Album Review: SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo – Months Later and Still Good

Rachel Marsh, Photo Editor

A Disney star’s debut album following three hit singles. Eleven songs spanning 34 minutes and 46 seconds, SOUR made headlines when it was released on May 21, 2021. 18 year old Olivia Rodrigo first topped charts with ‘drivers license’, followed by ‘deja vu’ and finally ‘good 4 u’ before releasing the full album. The album was produced by Dan Nigro, co-written by Nigro and Rodrigo and released via Geffen Records. It’s in the pop and alt pop genre, centering on adolescence and heartbreak. Six songs out of the eleven are explicit.

The first track is called ‘brutal’. It features a rock beat with more of alto notes in the verses, while the chorus is near yelling. When I first heard the chorus, it made me think of the bridge in Sheryl Crow’s ‘Soak Up the Sun’. The higher pitched yelling and both of them not accentuating their constandants, specifically the -re. The song is written in 7 beats opposed to the usual 8, which is why I think the songs sound similar. The lyrics are focused around being a teenager and not getting the stereotypical teenage dream. “They say these are the golden years, but I wish I could disappear, ego-crush is so severe. God, it’s brutal out here.” In fan rankings, brutal is never very high, however, I think it is quite relatable to teen struggles and realities. As it is the first track on the album, most artists like to open strong with a more upbeat song compared to a ballad, and this follows that trend. The beat and lyrics make me want to head bob along and scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs. One thing that was missing for me was a harder hitting last chorus after she does a quieter bridge again, just to drive it home.

The second track is ‘traitor’. The first of a couple breakup songs on the album, it takes a new stance on cheating. There are probably a million songs about cheating out there, but Rodrigo distinguishes this one as not cheating, but betrayal. “Guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor.” The song is closer to a ballad but not just a piano and her voice, there’s a guitar and some produced instruments. This song is one of my favorites, as I am more of a ballad girl, but one this that peeves me about this is in the bridge she sings “God I wish that you had thought this through, before I went and fell in love with you” but when she says with she sings a ch sound directly into the you, so it’s more like a wichu, which in my opinion doesn’t fit the tone of the song. Rodrigo’s voice really shines through with short runs, and more belting, and head voice at the end.

The third track is ‘drivers license’. When it first came out, I listened to it on repeat. The lyrics were spot on and made me feel like I had just gone through a break up, even though I didn’t. It topped charts for weeks and surpassed 100 million streams by January 2021. However, now that it’s on an album and everyone has heard it, including myself, too many times, I skip it everytime. An amazing song, just overplayed at this point.

The fourth track is ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’. It features piano, and bird noises too create the soft ambiance. The tempo change done between the verse and the chorus is done so well, making you wanting the next note in the chorus more and more, though not overly slow. The lyrics are about not necessarily a breakup, but a probable soon one as the relationship it’s centered around does not seem to be incredibly healthy. The chorus lyrics “I’m the love of your life until I make you mad” are very creative in my opinion and really help imagine the relationship at play. The last chorus has a different lyric, a play Rodrigo does often to surprise the listener and hit the point harder. Instead of the above lyric, she sings “And I’d leave you but the rollercoasters all I’ve ever had” which I think is really insightful into abusive relationships. I think something that’s special about Rodrigo’s writing is a lot of her bridges are really well done and hone in the tone of the song incredibly well.

The fifth is also a previous single ‘deja vu’. Starkly different vibe than her first single drivers license, it has eerie vamps in the background. Rodrigo starts out the song singing in her head voice, more light and airy, but by the end she’s belting making it built well. It’s another break up song, focusing on the new girl more than the past relationship. “So when you gonna tell her, that we did that too, she thinks it’s special, but it’s all reused” again focusing her creative lyrics and songwriting capabilities. ‘deja vu’, ‘drivers license’ and ‘good 4 u’ are the only tracks to receive music videos thus far, and the screenplay of the relationship between the two girls in ‘deja vu’ is really well done.

The sixth track is ‘good 4 u’ and this one’s music video was really a treat to watch. Not only is the track more alternative-rock and harder hitting with instrumentals, straying from the previous ballad tracks, the music video features a slightly psychopathic looking Rodrigo. Wearing a  cheerleader gone bad look with black, bicep high leather gloves and a blue and white old-school cheer uniform, she sets fire to a bedroom, after drenching it with oil and goes swimming in a lake with some red contacts on. The song itself is just fun. According to Rodrigo, she wanted to take an early-2000s pop-punk song and put a twist on it. You can hear her anger in the lyrics and can just imagine her jamming out singing it. I wish that for her more upbeat songs she would add another chorus after the last bridge. In her more ballad type songs, the last bridge fades out well but in a harder-hitting one, the endings are a bit anticlimactic. Also, months after the release, I skip this one 9 times out of ten just from it being overplayed.

