Artist: Olivia Rodrigo
Released: 21 May 2021
3. driver's license
4. 1 step forward, 3 steps back
5. deja vu
6. good 4 u
7. enough for you
9. jealousy, jealousy
10. favorite crime
11. hope ur ok
"Cause I love people I don't like
And I hate every song I write
And I'm not cool, and I'm not smart
And I can't even parallel park"
For someone who isn’t particularly up to date with new Disney shows such as “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (What a name), Olivia Rodrigo’s success seemingly came out of nowhere at the beginning of 2021. There was an insane amount of hype surrounding her debut single ‘Driver’s License’, which you should be aware of if you happened to be living on planet Earth at the time, and it was for good reason. It’s an incredibly solid opening statement, and although it’s garnered as much criticism as it has praise, it remains one of my favourite pop songs of the year so far. Two more singles later, and Rodrigo has finally released her very first album; “SOUR”. There’s been a lot of discourse about this record, and I’m a little late to the party in that regard. But after a few months of this being in my regular rotation, I have to say, this is a really fantastic debut offering.
Despite how much I enjoyed each of the promotional singles for “SOUR”, I didn’t have massive expectations for the album itself, with its release even catching me completely by surprise. I think that I expected a full-length album from Rodrigo to be much further down the road, and that anything released so early in her career had to have been relatively half-baked. But thankfully, my cynicism was proven wrong, and I was immediately impressed by just how consistent “SOUR” ended up being. And although there are one or two tracks here which I find to be pretty underwhelming; namely the softly spoken, piano led ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’, as well as the closing track, ‘hope ur ok’; almost every other song here is pretty great.
The record starts out extremely strong, with the instantly striking ‘brutal’; a scathing pop-punk banger centred around the angst of entering adulthood. It’s one of the record’s best moments, boiling with anger and frustration as Rodrigo expresses the various insecurities that come with adolescence. She delivers a dynamic performance, backed with some of “SOUR’s” most impressive production, all of which culminates to create a fantastic opening moment for the album. And although the record immediately takes a left turn, with the soft and intimate ‘traitor’, quick shifts in style like this feel appropriate amongst the album’s core theme surrounding the turbulence of youth.
And from here, apart from the few tracks previously mentioned, “SOUR” manages to stay consistently great. More than anything else, the songs on this album are endlessly addictive. It’s full of standout moments in almost every single track; the soaring, tragic finale of ‘traitor’; the fantastic bridge in ‘driver’s license’; the infectious hooks of ‘déjà vu’ and ‘good 4 u’; the list goes on. It occasionally feels a little too familiar or derivative, but the quality of the music remains. And on top of the addicting nature of the album’s sound, the songwriting and lyricism is also an extremely noteworthy feature on “SOUR”.
A lot of the criticism that I’ve seen directed towards this album has been to do with Olivia’s age, and how many people feel that it sounds ingenuine for her to be discussing themes of heartbreak and betrayal, while being barely out of high school. But to me, this is actually one of the album’s biggest strengths. “SOUR” might not be as emotionally verbose as older artists’ music expressing similar subject matters, but it provides a perspective towards these themes which is often neglected in favour of young artists attempting to sound more ‘grown up’. Heartbreak and betrayal can still happen in high school, and can potentially be even more painful at such a young age. Recognising this, “SOUR” has no intention in acting more ‘grown up’ than it is; Olivia embraces her youth in each of these songs, with references to getting her drivers license, dying before she’s old enough to legally drink, among various other moments which frame the album as distinctly adolescent. The fantastic short film that was made alongside the record, “SOUR prom”, takes this one step further, delivering a long music video set around a high school prom, including many of the tracks from the album. And this nuanced perspective actually adds a lot to the record, giving it a real sense of authenticity. The instability and angst that comes with being seventeen or eighteen is channelled excellently throughout the album, with Rodrigo’s own stories of heartache demonstrating just how painful these feelings can be, especially at such a young age. It’s surprisingly powerful, and while not every song on “SOUR” is lyrically brilliant, it all ends up feeling incredibly genuine.
The length of the album is another one of its strengths. At 35 minutes and 11 songs, it never outstays its welcome, with most of the tracks filling the runtime extremely effectively. It’s enough time for Olivia to demonstrate her emotional range, and while there’s no overarching narrative to the record, it still manages to feel quite coherent. Although it jumps back and forth in style, between upbeat bangers, and slow, mellow songs, the core themes of adolescence and heartbreak still permeate through every moment on “SOUR”. And this is done in a way that gives the record continuity, without ever feeling repetitive. While the album ends with one of its weakest points with ‘hope ur ok’, it still leaves you wanting more.
I went into “SOUR” without many expectations, and over the last few months I’ve only grown to like it more and more, even after being pleasantly surprised upon first listen. It’s an album that has a surprising amount of depth and nuance, while also being full to the brim of absolutely infectious pop songs. While it’s occasionally melodramatic in its execution, it’s also often quite powerful, with simple but effective storytelling, and consistently excellent vocal performances from Rodrigo. This is no doubt the beginning of an extremely successful career for Olivia, and if this is what she’s managed to achieve at such an early point in it, it’s exciting to think of her potential in the coming years.
"I hope you're happy
But not like how you were with me
I'm selfish, I know, I can't let you go
So find someone great, but don't find no one better"
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 27/07/2021
6/9/21, 8:39 am
Loved it 😍
5/9/21, 8:53 am
another great review, so proud of u x
31/8/21, 3:24 am
25/8/21, 11:55 am
yay!!! i love this review 🤍
12/8/21, 11:55 am
yay another great review!!! i love it!!!
5/8/21, 9:00 am
a very thoughtful and great review!!!
31/7/21, 12:55 am
such a good review!!!
31/7/21, 12:53 am
God I have been waiting on this review since I first watched Inside and you put it in words perfectly! (I personally would've rated it a 10/10) This review and this special are both amazing!! love love LOVE it!!
27/7/21, 8:56 am
yay!!! love olivia and this review!!!🤍
27/7/21, 6:40 am
Love your reviews! Keep em coming