20th May, 2022
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Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo

Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series:
Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better

If you have somehow managed to avoid hearing every track from Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album ‘SOUR‘ every single day since its release, you are stronger than I.

I heard about Olivia Rodrigo the same way everyone else did. The TikTok and Twitter drama. If you’re not familiar, here’s a rundown:

She’s an 18-year-old Disney channel actress who quite publically fell for her castmate, Joshua Bassett, who turned her down because, at the time, she was a minor, and he was not. Shortly afterwards, Mr Bassett started dating Sabrina CarpenterAll three of them put music out about the feud. However, Olivia is the only one worthy of our attention.

Drivers license took the world by storm. It got played everywhere, all the time. If you don’t subconsciously know all the words, you don’t go outside enough. It’s an incredible track, but I’ll get into that later.

She’s managed to follow up that sweet dream of a song with ten other incredible tracks. As someone who blasted drivers license every day for weeks following its release, I wasn’t sure she was going to be able to top it. I was delighted to be proven wrong. So here I am, back at it…critiquing albums as if I could make anything better.

brutal

The cinematic little string-instrument bit at the start is a terrific way to open up an album. This song is up-tempo, energetic and overall, angsty as hell. It acts as a great ‘opening titles’ moment to set up for the rest of the album. “They’d all be so disappointed cause who am I if not exploited” is my favourite line.

I was not fond of it at first, only because lyrically, it does position the album as something that’s a little bit less emotionally accessible for older audiences. I know I’m only two years older than her, but I feel like we’ve developed maturity in different areas. Also, I can parallel park, and, in the case where she can’t, I’m confused as to how Miss Olivia got her drivers licence.

It took a few listens to realise the genius of it, but it does, in fact, slap. She well and truly makes up for the immaturity with the production. Songs on this album have been compared to some more dated hits (such as Voodoo Child and Misery Business), making it a little more enjoyable for audiences older than me.

She covers a lot of ground very quickly in those lyrics and really sums up teenage angst before slowing down into the next song. It’s not necessarily my jam, and it’s not particularly relatable for me personally. Still, she’s right about one thing – it really is brutal out here.

traitor

I love the flow of this song, which is a significant part of why I loved drivers licence. The soft builds and releases feel so natural and cathartic, even if you can’t relate to the lyrics. Listening to this album will have you feeling like YOU just went through Olivia Rodrigo’s dramatic teenage breakup. The rhyming scheme is very creative. The production is so atmospheric that this song could be assigned to almost any mood. It could be sad, angry, just vibing… whatever you need, traitor’s got it! I’ve never had the experience she describes where he ‘didn’t cheat’ but is ‘still a traitor. That said, I think many people have had their feelings validated by this song. It was an instant favourite.

drivers license

I wish I had written down my thoughts on drivers license when it first came out before it was blasted 24/7, and I got sick of it. Again, my love for this song comes from its incredible build-and-release flow. The bridge is the best part, without a doubt. This was addictive for me. I’d put it on and turn it up on my way to work at six in the morning. The production is magnificent. It feels like a whole journey. Funnily enough, it reminds me of Joshua by Dizzy. The extra layer of TikTok drama made for great marketing. Even if it is a publicity stunt (although I don’t think it is), these messy Disney stars deserve a bachelor’s degree for this kick-starting her career.

1 step forward, 3 steps back

This was my instant favourite when I first listened to the album. Since then, I’ve cycled through other favourites and come right back. It samples the piano from a Taylor Swift song, ‘New Years Day‘, and lyrically, it closely alludes to ‘Dear John‘, also by Taylor swift. It lists her as a writer, which means I love it. Of course, it’s my favourite. It’s like 18-year-old Taylor Swift, but with a more pleasant voice, and she’s allowed to swear. I want to say more about it and point out a favourite lyric, but it’s just overall perfect, and I love every lyric.

deja vu

I don’t like it that much. I gave it a listen the day it came out, and I thought, “the melody sounds like Coffee Breath“, and I put it on my playlist. It grew on me, but not too much. I felt it was a let-down of a song to follow up drivers licence. It’s not bad. It’s just not drivers licence. She makes several pop culture references here. She talks about Glee and Billy Joel, which must hurt Sabrina and Joshua because that’s SO specific. The best part is in the second verse where she sings:

“And I bet that she knows Billy Joel/ cause you played her “Uptown Girl“/ you’re singin’ it together/ Now I bet you even tell her how you love her/ In between the chorus and the verse.”

good 4 u

I didn’t like this one at first either. I saw it all over TikTok, and so it got on my nerves. But it grew on me, and I’m glad to report it is, in fact, a banger. I kind of wish she said the “like a damn sociopath” bit on every chorus, but I understand that it’s better to ration the hype. It’s angry, petty, and an absolute tune. It’s being compared to early 2000’s pop-punk classics like Paramore‘s Misery Business. I don’t think people were expecting that sound from Olivia.

enough for you

This is, in my opinion, the saddest song on the album. If you’re a people pleaser, buckle in for some tears. I love it with my whole heart. It’s a gorgeous song. It reminds me of Safe & Sound from The Hunger Games soundtrack. It’s so simple, it’s just her voice and a guitar, but again, her flow is immaculate. The second verse is my favourite, but it also rips my heart out, you know? Again, I’d like to say more about this track, but it’s simply just perfect, and that’s all I have to say.

happier

I like the flow of the verses, but the chorus doesn’t phase me too much. It is the song that gets stuck in my head the most, though. The pettiness is fun for the first few listens, but it gets old. It’s in the same sub-category as enough for you but just not as good. I do like the guitar walk-down before the second verse and the lyric ‘she looks kind’.

jealousy, jealousy

This one grew on me. On first impression, it wasn’t relatable to me. I avoid comparing myself to girls on Instagram. It’s just a tad below my age target, but it doesn’t matter because the song is SO good. I love every part of it. The bridge is incredible. The ‘c-comparison is killing me slowly’ is addictive.

favourite crime

Lyrically, this is incredible. The layering on “the things I did just so I could call you mine” is splendid. Actually, the layering on this track is just all-around what makes it so gripping. The range of production techniques on this album really highlights how incredible and understated Olivia’s vocals are. She makes it sound so natural, but those notes are hard to hit.

hope ur ok

This song reminds me of ‘The Story‘ by Conan Grey. It does seem out of place on the album, but it’s a fantastic song. I love the bridge. It’s like a big hug. I’ve seen people on TikTok crying because they imagined singing this song to their younger selves. The last bit with the distorted conversation and the piano keys is a very gentle way to end an album that feels like closure.

Track Ranking:
  1. 1 step forward, 3 steps back
  2. favourite crime
  3. enough for you
  4. jealousy, jealousy
  5. traitor
  6. drivers licence
  7. good 4 u
  8. happier
  9. brutal
  10. deja vu
  11. hope ur ok

“Cough, Cough”

Tyneesha Williams

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