The seventh track is called ‘enough for you’ and goes back to a guitar, acoustic version of Rodrigo. It’s a breakup song and centers around Rodrigo loving someone more than he loves her. “Stupid, emotional, obsessive, little me, I knew from the start this is exactly how you’d leave” paint the picture of yet another heartbreak and faulty relationship. At only 18, Rodrigo is so well spoken, touching on so many different sides of a breakup and relationship. The end of the song turns to her being enough for someone else, but I can’t help but want her to be enough for herself. Rodrigo’s voice is really the star of the show here, with only a simple guitar in the background.

The eighth track is called ‘happier’. It plays at a hugely universal feeling of wanting a past love to be happy, but not happier. “I hope your happy, but not like how you were with me,” “So find someone great but don’t find no one better, I hope you’re happy but don’t be happier.” Her word choice and rhyming is really quite genius. In some radio songs, you can tell the artist just chose the word because it worked in the phrase, but it’s clear that her words reflect exactly want she means. In this song it’s also interesting because before, the opinion of the third party girl has been predominantly negative, semi-neutral however here, it turns positive as she’s comparing herself to her. “She’s beautiful, she looks kind, she probably gives you butterflies.” It has more of an instrumental with it, piano based with produced claps. This song is definitely one of my favorites as well.

The ninth track is ‘jealousy, jealousy’. It is one of three non-breakup songs on the album and centers around comparison on social media, and it’s one of my favorites. “I know their beauty’s not my lack, but it feels like that weight is on my back.” It’s chorus has lower notes than her other songs, giving it this grunge, alternative feel. The instrumental is mainly drums, electric guitar, and some synthesized brass instruments. The lyrics of this song are so relatable to today’s world, teenagers especially. It’s more upbeat and more nose-scrunch and shoulder shrug dance along vibe. “Con-comparison is killing me slowly, I think I think too much bout kids who don’t know me”. When replaying this song to write this article, I noticed the spotify song art – the little video that plays on repeat – is pictures of Rodrigo crying but put on a drawn phone and in scrolling motion, which is just iconic. Rodrigo smashes the bridge yet again, with a yell along style and overlay of voices with her own. 

The tenth track is “favorite crime” and puts the relationship into a murder movie type vibe, almost as one big anlogy but connecting back well. It has a guitar, her voice, and background singers, which I believe are her own voice overlayed, however, in a live performance she had four girls as background singers. Her word choice of accomplice, alibi, four hands bloody, siren, fled the scene etc., really set the scene and make the song have a darker tone. “Those things I did, just so I could call you mine, the thing you did, well, I hope I was your favorite crime.” The bridge is faster paced with more densely packed words building well into larger chorus chords with rodrigo on the higher part, when she was on the lower before, it ends on the other voices ending and her continuing with more belt in her voice, fading into the end. I think this is my favorite song on the album, it’s a bit of a character or story song and I like songs you can sing along to. It’s an easy going melody and beat but the lyrics add some heavier and darker music. 

The eleventh and final track is called ‘hope ur ok’. It’s a story song, recalling two old friends. It reminds me a lot of the last track on her friend’s album, ‘The Story’ by Conan Gray. The first character is an old childhood friend, “his parents cared more about the bible, than being good to their own child”. The second verse is about the second character who was a middle school friend “She raised her brothers on her own, her parents hated who she loved”. It has some darker things and alludes to some darker things but she finishes it out with the present, and then future. “Well, I hope you know how proud I am you were created, with the courage to unlearn all of their hatred, God I hope that you’re happier today, ‘cause I love you, and I hope that you’re okay.” Rodrigo forgoes the typical first verse, chorus, second verse, chorus, bridge, chorus approach to songwriting and has a first chorus, of the same melody as the chorus but with different words after the first verse. Therefore, the chorus that is repeated I think applies more to the second character and she leaves the first character being almost. I still love the song and it’s one of my favorites. 

Overall, the album is very cohesive. Well named, SOUR, is all songs about breakups, negativity, and dark themes. All of the song titles are all lowercase white the album title is all uppercase which I think is interesting. Her album cover, and Spotify song videos also stay along similar colors, of purples, blues and blacks. Purple being Rodrigo’s current favorite color. I think this is a stellar album and I’ve had it on repeat for the past week. I think it’s impressive how she’s able to jump genres almost, from ballad to acoustic to upbeat punk and keep it cohesive. Take Adele for example, I love all her albums, but all her songs are relatively similar sounding. Rodrigo’s music however, is not and I think the songs she chose to be singles reflect that well.