It’s been the year of Olivia Rodrigo. First starting as a lead on the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark, and now a star in the hit reboot of High School Musical called High School Musical: the Musical: the Series, she’s been a familiar face for Gen Z. Now, Rodrigo has transitioned into a successful music career, and her debut album SOUR is out now.
Although I am not a particular fan of Rodrigo’s work, it has been great to watch the young star grow, and it’s clear she has a bright future ahead. Here is my review of each song on SOUR and its sound as a whole, ranging from worst to best.
The weakest song on the album is “enough for you.” The song is eerily similar in storytelling to “jealousy, jealousy” but instead an acoustic version that is much less catchy and shares the similar lyrical cliches as “brutal” with a more simplistic tone. This song sounds the most like her singing on High School Musical: the Musical: the Series, which does not nearly showcase her vocal talent. In a recent Billboard poll, only 4.87% of participants said it was their favorite song, making it the second-lowest ranked song. I rate this song a light three and personally felt that it does not add value to the album and its overall story.
Next on the list is “favorite crime.” Similar to “enough for you,” it felt like it did not add to the flow and story of the album, and was an interesting choice as the second to last song. Rodrigo’s co writer is songwriter Daniel Nigro, who also works with the pop artist Conan Gray, and in this song, the connection is very clear. The tone, sound, and lyrics are all very reminiscent of Gray’s vibe. I think this overall isn’t beneficial to Rodrigo in establishing her own sound because a song like this sounds like another artist. I rate this song a decent four.
The next two songs I have rated a decent five. Both “driver’s license” and “good 4 u.” Now I know these are probably my boldest takes, and it’s most specifically because of Rodrigo’s choice for her singles. Her first single was “driver’s license,” a dramatic ballad released in early January this year. With over 780 million streams on Spotify alone, it’s clear that the song was well-received, but it’s not my favorite. I think it’s a great demonstration of Rodrigo’s vocal range, but because the majority of her songs revolve around a love interest, it can become tiring. I have this same critique for artists of all genders and experiences, where their work is so heavily centered around one experience or part of their identity, so we don’t know who they really are.
Her first single, “driver’s license,” will be remembered as one of the most popular of Rodrigo’s songs, and I find it unfavorable when relationships become the center of an album. I definitely think she uses this experience to create beautiful work, but it’s also important to consider the lyrical variety needed to repeat the same story within an album. By the fourth track, it becomes evident that the heartbreak she went through is the thesis of the album, but it slowly begins to feel repetitive.
Conversely, Rodrigo’s third single, “good 4 u,” does take that lyrical jump while still discussing her relationship. I like this song; it’s catchy, you can dance to it, and it’s a new sound. I loved the use of frustration, but at the same time, Rodrigo struggled with some of her enunciations while trying to express that sound. I think this is a great example of talking about a romantic relationship without making it obvious and allowing the audience to make it apply to their own situations. I still rate this song a decent five because it’s not her best, but fairly good. Its divergence in style from the first two singles can be off-putting to some.
The last song in the five category is “jealousy, jealousy.” This leans into the same angst seen throughout the album with more originality. I found it easy to listen to, and Rodrigo sounds comfortable; I rate it a strong five, light six.
The three songs in the six category are “brutal,” “1 step forward, 3 steps back”, and “hope ur ok.” “brutal” was an interesting choice for the first song on the album, one I dislike because it creates an illusion. Given its high energy and rock influence, I think it creates a false impression about the tone of the album and has a sharp turn to “traitor.” The song sounded a bit vocally straining, and had some cliche lyrics. It’s a good song that matched the energy of “good 4 u” but was better suited as a single given how much it diverges from the rest of SOUR.
“1 step forward, 3 steps back” was the most metaphorical in lyricism, which I prefer. Although it may sound like a stretch to some, I think these same lyrics with the tone of “brutal” would have been a great song. Although that may just be my preference, it would be really cool. Additionally, Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff’s contribution through the interpolation of “New Year’s Day” makes the song stronger and a great nod for fans of Swift and Rodrigo.
“hope ur ok” was a beautiful song, yet the wrong choice for the last song. Because Rodrigo takes us through the long journey of dealing with heartbreak, it would have been great to have the last song address those feelings. As the only song not directly related to a relationship, it was great to hear about messages of acceptance and family. The only drawback was how similar it sounded to “The Story” by Conan Gray, which shared a tear-jerking story.
To conclude the review, it is clear that the three best songs on SOUR are “deja vu,” “happier,” and “traitor.” All three songs have great storytelling, vocal range, more soul and emotion than all the other songs, and are just beautiful. The album is a decent seven, but you must listen to those three songs.