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Blueprints: The Nuts and Bolts of Olivia Rodrigo's Stardom

Tuesday, 30 April 2024 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Supplied by the label

Olivia Rodrigo occupies an interesting spot in our collective consciousness — she is both young and of the moment but also a keen observer and interpolator of classic tropes from the past four decades of pop music. It’s a heady mix that has made the California native one of the biggest stars on Earth, capable of internet-shattering virality seconds after talking about Bikini Kill with someone from a broadsheet newspaper. Basically, she’s an ideal candidate for the latest edition of Blueprints, our ongoing series that pulls apart the backstories of interesting writers to see what makes them tick.

Why now, you say? Well, that’s because Rodrigo’s Guts Tour is currently in motion. Hot on the heels of a deluxe version of her second LP, she’s about to kick off multi-night engagements at arenas in Dublin, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and London (four nights at the O2, no biggie) before heading across mainland Europe in late May and throughout June. Then there are more shows in North America for good measure. Let’s take a closer look at why all this is going down and why you should care.

The House of Mouse

One of the most powerful things that can underpin a fan-artist relationship is the feeling that you’re growing up alongside one another. Rodrigo’s start in Disney TV shows — Bizaardvark and the still insane-sounding High School Musical: The Musical: The Series — meant that her early songwriting (including the High School Musical tie-in single All I Want) found both a built-in listener base and also kids whose own coming-of-age experiences would eventually be mirrored with wit and verve on ‘Sour’. We often feel like our favourite artists ‘get us’. Sometimes they do.

Bedroom pop

Rodrigo’s breakout single Drivers License is a pretty glossy thing, but its bones are pure bedroom pop. It’s not lo-fi or home-recorded, but it has the genre’s obvious gut-spilling vulnerability and relatability on tap. Essentially, you can imagine its lyrics being scrawled in a journal while Rodrigo was cocooned from the outside world in her bedsheets. It’s not a surprise that press clippings have shown Rodrigo sending praise in the direction of artists including Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, whose early work fused the same feeling with scratchy indie-rock before becoming more expansive over time.

Gateway punk

There is a compressed, almost tamped-down smashiness to the production on some of Rodrigo’s hits — perhaps most notably the impeccably snotty Good 4 U, or maybe the ‘Sour’ stomper Brutal — that immediately brings to mind Complicated-era Avril Lavigne or P!nk circa Just Like A Pill. It’s a mode of presentation that once drew sneering derision (partly because the artists were women, naturally) that has since become canon for alternative music fans who used these records as jumping off points. Rodrigo is good at shouting out her influences — more on that in a minute — meaning that her songs might be remembered as a similarly potent gateway drug. 

Your parents’ favourite band

When No Doubt recently made their headline-grabbing return at Coachella, Rodrigo wasn’t an idle or entirely zeitgeist-chasing choice of guest to perform Bathwater with them. A cover of Just a Girl had cropped up in her setlists while she toured ‘Sour’, while she has long noted the influence ‘Return of Saturn’ held over her (it’s “one of the albums that made me want to make music” she told the New York Times). She discovered a lot of these sounds in her folks’ record collection, including No Doubt, Green Day and templates for her more folksy writing, like Simon & Garfunkel. The old guard are into it, too. Kathleen Hanna and Kim Deal are Drivers License fans, with the latter’s seminal post-Pixies alt-rock band The Breeders recently opening the New York leg of Rodrigo’s Guts Tour at Madison Square Garden.


Our teenage years, broadly speaking, suck. They’re awkward and weird and pocked with traumas major and minor. They’re also maybe the most vivid, life-shaping/altering ones of our lives. Rodrigo has just left this realm but so much of her style pulls from the iconography of cliques and school and meanness and the sort of ugly-cry heartbreak that doesn’t quite hit the same once you’ve got a few more years of despair on the clock. There’s the Good 4 U video and its cheerleaders, the Carrie-inspired prom queen photoshoot that led to a dust-up with Courtney Love over its similarity to Hole’s ‘Live Through This’ sleeve, and the gravity of songs such as Get Him Back!, which runs the young-hearted yearning of Summer Nights through a Bran Van 3000 filter. For anyone who’s there right now, in a silent howl of feeling misunderstood, this is invaluable stuff. For everyone else, it’s a syrupy reminder of what it’s like to have massive, unwieldy feelings.

Olivia Rodrigo Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Tue April 30 2024 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Wed May 01 2024 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Tue May 07 2024 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Wed May 08 2024 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Fri May 10 2024 - BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena
Sat May 11 2024 - BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena
Tue May 14 2024 - LONDON O2 Arena
Wed May 15 2024 - LONDON O2 Arena
Fri May 17 2024 - LONDON O2 Arena
Sat May 18 2024 - LONDON O2 Arena

Wed May 22 2024 - ANTWERP Sportpaleis (Belgium)
Fri May 24 2024 - AMSTERDAM Ziggo Dome (Netherlands)
Sat May 25 2024 - AMSTERDAM Ziggo Dome (Netherlands)
Tue May 28 2024 - OSLO Spektrum (Norway)
Thu May 30 2024 - COPENHAGEN Royal Arena (Denmark)
Sat June 01 2024 - BERLIN Mercedes Benz Arena (Germany)
Tue June 04 2024 - HAMBURG Barclays Arena (Germany)
Wed June 05 2024 - FRANKFURT Festhalle (Germany)
Fri June 07 2024 - MUNICH Olympiahalle (Germany)
Sun June 09 2024 - BOLOGNA Unipol Arena (Italy)
Tue June 11 2024 - ZURICH Hallenstadion (Switzerland)
Wed June 12 2024 - COLOGNE Lanxess Arena (Germany)
Fri June 14 2024 - PARIS Accor Arena (France)
Sat June 15 2024 - PARIS Accor Arena (France)
Tue June 18 2024 - BARCELONA Palau Sant Jordi (Spain)
Thu June 20 2024 - MADRID Wizink Center (Spain)
Sat June 22 2024 - LISBON Altice Arena (Portugal)

Fri July 19 2024 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia (USA)
Sat July 20 2024 - WASHINGTON District Of Columbia - Capital One Arena (USA)
Tue July 23 2024 - ATLANTA Georgia - State Farm Arena (USA)
Wed July 24 2024 - LEXINGTON Kentucky - Rupp Arena (USA)
Fri July 26 2024 - KANSAS CITY Missouri - T-Mobile Center (USA)
Sat July 27 2024 - OKLAHOMA CITY Oklahoma - Paycom Center (Former Chesapeake Energy Arena) (USA)
Tue July 30 2024 - DENVER Colorado - Ball Arena (USA)
Wed July 31 2024 - SALT LAKE CITY Utah - Delta Center (Formerly Vivint Smart Home Arena) (USA)
Fri August 02 2024 - SAN FRANCISCO California - Chase Center (USA)
Sat August 03 2024 - SAN FRANCISCO California - Chase Center (USA)
Tue August 06 2024 - SEATTLE Washington - Climate Pledge Arena (USA)
Wed August 07 2024 - SEATTLE Washington - Climate Pledge Arena (USA)
Fri August 09 2024 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - Rogers Arena (Canada)
Sat August 10 2024 - PORTLAND Oregon - Moda Center at the Rose Quarter (USA)
Tue August 13 2024 - LOS ANGELES California - Kia Forum (USA)
Wed August 14 2024 - LOS ANGELES California - Kia Forum (USA)
Fri August 16 2024 - LOS ANGELES California - Kia Forum (USA)
Sat August 17 2024 - LOS ANGELES California - Kia Forum (USA)

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