Olivia Rodrigo is back with a smashing sophomore album that dares to defy previous misconceptions about her artistry and talent as one of pop’s brightest acts.

With GUTS, she dabbles towards an energetic pop-punk sound that she’s completely embraced as her own––which in itself is a far cry from the more somber ballads presented on her critically acclaimed debut, Sour, playing around with new sonic elements. Along with that versatility comes a (righteous) sense of anger towards the hardships of growing up and finding her place in this world, and Rodrigo is unashamed to show it––no matter what anyone has to say about it.

If Sour captured the bittersweet moments of our youth, Rodrigo channels a more jaded perspective on the process of growing up in GUTS — because there’s an abundance of changes that she has the complete right to be angry about.

1. all-american bitch

And that’s exactly what’s tackled head-on in “all-american bitch.” The lyrics are laden with a sense of repressed rage, featuring the pop star challenging society’s expectations that women in her position hold. So, how exactly does she deal with it? By screaming her guts out on a cathartic bridge, surrounded by rocking guitar riffs that perfectly channel the inner demons eating her up. 

2. bad idea right?

Speaking of inner demons, sometimes we realize that we have no one else to blame but ourselves. Rodrigo herself is aware of this, particularly as she seeks reassurance from her listeners in “bad idea right?” The second single to come out of GUTS embodies the universal experience that many of us know all too well — ignoring that gut feeling when something is so wrong.

Whether it’s about a toxic ex we’re constantly drawn to, or a bad habit that we’re having a tough time quitting, Rodrigo perfectly conveys the inner struggle of giving in to our impulses in this cheeky, yet self-aware track. Playfully backed by a strutting bass line that expresses the chaotic energy racing through Rodrigo’s mind all throughout, it’s a strong pop-punk track that plays well upon repeat listens.

3. vampire

In “vampire”, we hear Rodrigo’s strong vocals narrating a tumultuous relationship with an older male figure, building it up with anecdotes of wry sarcasm that take jabs at her former lover. Though the lyrics are specific to what she’s been through, how Rodrigo captivates her listeners makes this part of our lives as well––eliciting the same kind of relief she now feels following this relationship.

4. lacy

Things take a softer turn in “lacy”, which slows things down by picking directly into Rodrigo’s insecurities. Despite simpler production, the song goes deeper into some of the themes established in Sour’s “jealousy, jealousy”. It delves further into the internal debate in our heads that questions: Is this envy or is this infatuation?

5. ballad of a homeschooled girl

“ballad of a homeschooled girl” switches things up to a booming garage-punk anthem that rants about the teenage experience. Whether it’s laughing at the wrong time, calling someone the wrong name, or being left out of an inside joke, all of of our embarrassing moments, mistakes, and worries are perfectly encapsulated in this stirring track that brings back a ton of anxiety-inducing memories to many of us listening. With such vivid imagery presented here, it also demonstrates Rodrigo’s songwriting prowess as an effective form of storytelling. 

6. making the bed

Of all the tracks presented in GUTS, it seems as if her songwriting has never been better than in “making the bed”. The song may be one of the most solemn compositions that she’s done in her career, going head-on with the repercussions of the decisions we make growing up. In Rodrigo’s case, she recounts a lost sense of normalcy thanks to the gilded cage of fame she’s been imprisoned in.

It’s a track that cuts more profoundly than it should and is as heavy as it sounds, but Rodrigo’s openness to the topic shows that this isn’t a burden we have to carry on our own. Just the same, it’s her words that apply to a larger audience like ourselves in validating that perhaps it’s okay to feel this way.

7. logical

“logical” is a poignant entry that initially seems like a track from the Sour archives. Like the sappiness of what we’ve heard from Sour‘s “traitor” or “happier“, it’s a ballad that plays straight from the (broken) heart of her own experiences, yet leaves little room for imagination or interpretation.

Though it shares many similarities with Rodrigo’s softer numbers, it’s still a notable improvement compared to its predecessors with its exploration of love’s many complexities. But even if it’s better this time around, the song still veers toward the pitfalls of Sour’s lows.

8. get him back!

“get him back!” is another standout off the album, with its frenetic energy capturing the mix of desire and disgust at the thought of a former lover. Sonically, Rodrigo meshes the elements that made acts like Avril Lavigne and Weezer connect with a varied audience. The title itself is already such a clever play on words with its double-entendre meaning, so what more can we ask from a song that’s as fun as this?

9. love is embarrassing

“love is embarrassing” dabbles upon a sense of angst with embarrassment. It isn’t one of the strongest (in the lyrical sense) nor most memorable tracks off of GUTS, but its energetic hooks make it a fun theme song for those who are moving on. Although a longer runtime could have fleshed out its potential, it sticks the landing as best as it can for a song under 3 minutes. 

10. the grudge

Back to another ballad, “the grudge” heads back in the somber direction that ruminates from Rodrigo’s self-loathing following a breakup. Though lyrically competent in capturing the bitterness and contempt we might hold for an ex, it’s nothing special in comparison to the highest points of the album.

11. pretty isn’t pretty

As the penultimate track, “pretty isn’t pretty” slows things down with a rousing examination of self-love and the physical expectations that women have to meet. Rodrigo’s heartfelt points regarding the ever-changing ideals of beauty that society imposes resonate well with all sorts of listeners, making this song as effective as it is moving.

12. teenage dream

“teenage dream”, may share the same name as Katy Perry’s hit song, yet the two songs couldn’t be any more different. Instead of Perry’s upbeat reflection on her carefree youth, Rodrigo’s take is the exact opposite––talking about the loss of innocence in an industry that takes so much from her. The crashing drums and contemplative lyrics in the track’s last-minute emphasize an uncertain future, making it a fantastic finale that rounds up Rodrigo’s entire career so far.

A Graduation from Sour

With GUTS, Olivia Rodrigo has only managed to improve upon what she’s accomplished with her debut record. It’s a graduation from Sour in all the best of ways, bigger and better in terms of artistry while also showing Rodrigo with a clear and dedicated vision as she heads into the early years of adulthood. 

As she bodes farewell to the teenage experience, the audience partakes in this journey with her — taking steps both forward and backward to make peace with the things we never allowed ourselves to say, do, or feel as we grew up. Yet thanks to her, we’re given this avenue to address the unresolved aspects of our youth, healing the inner teen that (still) lives inside of us.

Overall, Rodrigo has only managed to prove time and time again that she’s a phenomenal talent worth keeping an eye on. And with what GUTS has shown us, she’s definitely here to stay in the industry.

Focus Tracks: “get him back!”, “vampire”, “making the bed”, “bad idea right?”

Listen to Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS below: