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I Used to Hate Olivia Rodrigo: My Journey From Hater to Pre-Saver, by Rachel Watkins

Photo by Rachel Watkins. An Homage to “pretty isn’t pretty.”

When I heard “drivers license,” I thought: omg, come on, girl, get over him! Now, only two years after Olivia Rodrigo released SOUR, I’m belting my heart out to “bad idea right?,” a song perhaps even more deserving of my previous remark. I’m here to tell you that my opinion of Rodrigo as an artist has changed, not because of her advancements within her discography (although commendable) but because she is shamelessly and unapologetically herself.


GUTS, like SOUR, is an album highlighting the roller coaster of emotions we experience during and after a relationship. When listening to the new album, I couldn’t help but make parallels between the two. Both albums start with a pop-rock heavy sound, SOUR opening with “brutal” and GUTS with “all-american bitch.


The similarities don’t stop there. Both albums touch on the topic of comparison, specifically female comparison with the songs “jealousy, jealousy” and “lacy.” The theme of being a victim of manipulation is present on “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” “favorite crime,” “logical,” and “vampire.” Both albums also have songs about appealing to the male gaze: “enough for you” on SOUR and “pretty isn’t pretty” and “all-american bitch” on GUTS.


Although GUTS is filled with numerous parallels to her last album, it takes the feelings Rodrigo expressed in SOUR and digs deeper, providing the listener an even more authentic listening experience. For example, on GUTS, Rodrigo delves further into the beauty standards and expectations of women with songs likepretty isn’t pretty” and “all-american bitch.” With lines like “There’s always somethin’ in the mirror that I think looks wrong” and “I am built like a mother and a total machine,” listeners can find relatability with the big-name pop-star — a refreshing feeling for any girl to know she’s not alone.


When comparing the two albums, GUTS — although an album still dedicated to the inner 19-year-old in all of us — feels more mature, which is why I like it even more than SOUR.


Figure by Rachel Watkins. My Album Listening Experience.

SOUR is an album that will leave you feeling sad, which is done intentionally through the heavy usage of violin and piano instrumentals, long-held notes, and the whispered, choked-up quality of Rodrigo’s voice. The sound produced is airy, yet guttural, helping to simulate that suffocating, gut-wrenching feeling of when the ground falls out from underneath your feet.


GUTS, however, is an album that leans more pop-rock heavy, leaving the listener feeling empowered. This feeling is curated by the addition of heavy drums, screaming, and a general nonchalant tone with a touch of teen angst. The sound created this time gives off a carefree energy, sending a big, fat middle finger to anyone judging her healing journey. Let Olivia spill her guts in peace!


Another reason why I have a stronger affinity for GUTS over SOUR is the new array of struggles Rodrigo dives into in her new album. Although SOUR explores other elements of the human experience, it is a post breakup-heavy album. You don’t have to go through a breakup to find relatability to the songs featured on GUTS.


Have you ever experienced feelings of guilt, shame or stupidity regarding a romantic relationship? If you can relate to that testament, then give “love is embarrassing” a listen. If you’ve struggled to forgive someone, play the song “the grudge” and feel validated. Do you struggle with social anxiety? Give “the ballad of a school girl” a listen. If you want to feel nostalgic and hear a song about not wanting to grow up, Olivia has got you covered with “teenage dream.”


Yet, out of all the songs on the album, "making the bed" is my favorite. Arguably Rodrigo's most vulnerable GUTS track, it discusses the topic of self-destructive behavior. It's a song about regretting our unhealthy habits and coming to the realization that we are the only one who can change our actions. This idea is portrayed through Rodrigo's stylistic choice of singing the lyrics "but it's me who's been makin' the bed" after a self-destructive act. It signifies she is the only one left to clean up her mess. The lyrics "pull the sheets over my head" further emphasize the struggle of taking accountability.


So, you might be asking yourself, okay, come on, Rachel, stop dodging the bullet; why did you ever hate Olivia Rodrigo in the first place? Besides the fact that “drivers license” was making my ears bleed due to its constant replay on apps like TikTok, I was a hater for the same reason I fell in love with her: She is unapologetically herself. Before my changed outlook, I found her music filled with self-pity. SOUR left me with the portrayal of Rodrigo as messy. Yet, time after time, I constantly returned to SOUR, and it quickly became my favorite comfort album.


Yes, I was a hater of Olivia Rodrigo. For other potential haters, I implore you to ask yourself this: Am I a hater because I don’t like her voice, style, beat or her song’s melodies? Or am I a hater because I have insecurities and experience jealousy and relationship problems, too? We are all human, so the next time “deja vu” comes on and you feel like screaming your heart out, I won’t be judging, and you shouldn’t be judging yourself either. Sing that song!

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