The second chapter in Olivia Rodrigo‘s musical story began similar to the first: with a big-hearted, full-throated piano ballad about a relationship gone awry.
But the bloodsucking “vampire” was no “drivers license,” the song that kickstarted her career. Instead of descending into her loss in the song, Rodrigo stands atop of her anger, reclaiming her agency in the process. The production mirrors this progress: it is a triumphant revenge anthem, textured, theatrical, an explosive introduction to what would become her second full-length album, 2023’s “GUTS.”
And just like the first, it is a showstopper. This year, Rodrigo is nominated for six Grammys. The single “vampire” is up for record and song of the year, as well as best pop solo performance. “GUTS” could take home album of the year or maybe best pop vocal album, and finally, her track “ballad of a homeschooled girl” is up for best rock song.
“I love the Grammys so much!” Rodrigo told The Associated Press at the film academy’s Governors Awards in Los Angeles earlier this month. “I grew up watching them. My mom and I used to, like, make predictions of who we thought was going to win every year.
And so just to be able to attend as a fan is incredible. And the fact that I’m nominated is just, you know, absolutely incredible, just unfathomable.”
But in many ways, it is fathomable: Rodrigo won best new artist, best pop vocal album and best pop solo performance at the 2022 Grammy Awards for her debut album, “SOUR,” and of course, for her 2021 smash “drivers license.”
On “GUTS,” one the Associated Press’ picks for best albums of 2023, Rodrigo performs 12 tracks of big feelings balladry and riot grrrl-informed power pop-punk, the perfect soundtrack for a person entering their 20s — or for those of us who remember the frustrations of the age. It’s a maturation from the somber teenage dreams of “SOUR.” On “GUTS,” as AP’s review of the album concludes, Rodrigo recognizes that there are few forces are more potent than a young creative woman’s dissatisfaction — in some ways, more productive than heartbreak.
“I love singing about rage,” Rodrigo says. “I think I’m a very happy kind of, you know, generally excited person. And I think that in my music and my songwriting, I can kind of express parts of myself that are not so easy to talk about in everyday life, and so rage definitely applies to that.”
She continued, “I love just having a song where I can kind of scream and get all of my emotions out. I think it’s so therapeutic.”
Performing anger is certainly valuable for a kind of catharsis — and it is the fuel that ignites Rodrigo’s lyrical fires, like in the deliciously ironic “I got class and integrity like a g——— Kennedy, I swear” from “GUTS” opener “all-american bitch.” For that very reason, Rodrigo has read up to sharpen her craft.
In addition to a Joan Didion reference in that song — as well as taking a poetry class at the University of Southern California — “GUTS” is informed by an increased interest in songwriting development.
“I think I read a lot more this year, and that definitely informed the writing process of ‘GUTS,'” she says.
As for songwriting? “I love Leonard Cohen,” she says of her literary and musical influences. “And Leonard Cohen’s poetry. I think it’s just an endless wall of inspiration.”