If you or someone you know has ever braved the experience of listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album GUTS through the lens of having once been a 19-year-old girl, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Or, if not actual monetary reparations, you can at least be paid in the validating thrill of knowing that you aren’t alone. GUTS has been in the world for all of 12 hours, and the fans who eagerly anticipated the singer’s updated guide to their own feelings are now weathering the very storm of emotional chaos and melodrama she brought to the surface.
“Unsure how people thought that GUTS was going to be happier than SOUR bc Olivia wrote this album while being a 19 year old girl and I’m pretty sure that year has never been a good time for any girl ever,” Annie Wu wrote on Twitter. The pain of the first heartbreak that colored Rodrigo’s debut album created a whimsical sense of nostalgia for many listeners. There was the love that didn’t last and the affection that wasn’t enough. But as much as that pain ached and lingered, it would almost always be preferred to the emotional torment that inspired GUTS.
“SOUR was sad in a ‘heartbroken teen girl crying over her ex’ way but guts is even sadder in a ‘angsty & depressed teen girl who had to grow up too fast in a world that she feels like she can’t ever fit into’ way,” a Rodrigo fan named Sage wrote on Twitter. “I just love that Olivia captures both sides of girlhood so well.”
Midway through the album, Rodrigo delivers a piano ballad titled “Logical” that calls to mind the betrayal of “Traitor” on SOUR. Only this time, it’s fueled by the anger left in the wake of a man with a masters degree in male manipulation. “Argument you held over my head/Brought up the girls you could have instead,” she sings on the bridge. “Said I was too young, I was too soft/Can’t take a joke, can’t get you off/Oh, why do I do this?”
It’s a good question that she doesn’t necessarily have the answer to yet, but her fans have similarly unanswerable queries. On Twitter, a fan named Ellie asked: “Why does every 19-year-old girl go through the most gut wrenching, earth shattering, world collapsing, emotionally damaging, heartbreak? Why is this a collective universal experience?”
Across GUTS, Rodrigo delves not just into the moments in which her naivety and willingness to place her heart in the line of fire has left her scorned and deflated but also into the self-doubt and insecurities that are left in the aftermath for years — even after 19 passes.
“As someone who grew up being told that envy is something horrid and was convinced I’m bad for feeling it, it’s kind of liberating and validating how openly Olivia talks about her insecurities, envy, and jealousy in her songs,” another fan, Abi, wrote. “Envy is just an indication that there’s a gap between you and someone that you wish so desperately to fill. You’re not a monster for having emotions. They’re functional. They’re telling you something.”
With GUTS, Rodrigo is telling both herself and her audience that it’s fine to be all of the complex versions of who you are when the idealized Pinterest-board dream doesn’t line with the reality — or when what everyone else sees isn’t a true reflection of what you feel and know to be true. “Olivia Rodrigo just makes such honest music for being a girl like just unabashedly upset and angry and hurt and broken and just doesn’t shy away from any of those feelings no matter how messy and “bad” they are,” a fan named Heather shared.
Rodrigo’s “Teenage Dream” isn’t like Katy Perry’s skin-tight fantasy. It’s uncertain and finds more anxiety and dread in the future than in the rearview. “I’ll blow out the candles, happy birthday to me/Got your whole life ahead of you, you’re only nineteen,” she sings. “But I fear that they already got all the best parts of me/And I’m sorry that I couldn’t always be your teenage dream.” At 20 years old, her teenage years have technically passed, but she hasn’t become the spokesperson for 20-something-year-old teenage girls for nothing.
“I wish I had Olivia Rodrigo’s music when I was a teenager but as someone in their mid twenties now I am living through it all again. She has me feeling like an angsty teenager again,” another fan wrote. Even years beyond the age at which their experiences paralleled with Rodrigo’s, many fans are only now gaining the musical vocabulary and soundtrack to describe and make sense of that time however many years later. “This new Olivia Rodrigo album has emotions stirring up about things I could not possibly care less about now lmao,” Gianna Monique wrote on Twitter.
Like SOUR, the outpouring of self-reflection on GUTS reveals details that might have been missed in the past, likely covered in the haze of thinking you know everything when you’re young and every experience you have is crucial. But Rodrigo doesn’t linger there, or presume she has it all figured out and can therefore lead as a master of the neverending coming-of-age experience. “I just remember thinking, ‘I’m so precocious, I know what I’m doing, I got all this under control, I’m so mature,’” Rodrigo recently told the Guardian. “And the older I get, the more I realize that I know very little.”
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