Broken Hearts and Broken Records: Olivia Rodrigo Impresses With Her Debut Album, “SOUR”

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Fia Cooper

“SOUR” features 11 tracks and has a total play time of 35 minutes.

Olivia Galbraith, Editor

Following a triad of singles, two of which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 100 Chart, pop singer Olivia Rodrigo released her debut album “SOUR” on May 21.

Her singles, “drivers license,” “deja vu,” and “good 4 u,” were all very successful after their release, and the range of sound between those three songs had left me excited for the full album to drop — and while I wasn’t blown away, I was not disappointed with the album by any means, especially considering it is her debut.

“SOUR” starts with soft strings in its first track, “brutal,” that suddenly turn into electric guitars after you hear Rodrigo say “I want it to be like, messy,” in the background of the track. It’s definitely a moment of foreshadowing for the breakup songs to follow on the album.

“brutal” kicks off the album with quintessential teenage angst. Rodrigo sings about how frustrating it is to be a teenager and how brutal the world can be, down to minor inconveniences. “I’m not cool and I’m not smart / And I can’t even parallel park,” she sings.

After my first listen of “SOUR,” I thought “brutal” didn’t fit in with the rest of the tracks because it was one of the few upbeat songs, and it’s not the stereotypical breakup song that most of the other songs fit into. But, at the end of “brutal,” the pace slows back down and Rodrigo complains of her broken ego and broken heart, and that “I don’t even know where to start.”

From there, listeners dive into the rest of the album, where Rodrigo takes them on a rollercoaster of emotions, exploring the sour stages of a breakup. I liked how “brutal” sets up the album with Rodrigo simply being fed up with life for a moment, and then bracing listeners for the feelings to come.

“traitor” is track two on the album. Rodrigo sings of her failed relationship, where she feels betrayed by her ex, and her single “drivers license” follows. “drivers license” was extremely successful after its release on Jan. 8, accumulating over 76 million streams in one week — Saturday Night Live even wrote a skit featuring the song.

It’s clear that Rodrigo’s music draws from other artists, as track four— “1 step forward, 3 steps back” — even samples Taylor Swift’s “New Year’s Day.” Many of Rodrigo’s songs remind me of another, and while I still enjoyed all of them, there wasn’t a factor from her music that stood out above other pop artists — like how Swift’s lyricism sets her apart, for example.

The post-breakup theme of the album, however, is impressive, as she reaches a range of emotions in her songs while staying within the realm of relationships. The tone of her songs fluctuate from anger, to melancholy, to jealousy, to acceptance. There are some poetic lyrics, and there are also vocal moments where you can clearly hear the authenticity of her writing.

“traitor” exemplifies this, as you can hear the vulnerability in Rodrigo’s voice in the way she emphasizes certain phrases and harmonies. Track seven, “enough for you,” has similar moments.

“enough for you” is one of my favorite songs on “SOUR,” partly because of the way Rodrigo is able to balance strong and supported vocals with emotions. The soft guitar lets her voice shine, and her lyrics seem so personal. The song takes insecurity, disappointment, anger, and acceptance, and wraps it up in a little bow — not a very happy bow, though.

“happier” is next on the album, and it is another of my favorites. There’s something very familiar about the melody in “happier,” daresay comforting, but the lyrics are quite lonely. Rodrigo sings of wanting her ex to be happy in a new relationship, but her self-conscious and nostalgic mind doesn’t want them to be happier than they were with her.

Remember how I said that the album contained your stereotypical breakup songs? “happier” and “enough for you” are those. The ideas aren’t groundbreaking or invoking deep reflection — but that doesn’t change the fact that they are still good songs.

Track nine, “jealousy, jealousy,” isn’t like her other emotional songs where she sounds sad and lonely, but rather she — as you can probably guess — is jealous. Rather than focusing on herself and her past relationships, it can be assumed that this song is directed towards the ‘new girl.’ This song has grown on me since my first listen, because of how annoyed yet carefree Rodrigo sounds.

The album closes with “favorite crime” and “hope ur ok.” Both of these songs are slower paced, and to me, they seem to wrap up the album decently because of the way they display acceptance. The album started with angst, then waded through various stages of post-relationship emotions — loneliness, anger, jealousy — ending with a simple line: “I hope that you’re okay.”

Rodrigo, being only 18, has started off on a path of immense success. Her vocal talent is clear, and the emotional maturity that she displays in her debut album is impressive. Though “SOUR” wasn’t life changing by any means, Rodrigo holds a lot of potential and will only improve with time.

I recommend listening to this album in order to anyone who enjoys pop music, or is a fan of Taylor Swift, Conan Gray, Lorde, and other similar artists within the genre. The album as a whole flows well, and after listening to it once through, you will want to both applaud Rodrigo for her early success and give her a hug.