlhood by showing how it really feels to grow up as a young woman amid conflicting mindsets. With girlhood’s potency in the media right now, it’s very easy for people to simplify such an experience, when in fact it’s anything but. Rodrigo discusses her lived experiences  in a way that reminds us all that girlhood is complex – it isn’t a monolith, and there’s no single right way to be a girl.