Disclaimer: Any opinion expressed here is my own. I am not a professional musician or producer, and I am not a professional music reviewer. I just happen to really like music and want to share that love with anyone that will listen. So don’t take anything I say too seriously.
When drivers license came out, singer and actress Olivia Rodrigo burst into public consciousness in a fashion that hasn’t occurred in at least a couple of years. Sure, people knew Rodrigo from her work on the Disney+ spinoff of High School Musical, entitled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, but she wasn’t all too famous for her singing. It has been just five months since Rodrigo’s debut single was released, and that could not be further from the truth. Now, Rodrigo’s music is all people can talk about. After the tremendous splash drivers license made, people were waiting in anticipation to see what she would do next – Rodrigo’s next single, deja vu, came at the perfect time to feed the oh so starving masses. And then, on May 14th, her third single, entitled good 4 u, was released. The single, the best of the three, in my opinion, served as a testament to Rodrigo’s musical diversity and gave Rodrigo her second Hot 100 number one. Five months after her breathtaking debut, Rodrigo had everyone wondering what she would pull out of her pocket next. And with her debut album, SOUR, she did not disappoint. SOUR, released on May 21st, solidifies Rodrigo as someone to watch in the music industry; she is more than a one (or three) hit wonder, and this album proves it.
SOUR is primarily an alt-pop album, akin to the sound one might hear on a Conan Gray record. However, many different genre influences are present on the album; the songs span from grungy guitar tunes to folky ballads with much more in between. The songs on the album find unification in their content matter, though; SOUR explores the different perspectives and emotions that emerge from a breakup. The songs on the record explore insecurity, jealousy, anger, and other sour emotions. It isn’t easy to write about feelings that are so uncomfortable and frustrating to grapple with, but Rodrigo takes the challenge in stride. Her songwriting is candid and self-aware; she gives you all the ugly details, not bothering to leave anything out. This is completely by-design on Rodrigo’s part; in an interview with the Face magazine, she said, “Being angry, jealous, overly emotional or sad can often be framed as being b*tchy or moany,”…“I decided to shine a light on those feelings, even though that was uncomfortable to talk about”. With SOUR, Rodrigo wanted to let people – especially women and girls who often get shamed for expressing negative emotions – that they aren’t alone by showing them that their famous fave goes through the same thing. And in that regard, SOUR succeeded.
As I mentioned, SOUR features some more experimental moments; Rodrigo’s disinterest in being placed in a box is made clear from the first song in the album. The intro song, brutal, is an angsty anthem with grungy guitars and great fuzzy production on Rodrigo’s voice to boot. 1 step forward, 3 steps back is a beautiful ballad with heart-wrenchingly vivid lyrics that interpolates the piano line from New Years Day by one of Rodrigo’s idols, Taylor Swift. good 4 u features a bumping baseline and a chorus that channels Paramore. favorite crime features some of the album’s best lyricism and a stripped-down folky feel. The closing song, hope ur ok, is an encouraging song with a message akin to The Story by Conan Gray and the cadence of a song from evermore by Taylor Swift. However, for all the LP’s high points, some songs leave a little to be desired. deja vu is a pretty forgettable song, in my opinion, and while traitor does feature amazing vocals from Rodrigo, it feels a little draggy and is the weakest slow song on the record. The album overall tends to drag on, with the slow songs all blurring into each other, occasionally being broken up by a more upbeat or sonically different number. That’s the thing with writing a body of work about a specific event or feeling; there isn’t much to talk about. So while Rodrigo probably couldn’t have diversified the messages in her songs too much, there was room for her to take more risks than she decided to. Every number where Rodrigo stepped out of her comfort zone was a highlight; every exploratory song left me wanting more. I wanted to see more vocal production like that on brutal; more songs like good 4 u and jealousy, jealousy. But all things considered, this album is Rodrigo’s debut project; I don’t think we could have asked for much more. If she did this well the first time around, I can’t imagine what she will have in store for us in five years.
SOUR has been met with critical acclaim. Metacritic, a website that aggregates scores from online music reviews into a score out of 100, gave the record a score of 83, indicating universal acclaim. It has also performed well commercially, especially considering it is a debut album. SOUR was the most pre-added album on streaming service Apple Music during the week preceding its release. It debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at number 1. good 4 u also debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Rodrigo the first person in US history to have two songs on a debut album debut at the top of the chart. The buzz around the singles that preceded the record’s release, along with the undeniable quality of the LP puts Rodrigo in a great position to be nominated for some Grammy awards. Rodrigo is essentially a shoo-in for the Best New Artist category; if she wins, she’ll be one of the first actually new artists to do so. I also see drivers license going up for Song of the Year, and possibly Best Pop Solo Performance.
A lot of celebrities were eager to share their thoughts on SOUR. Spoiler alert: they were overwhelmingly positive. Former Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale commented on Rodrigo’s Instagram post where she announced the album’s release saying, “Flawless album. Congrats gorgeous queen who will certainly be blessing us with music for your entire life”. Singer Camila Cabello took to her Instagram Story with her congratulations, saying, “This album is truly gorgeous. So honest, so vulnerable! I’m inspired”. Singer and producer Charlie Puth tweeted that SOUR is “musically and thematically incredible”, which is big praise coming from someone who is known to be extremely meticulous with their songwriting.
You know, I never got the hype around drivers license. I mean, it isn’t a bad song, but when it came out, I wasn’t all that impressed. But that isn’t to say I wasn’t intrigued; I was witnessing – we were all witnessing – a rise to fame that hasn’t been seen on such a big scale since Billie Eilish blew up. The sheer amount of buzz that drivers license was getting was impressive, never mind how the song sounded. That is to say, Olivia Rodrigo had the world’s attention when drivers license came out; the question was, would she be able to keep it? Rodrigo was presented with a challenge, and boy did she rise to it. SOUR showed the world that Olivia Rodrigo is here, and she’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.
I would give this album a 7.3/10.