If anything can be said about music in 2023, there is a resounding consensus that this is the “year of the anticipated album.” From Boygenius’ indie rock perfection on The Record to Taylor Swift’s highly-awaited re-recording of her fifth studio album 1989, fans in almost every genre have had something to look forward to. Many wondered whether 2023 would be the year we would finally get a follow-up to Olivia Rodrigo’s 2021 debut album Sour. For many of us, including myself, Sour was regarded as a seminal album of our generation—a sort of “soundtrack” to our final years of high school, or even our transition into university. With hits like “Driver’s License,” “Good 4 U,” “Traitor,” and “Brutal,” the album was a definitive release of the year, even going on to win “Best Pop Vocal Album” at the 2022 Grammy Awards.
For some of us, however, our affinity for Rodrigo’s work goes back even further. Many of us will remember her from her roles on television shows like Bizaardvark (the fever dream of a Disney Channel show also starring divisive YouTuber Jake Paul), and, more recently, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Disney +. Maybe you can go back even further, and recall Rodrigo’s role as the 2015 American Girl of the Year, in Grace Stirs Up Success, as aspiring Parisian baker, Grace. I have fond memories of watching this film with my younger sister. It makes it all the more incredible to see the success Rodrigo has achieved, and the release of her second studio album Guts on September 8 was certainly exciting. After the massive positive reception of Sour, and the album’s memorable place in my life, I was certainly curious as to how Guts would measure up. Luckily, from the very first note, I was captivated.
The Guts era began on June 30, after a nondescript countdown showed up on Rodrigo’s website, leading to the release of the album’s first single, “Vampire.” The song debuted at number one on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart, with over 35 million streams in its first week of release. Beginning as a slow ballad like “Driver’s License,” the song then shifts, with a bridge that picks up speed (and quickly went viral on TikTok). “Vampire”, in my opinion, was an excellent way to begin this era, and the viral buzz that followed definitely helped the overall success of the album.
Guts was released on September 8. As has been the case for many notable album releases over the past few years, I anxiously waited until the album drop, which was 1 a.m. here in Sackville. Despite the delirium of a study session turned album review, I immediately and excitedly dove in. The album begins with “All-American Bitch,” a song that starts off quite simply, but then transforms into a punk-rock-inspired melody where Rodrigo proclaims “I know my age, and I act like it,” a direct comment on reviewers who noted the themes and sounds Rodrigo compiled in Sour were much too mature for her age. Despite this punk influence and heavy sound, the song ends quite simply with Rodrigo singing “I’m grateful all the time, I’m pretty when I cry,” another lyric that has since gone viral on TikTok. My absolute favourite on my initial listen was “Lacy.” One of the several ballads on the album, “Lacy” proclaims Rodrigo’s infatuation with the mysterious title figure. This absolutely beautiful track created quite a confusion among fans, with many speculating who exactly the song is about, and some even wondering if the “Lacy” in question was actually Rodrigo’s friend Gracie Abrams. For me, however, I was much less concerned about the subject and more about the build-up of the song, the intensity of the bridge, and the subtle acoustic conclusion that left me in awe the first time I listened.
Some of my honourable mentions on this album would have to be “Bad Idea Right?,” “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl,” “Get Him Back!,” and “Pretty isn’t Pretty.” It seems to me that, in this new project, Rodrigo is cementing her status as a voice of our generation, with a sound that blends both punk and pop and speaks to the souls and experiences of each listener. Of course, only time will tell if Guts will live up to the success of Sour. Rodrigo’s recent announcement of the Guts tour (with three locations in Canada) promises shows in large venues, more opening acts, and an overall grander scale than that of the Sour tour in 2022.
Readers of The Argosy can listen to Guts as well as the remainder of Rodrigo’s discography on their preferred streaming service, vinyl, CD, and digital download.