Now, I can’t be certain. But I think Olivia Rodrigo might have been dumped.
For her debut LP, ‘Sour’, the 18-year-old High School Musical alumni, has created a break-up album to soundtrack teenage tears the world over. And, we suspect, the wizened sob of the odd geriatric millennial, too. Hell, even Kim Kardashian blasted Rodrigo on her Insta stories, the week she filed for divorce from Kanye West.
First came ‘Drivers License’ – the global, record-breaking smash single, that perfectly juxtaposed the joy of getting a big green tick from Dave at the DVLA against the crushing heartbreak of your first love choosing “that blonde girl”, instead of you. Two coming-of-age milestones, woven together. It was incredibly smart.
Then it was time for ‘Deja Vu’ – a snarky track that addressed that bit of a break-up spent imagining the aforementioned “blonde girl” living the life you should be living – a callous reminder to her, that you were there before. Fans bought into the narrative around Rodrigo’s IRL split with co-star Joshua Bassett, the perfect Disney love triangle, this second single only adding fuel to the fire.
And then – oh, then – came ‘good 4 u’, the sound of Rodrigo’s rage phase, featuring incredulity at the speed at which her ex moved on! Fury at the damn cheek of it! And a belting pop-punk chorus and pyro-laden video that again, hit the perfect note.
Outside of the singles, the tone is unrelenting. ‘Traitor’, again bashes her ex for classic, teenage-boy fuckery. ‘Jealousy Jealousy’, details Rodrigo’s feelings about his new beau. ‘Happier’, her desire to wish him well, just not too well. It all gets a hard relate.
The album’s title, too, is a knowing nod to the raw emotion on show, here. There is no putting a brave face on it, no “I’ll be better off without you”. This is less ‘thank u, next’, more, ‘fuck u, but please come back though?’
Olivia Rodrigo might be just eighteen, but as so many have sagely noted before her, love and loss is universal. And to write a great break-up song – or in this case, an album – needs enough specificity for you to believe it to be about you and enough generality for it to apply to everyone. Throw in some exquisite melodies, a pitch-perfect voice and some belt-able lyrics and you have possibly the greatest coming-of-age album since early Taylor Swift or Lorde.
As for the music – the production is slick and draws on a current trend for 00s emo-pop – but Rodrigo’s trump card is the purity of her lyrics. There are no metaphors, no veiled references: this is a teenage girl, saying over and over again: “How could you do this to me. It hurts, real bad.”
There’s no denying that the first cut is the deepest but to take that cut and turn it into what will be one of the year’s best-selling records? They say revenge is sweet, but in this instance, it’s deliciously sour.