Photo Credit | Creative Commons | Brett Jordan
Over the summer break, on a rainy Friday evening spent in my childhood bedroom (the same bedroom that I cried my eyes out in during my first breakup), I sat down to listen to Olivia Rodrigo’s highly anticipated debut, “Sour.” Dear readers, a word of warning, “Sour” is the type of record that will send you right back to high school heartache. But we already knew that, from earlier in the year when “drivers license” was released, then subsequently made anthemic on TikTok by over a million users. On a personal note, the first time I heard “drivers license” was in Old Bank during a karaoke night, sandwiched between takes on “Dancing Queen” and “Piano Man.” That memory only adds to the song for me.
Rodrigo, only eighteen years old, might be known to you for her Disney roles, as she starred in both “Bizaardvark,” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” I know her best from the “drivers license” audio going viral on TikTok followed by the internet drama pertaining to the alleged subject of the song. (If you hadn’t heard, the song is said to be about Joshua Basset, her co-star on the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” who has since been linked to Sabrina Carpenter, another older, blonder, Disney talent.)
Whichever way you know her though, you’ll be hearing about her for some time to come. “Sour” is already a staple. Rodrigo’s debut is expressive of an anguish that anyone can relate to. She’s vocalizing how it feels to be so heartbroken over a breakup that you become obsessed. “Sour” is an exercise in catharsis, but also in charm with many moments on the project featuring heavy sardonic sass. “Sour” is a pop record through and through; not only is the album shiny in its production quality, but Rodrigo cites names like Lorde and Taylor Swift as her main musical inspirations. The subject matter and imagery that appears within her work, however, can be reminiscent of other influences by names like Phoebe Bridgers and Fiona Apple.
The record opens with “brutal,” a track that even aurally lends itself to the metaphor of the dreamy expectation of first love. The beginning strings and grandeur falling away to expose a pop-punk guitar riff that represents the reality that typically accompanies that same first all-consuming love. The first line, “I’m so insecure [that] I think / That I’ll die before I drink,” showcases her anguish and youthful take on her pain. The heartache might get her before the liquor can. That’s ‘brutal’ alright.
The track listing is a rather seamless collection of breakup jams that offer a unique feeling of being seen. In particular, tracks like “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” “deja vu,” and “favorite crime” are standout to me. Each song reaches a personal level of bite and hard-edge, and each offering an interesting vocal performance and quirky production that showcases Rodrigo’s true talent; she is supremely impressive.
The first half of the album offers up a pretty consecutive list of hits, and even the tracks I’m less interested in, which show up around track eight, “happier,” are still more than tolerable. This is very inoffensive pop music-chronically listenable.
And listen you will if we are to go off of Rodrigo’s current success. “Sour” offers an experience in being lovesick in the worst way and pops off with some popular production tricks and quirks that are becoming more and more staple in modern pop music.