On Record: “SOUR” review

Aubrey Smith, A&C Editor

It’s almost impossible to go on the internet and not hear about Olivia Rodrigo. Whether it’s from her Disney Channel history or from her smashing debut single “drivers license,” which took the world by storm and broke countless records, Rodrigo has quickly risen to the top of the charts. 

Xanayra Marin-Lopez

“SOUR,” Rodrigo’s debut album, was released May 21. As she stands on the cover of the record behind a purple backdrop with stickers covering her face, Rodrigo is about to dive into some of the most literal sour moments of her life. 

The record starts with an orchestral opening, quickly switching to the sounds of loud electric guitars on “brutal.” The track is an incredibly fitting opener for the record. Not only is the instrumental loud and catchy, but the lyrics are relatable and teenage-esc, with Rodrigo singing about how she wants to disappear during her teenage years, even jokingly adding, “I’m not cool and I’m not smart, and I can’t even parallel park.” 

On “traitor,” Rodrigo sings of being betrayed. The echoey instrumentals, light guitar and Rodrigo’s strong vocals on the track encapture her heartbreak. The lyrics tell a painful story. Rodrigo sings, “You talked to her when we were together/Loved you at your worst, but that didn’t matter/It took you two weeks to go off and date her/Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor.”

On the iconic “drivers license,” Rodrigo sings about the aftermath of a breakup and how she struggles to move on. The instrumentals are simple, building up from the light piano to a full and immersive mix of backing vocals, piano and clapping drums. Some of the lyrics are cheesy, but the song captures heartbreak well, and it’s incredibly catchy. 

 

Rodrigo pays tribute to idol Taylor Swift on “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” where she interpolates Swift’s song “New Years Day.” The familiar piano accompaniment is a fun listen for Swift fans, but the track is a little dull beyond that. The bridge is the high point of the song, where the piano picks up a little, and Rodrigo begins to question, “No, it’s back and forth, did I say something wrong?”

“Deja vu” was Rodrigo’s second single she released in anticipation of the album. Quite a change from “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” the song has an upbeat, nostalgic feel to it. Soft chimes open up the track as Rodrigo sings lightly on top. Rodrigo is questioning if an ex-lover gets deja vu with their new partner. The clunky, almost chaotic drums and synths in this song pair well with the echoed vocals Rodrigo uses, especially in the bridge. 

 

In “good 4 u,” Rodrigo lets off steam after her ex-lover seems “so unaffected” following their breakup. In the angsty and loud track, Rodrigo seems to embrace the “crazy ex-girlfriend” stereotype the public has labeled her as. The anger and hurt seep through Rodrigo’s vocals, and the jam-packed instrumentals provide for a fun listening experience. 

 

Slowing down from the previous track, “enough for you” and “favorite crime” are both simple ballads backed with a single guitar. Rodrigo’s vocal performance on each song is strong and impressive, but the lack of depth in the instrumentals leaves the tracks a little bland. The backing vocals mixed with Rodrigo’s belting in the bridge of “favorite crime” are an entrancing touch and the high point of the song. 

“Happier” is an emotional, orchestral-backed ballad. Its grand instrumentals set it apart from previous songs, such as “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” or “enough for you.” The constant bass in the song mixed with the strings and piano help move the track along well, as Rodrigo confesses, “I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier.” 

Circling back to the record’s themes on the teenage experience, Rodrigo sings about the constant comparison and overthinking young adults go through on “jealousy, jealousy,” one of the most relatable songs on the album. The instrumental starts with a deep bass alongside Rodrigo’s vocals, and as the song progresses, synchronized piano chords, synths, and loud drums pour into the mix. In the bridge, as Rodrigo admits that “all I see is what I should be, happier, prettier, jealousy, jealousy,” the instrumental becomes chaotic, a string of ill-pitched piano notes displaying the effects constant comparison has on Rodrigo. 

Closing out the album, light guitar instrumentals back Rodrigo’s emotional message on “hope ur ok.” Rodrigo sings about those she has lost touch with who were not truly accepted by their family. Singing, “Well, I hope you know how proud I am you were created, with the courage to unlearn all of their hatred,” Rodrigo expresses her love and simply hopes her loved ones and fans are okay. The track brings “SOUR” to a supportive and meaningful close. 

Listeners can find flaws in most records, and “SOUR” is no exception. But Rodrigo shows promising talent, incredible range not only in vocal performance but in genre, and her love for music exudes from the lyrics she writes. Being that she’s only 18 years old, her future in music is exciting and something that the world will be watching.