Sweet and “SOUR”

Olivia Rodrigo bursts into the music industry with her debut album.

Rodrigo with stickers plastered on her face and SOUR on her tongue.

Rodrigo with stickers plastered on her face and “SOUR” on her tongue.

Let it be known that Olivia Rodrigo is not new to the spotlight. Since the summer of 2016, she has been a Disney Channel darling; most recently, the success of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series guaranteed that she would not just be a washed up child actor in a few years. After the acclaim of the HSMTMTS original song “All I Want,” the answer to what Rodrigo would do next was simple. 

Rodrigo’s first single, “drivers license,” shattered every prediction and many records along the way. The track, which would serve as the lead single to SOUR, debuted at number one on the Hot 100 and spent eight consecutive weeks at the top. Beyond commercial success, the single was instantly credited as a classic and solidified the fact that Rodrigo would not be leaving the spotlight anytime soon. 

As the release date to SOUR drew nearer, Rodrigo captured the world’s attention. She pre-released two more singles: “deja vu” and “good 4 u.” She performed at the Brits. She kept quiet about the drama and speculation surrounding her music. Rodrigo effortlessly kept her Disney fans all while attracting a wider, now worldwide, audience.

Rodrigo driving in the music video for her debut single, “Driver’s License.” (Geffen Records)

The album opens with “brutal” and fifteen seconds of bliss- until Rodrigo declares, “I want it to be like messy!” Then, the song transcends into a loud pop rock declaration of exactly how she is feeling at the moment. She admits she’s insecure and plays into being exploited as a child. She states that she’s done with “seventeen” and questions where her “teenage dream” is- a genius allusion to the Katy Perry project by the same name. 

The opening track to SOUR lets you know what to expect from the album from the beginning- messy music from a confused teenage girl trying to survive the 21st century. The rest of the album is, quite frankly, also a mess. But this mess proves that beauty can be created from the ashes. Rodrigo captures the essence of youth in the modern age in a way that her pop predecessors never have. 

The album continues with more heartbreak, more rebellion and more angst. “jealousy, jealousy” reflects on the thin line of healthy social media use- one of the few tracks that take a drift away from the romantic themes on the project. It almost feels out of place in between the deeply emotional “happier” and “favorite crime.” Is it really an issue though?

Rodrigo posing for a Nylon Magazine cover story. (Nylon)

Like Rodrigo’s idol- Taylor Swift- she does not seem to care if the tracklisting makes sense or is in chronological order. Swift’s Red is often criticized for not being cohesive enough nor clean-cut enough, yet its legacy is filled with critical acclaim. Rodrigo follows this lead and does whatever she wants on this project, without remorse. 

Washed up Disney often stars complain of censoring and firewalls keeping them from success, notably the Jonas Brothers or Demi Lovato. But Rodrigo says the F-bomb freely and sings about important themes almost entirely erased from the station, cheating and LGBT issues. 

Rodrigo threw herself into the deep end, or as my older brother would say, “got too personal.” And to end the rollercoaster of highs and lows of the project, Rodrigo sends a message to people from her past, friends, and fans- “And I hope that you’re okay.” She is not all that sour after all, which leads the world to wonder what she will evolve into. SOUR is not a perfect album- but it is the perfect debut to Rodrigo’s quickly building empire.