Damascus student LAYLA MUIR writes this music review exclusively for Emerging, a partnership between The Courier and Damascus College to create a platform for young people to publish their work. Layla's latest music review is on Olivia Rodrigo's album GUTS which was released in September.
Olivia Rodrigo has finally released her highly anticipated sophomore album GUTS and it has consolidated her place in the industry as the Princess of Pop. And being a Princess is something close to perfect.
Her second album comes at the ideal time aligning with the celebration of female power, stemming from, among other things, the culture altering masterpiece that was Barbie.
The themes of the movie sent pop culture spiralling into the embrace of feminism. From box office records to pink outfits, Billie Eilish to girl maths, Roman Empires to girlhood, and somewhere in the midst of it all Olivia Rodrigo.
Beginning with a statement, the opening track 'All American B***h' holds a smug disposition though neatly disguised with innocence. Rodrigo seems to embrace the label of naive and turn it into a preeny celebration of the mess that is being a young woman.
I mean what's more American sweetheart than curling your hair with Coca Cola bottles? The punk speckled number voices a young girl's constant struggle with body image.
Lyrics: "I am as light as a feather, I'm as stiff as a board" and "perfect all-American hips" seems to boast a girl's insecurities in that witty, annoyed way. The outro of the song hears a drum break loudly accompanied by screams of female rage, before swiftly changing to an almost lullaby type mantra.
It conveys the animosity endured by women while simultaneously being expected to look pretty, classy and in control. Society cannot deal with flustered angry women.
The album offers a duo of hit singles that present the double-sided affair of a breakup. 'Bad idea right?' details the foolish but rousing event of a hook up with your ex in the guise of a fast paced, pop-punk anthem.
"Seeing you tonight, it's a bad idea, right?" Rodrigo questions like a mantra before embracing the recklessness and claiming "f**k it, it's fine".
As the guitar sequence and drums drone out, piano chords bring forth the heart-wrenching ballad that is 'Vampire'. The lead single conveys that manipulating, emotionally unavailable ex whose love language was simply taking advantage of you and making you feel small.
The lyric "and every girl I ever talked to told me you were bad, bad news" shows that way of sisterhood that has been extremely prevalent in social media lately. It visualises the way girls band together after being mistreated by a guy on a small, relationship-base level. But it also conveys the way women banded together after the Barbie movie against the oppression of patriarchy.
The way women have always banded together from the suffrage to the wars and everything in between, highlighting the power of united female strength.
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All throughout the album, Rodrigo often has sleek, subtle jabs at male patriarchy. From "I got class and integrity. Just like a goddamn Kennedy" to a personal dig at her dad with "But I am my father's daughter, so maybe I could fix him".
There's nothing quite like a father figure's baffling self-assurance that whatever he touches may be restored to gold. There's a signature female wit in making fun of, one, a man's ego, and two, their strange obsession with the glory of politics that could have been John F Kennedy.
Let's not forget the ultimate female pleasure that comes from mocking a guy's height: "He said he's six-foot-two, and I'm like, 'Dude, nice try'", Olivia claps in track eight 'Get Him Back'.
On the topic of male patriarchy, the Roman Empire trend has taken TikTok by storm, with the soundtrack to the trend being none other than the song 'Lacy' by Rodrigo herself.
The trend itself entails a woman asking, say, her boyfriend, dad, or brother how often he thinks of the Roman Empire. The answer surprisingly, but so appropriately male, is actually quite a lot.
There's something about an empire that falsely immortalises these dominant, gladiatorial warriors that really grinds the gears of a certain demographic *cough* white men *cough*. In signature pop culture fashion, the trend was spun into something where you could show off a moment, event or thing that is your Roman Empire.
The 'Lacy' TikTok sound that accompanies the trend has clocked about 100, 000 posts just under one particular song snippet. In beautiful irony, 'Lacy' expresses the devastating facet that is female comparison.
One of the most ugly, vicious, and hounding cycles of love and hate is the jealousy that occurs between girls.: "Lacy, oh Lacy, skin like puff pastry, aren't you the sweetest thing on this side of Hell?"
The jealousy of looks, of beauty, of clear skin, of skinny figures, of happiness, of relationships. It's being friends with the girl everyone loves, envying the girl who's with the one you wanted, admiring the girl who got what you deserved: "Dazzling starlet, Bardot reincarnate Well, aren't you the greatest thing to ever exist?". It's like poetry.
The ever-present competition that resides under the depths of all female relationships forever creating glorious devastation: "and I despise my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you... I despise my rotten mind and how much it worships you."
It's Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller, it's Jo and Amy March and it might even be Olivia Rodrigo and a handful of the "pop girlies" who got the opportunity to open for Taylor Swift.
All through the album Olivia touches on themes of feminism, sisterhood, misogyny in a fun, clever and sound focused way. Her music stood up to the second album curse with incredible melodies, brilliant instrumentals and lyrics that might find their way into the literary canon one day.
There's heartbreak and devastation, a concoction that epitomises smudged lipstick, running mascara, broken mirrors and that beautiful thing called girlhood.
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