BY MARIANA GARRICK
Anything sour has the tendency to make your face scrunch up in distaste, but Olivia Rodrigo’s album, Sour, couldn’t be further from that. The only thing that Rodrigo hints at being sour was her relationship, which she talked about in her chart-topping hit single “Drivers License.” The 18-year-old Disney star’s debut album is full of break-up anthems, coming of age struggles and heart-wrenching tales of what it feels like to fall out of love.
Rodrigo first made headlines with her start in Disney Channel’s television show Bizaardvark. The then 12-year-old sang the show’s theme song and appeared in several episodes. She was later cast in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” on Disney+, a show based on the popular 2006 movie that originally starred Zac Efron as Troy Bolton and Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez. In HSMTMTS, Rodrigo was cast as Montez in the show’s play, then co-wrote and sang “All I Want,” a longing and hopeful love song. The song became popular and started a trend on the Tik Tok app, gaining Rodrigo social media popularity.
In January, the rising star teased snippets of “Drivers License” on her Instagram page, a song about her being excited to receive her license while also feeling the pain of not being able to share the experience with the boy she loved. The “Drivers License” release resulted in overnight fame for the Disney star. It debuted as the number one song in the world on Billboard’s Global 200 and broke the record for Spotify’s most streamed song in one week.
“Drivers License” topped the charts for a few reasons: the heartbreakingly honest lyrics (“I know we weren’t perfect but I’ve never felt this way for no one // And I just can’t imagine how you could be so okay now that I’m gone”), her powerful voice, and the overall drama surrounding the song. The song and album are allegedly rumored to be about her HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Bassett, who was cast as Bolton in the show’s rendition of the musical. Few songs also suggested that Rodrigo allegedly pointed fingers at another Disney star, Sabrina Carpenter (“You’re probably with that blonde girl // Who always made me doubt”). The once private love triangle involving the Disney stars became public and boosted the song’s popularity.
With the publicity and attention that made “Drivers License” soar, Sour was destined to be a success as well. Rodrigo’s ability to connect with people of all ages about the anger, sadness and acceptance that are included with heartbreak allowed her to express her feelings to people that understood her. The 18-year-old’s album is a mix of Taylor Swift’s vulnerability, Billie Eilish’s melancholy voice, Avril Lavigne’s punk tone and Paramore’s Hayley Williams’ angst. “Good 4 U,” another fan favorite from the album, has been compared to Williams’ song “Misery Business” because of its prominent electric guitar and pop-punk/rock sound. Its punk tempo proved just how versatile an artist Rodrigo truly can be, so don’t expect the Disney star to conform to any pop stereotypes. Released as the album’s third-single, it immediately became Rodrigo’s second number one hit on Billboard’s Hot 100.
The album starts off with Rodrigo saying, “I want it to be, like, messy” in the album’s opening track, “Brutal.” The first line highlights the vision for her album and the rest of the lyrics describe how brutal it was being a 17-year-old girl (“They say these are the golden years // But I wish I could disappear // Ego crush is so severe // God, it’s brutal out here.”) The next song, “Traitor,” details how her ex-boyfriend moved onto a new relationship two weeks after they broke up (“It took you two weeks to go off and date her // Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor”). Rodrigo reveals how she understands why he moved on so quickly, while acknowledging how wrong his actions were. The ballad’s melody and raw lyrics could have easily made it onto Swift’s 2010 Speak Now album, which Rodrigo once said is one of her personal favorites from the pop-country star. “Enough For You” is another song that can possibly remind listeners of Swift’s song, “Safe and Sound” with the soft, melancholy tune and acoustic guitar.
On “Deja Vu,” Rodrigo nails the agonizing feeling of seeing her ex-partner move onto someone new— all while he does the same exact things he once did with her with someone else (“When you gonna tell her that we did that too ?”). She uses dramatic pauses to get her point across, especially when she realizes that her experience maybe wasn’t as unique as she thought it was (“Everything is all reused”).
Closer to the ending of the 11-track album, “Jealousy, Jealousy” describes the never-ending comparison she faces as a teenager surrounded by social media (“I kinda wanna throw my phone across the room // ‘Cause all I see are girls too good to be true // With paper-white teeth and perfect bodies // Wish I didn’t care”). Rodrigo understands that their beauty is not her lack, but it feels that way and the comparison is slowly killing her. The next track that has taken Tik Tok by storm is “Favorite Crime.” With lyrics describing how she felt used, many listeners felt her pain. Users on the popular app began posting videos and pictures of their ex-partners with Rodrigo’s song playing in the background. The lyrics, “Know that I loved you so bad // I let you treat me like that” and “The things I did // Just so I could call you mine” have people reminiscing on their past relationships and how hopelessly
(and blindly) in love they were.
The album closes with “Hope Ur OK,” a compassionate message to her past friendships and relationships that have changed her. She wishes them the best and hopes they’re doing OK in life. Through all of the hurt they may have experienced, she explains that she’s proud of them for moving on, and she will always love them. The song signifies the final stage of grief: acceptance.
Throughout Sour, we witness Rodrigo’s pain, anger, grief and acceptance of the ending of a relationship. Her hypnotizing harmonies and soprano notes complete the album, and show the depth of hurt she’s endured. The 18-year-old’s lyrics are so simple, yet powerful enough that anyone can relate to it. The artist’s debut-album has broken many records worldwide since its May 21 release, and it’s clear this transparent album may have made her into a household name.