If you like your teen angst mixed with nostalgic ballads, then Olivia Rodrigo is the latest Disney actor-turned-pop star for you. Candy-coated sadness reigns supreme on Rodrigo’s debut, SOUR.
Most people know the heart-crushing feeling of their first breakup in high school. You avoid the lunchroom so you don’t see your first love having a good time without you or, worse, with their new beau. You wonder why this stomach-sinking feeling won’t go away, and your whole world feels morose and empty. Rodrigo recreates the raw emotions and feelings you have while going through a breakup using emotionally drenched ballads with a few upbeat pop punk tracks interlaced throughout to amp up the energy.
Rodrigo’s background is one that is a little familiar with some of the most successful pop stars out there. With a background in acting on Disney Channel, 18-year-old Rodrigo starred in Bizaardvark as Paige Olvera, later going on to showcase her pipes on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. It was only a matter of time before she became a breakout star in the music industry, just like pop stars like Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus. Rodrigo had high anticipation for her debut due to two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the form of “Driver’s License” and “Good 4 U.”
“Brutal” features some heavy riffs and talk-singing rock vocals that sum up the insecurities of being 17 and a celebrity before you can even legally do anything. “I’m so insecure, I think/That I’ll die before I drink/And I’m so caught up in the news of who likes me and who hates you,” she says on the track. Highlighting the pressures a celebrity teen has to face when the spotlight is on them. “I’m so tired that I might quit my job, start a new life/And they’d all be so disappointed/‘Cause who am I if not exploited.”
The single “Good 4 U” features basic pop punk guitar riffs and is reminiscent of something you might hear echoing in a mall while shopping for your two for $10 packs of Claire’s earrings. This hint of nostalgia is refreshing for someone who remembers when pop punk was on top, and is great for Gen Z to connect with.
The most sentimental song on the album, “Hope Ur Ok,” goes into the lives of people she may have known that dealt with tragedies in life and her wondering how they are doing. Saccharine vocals flow over an acoustic guitar as she reminisces about her experiences. “My middle school friend grew up alone/She raised her brothers on her own/Her parents hated who she loved/She couldn’t wait to go to college/She was tired ’cause she was brought/Into a world where family was merely blood,” she sings solemnly.
Rodrigo is leading a new generation of Disney stars that are vocal about their overworked plight and pitfalls of being child stars. Where previous Disney stars waited deep into their adulthood to reveal the trials and tribulations as “Disney kids,” Rodrigo uses her artistry to be open about the pressures of growing up in the spotlight. SOUR is a solid debut for Rodrigo and showcases how she’s not afraid to be vulnerable while the light shines on her.
SOUR isn’t necessarily made for a jaded millennial who has already exhausted their options while swiping through Tinder. It is an album made for young love that didn’t quite work out, and Rodrigo does an excellent job at audibly recreating these moments of the tenderness of teenage romance. As she matures and experiences different types of love and life experiences, it will be interesting to see what her music progresses to.
Header image by Phoebe Nerem