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Olivia Rodrigo - Sour (Album Review)

Thursday, 27 May 2021 Written by Alex Myles

Olivia Rodrigo has been through it. Her debut album ‘Sour’ is her catharsis as she ruminates on experiences and reflections that are all very adolescent—yes, there’s a whole lot of heartache. Its trump card is a sense of universality—with amusingly catty lyrics and versatile vocal delivery, Rodrigo portrays these emotions so charmingly that it will readily transport older listeners back to their own teenage years. 

The album takes clear influence from the quirky pop song writing of both Taylor Swift and Lorde, while borrowing elements of 2000s pop-punk to great effect. “I’m so sick of 17, where’s my fucking teenage dream,” Rodrigo sings on opener Brutal over a straightlaced guitar riff. Meanwhile, single Good 4 U could be a Paramore track, with crunchy bass guitar and spiky vocal delivery.

Yet on tracks like Traitor and 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back, there is plenty of space in Dan Nigro’s production for Rodrigo’s vocals to resonate more deeply in a manner similar to Swift’s ‘Folklore’ album and Phoebe Bridgers’ sleeper hit ‘Punisher’.

Though her songwriting is not as astute as Bridgers’, Rodrigo’s wry observations and easily relatable experiences of teenage life are vibrant, precise, and hugely enjoyable. On the synthy and catchy Déjà Vu, she recalls subtle yet saccharine memories of her ex-lover: sharing strawberry ice cream, trading jackets, teaching them Billy Joel songs.

On Jealousy, Jealousy she beats herself up over her tendency to compare herself to others, a feeling that many 18-year-olds will definitely share. With the Lorde-style vocals and a piano phrase reminiscent of Fiona Apple, this track is the greatest achievement on the album. 

A new generation of pop star is breaking the mould with songs that are intimate, dynamic, and tangibly theirs. Though hardly revolutionary, ‘Sour’ bucks the Disney alumni trend by sounding fresh and exciting, despite Rodrigo making her influences very clear from the get go.


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