I’m not going to lie to you guys: It’s been a tough few months for new music. I loved the first four songs on Boygenius’s latest album as much as the next extremely gay person, but the rest of the record kind of let me down. (Sacrilege? Perhaps, but I must speak my truth.) The new Reneé Rapp album goes hard, but not quite as hard as I wanted it to, especially compared to her debut EP, which I listened to an embarrassing number of times after its release. Going all the way back to December, even the new SZA album SOS didn’t quite match the perfection of CTRL, although, to be fair, what could?
All this is why, when I heard that teen queen of my heart Olivia Rodrigo would be releasing new music this month, I was kind of nervous; I held weirdly fond memories of driving up to the North Fork after a bad breakup with Sour on repeat, crying into my McDonald’s iced caramel macchiato and screaming along with Rodrigo as she lamented how quickly her ex had moved on. (“Maybe I’m too emotional, but your apathy is like a wound in salt”? God-tier songwriting.) Rodrigo so totally mastered the balance between sugar-sweet pop and—yes—sour, Hole-inspired, riot-grrrl-esque punk on her debut album, I wasn’t sure how her sophomore effort could possibly measure up.
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I should state straight-off that Guts, that sophomore effort in question, isn’t an attempt to remake Sour for a late-Biden-administration era, and thank God for that. There are plenty of scream-along hits, from “Bad Idea Right?” (a perfect ode to sleeping with your ex despite your friends’ exhortations not to) to “Vampire,” which you’ve probably already heard everywhere, and for good reason. The ballads work too, though, especially “Pretty Isn’t Pretty,” which shows off Rodrigo’s prodigious range. Guts is a decidedly more adult effort, one punctuated by swear words and a more developed sense of anger that speaks to Rodrigo’s growing up, and overall, it works extremely well.
I’m now 30 years old, which should probably render me too old to relate to Rodrigo’s music on such a deep and piercing level, but unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In my defence, is there any sentiment more familiar than the one espoused on the track “Love Is Embarrassing”? (“Just watch as I crucify myself for some weird, second-string loser who’s not worth mentioning”? Been there, babe.) There are songs on the album that I’m less than obsessed with, of course, but all in all, I’m thrilled to see Rodrigo back in such rare form—and even more thrilled to know that hitting my 30s and being in a serious relationship hasn’t excised the part of me that just wants to belt about all the losers I dated in my younger, single era. What can I say? Some things are eternal.
This article was first published on Vogue.com.