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Olivia Rodrigo And Her Overwhelmingly Complex Emotions

On September 8, 2023, Filipina-American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo released her highly anticipated sophomore studio album, GUTS. After the success of her debut album, SOUR (2021), the pop- and rockstar was back with a decidedly diverse sound and stronger songwriting skills. On the twelve-track long standard edition of the record, twenty-year-old Rodrigo cleverly employs juxtaposition and repetition while exploring messy relationships with older men, her jealousy of other women, and her fear of growing up, all of which contribute to her complicated emotions as a young starlet growing up under the limelight.

Through her use of juxtaposition, Rodrigo breaks down her complicated feelings and emotions for her listeners. On “all-american bitch,” the opener of GUTS, Rodrigo weaves folk and pop-punk together to create an angsty criticism of the hypocritical standards placed on young, female entertainers by the music industry and American public. During the first verse, Rodrigo softly sings with annoyance creeping into her words, “I am built like a mother and a total machine” (Rodrigo). Rodrigo employs juxtaposition because she feels as though she is expected to act like a “mother” by being family-friendly, sweet, authentic, and comforting to her young audience while also acting like “a machine” by constantly performing and doing what she is told by the music executives around her, while still trying to portray an image of authenticity. Taking on both roles at the same time feels impossible to Rodrigo, and she effectively portrays this by using two opposite descriptors to describe herself. Rodrigo sings with a soft yet scornful tone on the mysteriously vague forth song off GUTS titled “lacy.” Rodrigo ends the fundamentally contradictory song, singing in the outro, “And I despise my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you/Yeah, I despise my rotten mind and how much it worships you” (Rodrigo). Rodrigo struggles with deciphering her complex emotions she has towards a mystifying subject that she, to put it simply, loathes because of her obsession with. By juxtaposing her hatred with her fixation on “Lacy,” Rodrigo reveals to her audience her self-doubt and lack of confidence in her emotions; throughout her album, she has a hard time being consistent and content with how she feels about others and the thoughts that haunt her. Rodrigo cannot let it be that she feels a specific way about “Lacy” without overthinking her emotions. On her pop-rock influenced “get him back,” Rodrigo details a relationship with an ex-lover who she still has conflicting emotions about. During the chorus on the eighth track, Rodrigo sings, “I wanna get him back/I wanna make him really jealous, wanna make him feel bad/Oh, I wanna get him back/’Cause then again, I really miss him, and it makes me real sad” (Rodrigo). By employing a clever pun, Rodrigo juxtaposes the tangled emotions she has towards an ex-lover. The utilization of the phrase “get him back” is effective because it implies a potential for two different connotations: revenge and the rekindling of a broken relationship. By using juxtaposition, listeners are given a glimpse into the opposite emotions Rodrigo possesses about the same person at the same time; her use of juxtaposition allows listeners to join in with her in her confusion about this person. Rodrigo’s use of juxtaposition effectively describes her complex emotions.

Rodrigo often incorporates repetition on GUTS in order to emphasize her strong and passionate emotions. Rodrigo’s chanty, light-hearted, punk-inspired second single “bad idea, right?” details her thought process as she debates whether or not she should spend the night with a former partner. In the chorus, Rodrigo repeats cheekily, “Seeing you tonight/It’s a bad idea, right?/Seeing you tonight/It’s a bad idea, right?/Seeing you tonight/It’s a bad idea, right?/Seeing you tonight/Fuck it, it’s fine” (Rodrigo). Through the repetition in the chorus of her second single, Rodrigo communicates she is entertaining the thought of seeing a previous love interest despite slowly realizing the potential consequences of that action. The first time she sings the two lines, she states the idea of “seeing [her ex] tonight” as a fact with little thought behind it, but by the last time she says it, she realizes that she will carry out the risky decision of seeing an ex-lover, despite knowing it will backfire and she’ll have to defend her decision to those around her. The emotion in her voice escalates each time she repeats herself; this repetition provides a different meaning behind the originally blunt statement she once tried to detach her feelings from. On “teenage dream,” the twelfth and final song on the record, then nineteen-year-old Rodrigo reveals her fears of entering adulthood whilst living under the spotlight. During the bridge, Rodrigo repeatedly sings, “They all say that it gets better/It gets better the more you grow/Yeah, they all say that it gets better/It gets better, but what if I don’t?” (Rodrigo). Rodrigo’s desperate, scared, and repetitive cries in “teenage dream” are the last lyrics she sings on the standard edition of her record. Her chants at the beginning of the bridge start quietly before the instrumental drops and she reveals she does not believe what the adults around her have been telling her; she’s sure her best days are behind her and her misery will only get worse. By repeating the same four lines many times, Rodrigo is able to provide a different meaning to the words she uses; the first time she sings the lyrics, it seems as if she actually believes “it gets better,” but, by the last time she sings them, it is communicated that her doubt is tormenting her. Through her strategic use of repetition, Rodrigo conveys to her listeners the strong and complicated emotions swirling through her head. 

Throughout her sonically diverse second studio album GUTS, singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo effectively weaves in juxtaposition on “all-american bitch,” “lacy,” and “get him back,” as well as repetition on “bad idea right,” and “teenage dream” to display her conflicting emotions that she often overthinks through all realms of her life, including romantic and jealousy-driven relationships and the pressures put on her due to her fame. Rodrigo’s GUTS is an understated masterpiece that accurately portrays the struggles of an American girl battling her emotions as she slowly discovers herself under all of her confusion; her next project is undoubtedly one to keep an eye out for.

Works Cited: Olivia Rodrigo. GUTS, Geffen Records, 2023. Spotify app.

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Kaitlyn Corbin, Staff Writer
Kaitlyn Corbin is an 11th grader and staff writer for The Hive. She is involved in Student Government, Scholar’s Bowl, STEM Academy, National Honors Society, the Varsity Field Hockey team, and the Varsity Tennis team here at EHS. In her free time she enjoys crocheting and skiing. You can contact her at [email protected].
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