By: The Crown Editor | October 2, 2023
I sat at the kitchen table on a warm, late night in mid-July. Scrolling through YouTube, I came across a video that caught my attention: “Olivia Rodrigo–Vampire”. Being the ‘moderate’ Olivia Rodrigo fan I am, I quickly clicked on the video to ensure that what I was seeing was real. Though I know I’m not her target audience, I believe her lyrics transcend beyond the teenage girl demographic to speak to every person who dares listen.
I had missed the hype of her first album, SOUR, when it was first released, but quickly grew into a fan when COVID-19 isolation allowed me to listen to “good for u” a dozen times in the span of a few days. So, for her second album, I knew I had to stay on top of the narrative. Overall, Livy’s second entry into the competitive music industry brings out her wild side—with more angst, more personality, and (perhaps controversially) more spoken lyrics than anyone was expecting.
To start, we were gifted with “vampire” at a time when we did not know we needed it. It’s a deceptive song that starts like a ballad but transforms into a punk-y banger at the intro of the chorus. I knew it had captured the hearts of all her fans when I was told of a nine-year-old girl at summer camp who joylessly sang it alone in a bathroom stall.
But she really shook things up with the early release of the second song on the album, “bad idea, right?”, which shocked many fans on the first listen-through. For the typical Redeemer theologian, this may be a surface-level song written to sing loudly during late-night car rides, but in reality, it upholds Biblical values that the average Christian teenager needs to learn: going to your ex’s house late at night is, indeed, a bad idea… right? Right.
But these two early releases only graze the surface of the fun, depth, and beauty found within the melodies of GUTS. Rodrigo demonstrates tremendous range in her writing as we jump from the hip “get him back!” to the thoughtful “making the bed”. Lyrics like, “Another conversation with nothing good to say / I thought it so I said it, took it ‘cause I can” capture her profound reflections on real-life experiences. While lyrics like, “When am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years and just start being wise?” demonstrate the existential questions many wrestle with in their critical teenage years.
From a Christian perspective, Biblical truth shines through many phrases Olivia penned. She knows, “there’s always something missing” (from “pretty isn’t pretty”) because “[God] has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Although at times there is needless cursing, Olivia’s desires and dreams are a testimony of the human condition that can only be met and fulfilled by the Creator.
What I appreciate most about this album is the true depth in Olivia’s writing. Rather than the all-too-common light-hearted pop songs that appeal to young musicians, she includes in every song a lyric, a chord, or even a simple note that shifts the song from common to exquisite.
When I asked other guys in my dorm to comment their thoughts on the album, a fair criticism arose. Asking to remain under the guise of anonymity, one dorm mate expressed apathy for the album.
“I just don’t care enough… the aesthetics look the same as the last one,” he said—although he did admit he had not actually listened to any of the new songs yet. In Olivia’s defense, I think it’s appropriate that the vibe of GUTS is like that of SOUR. GUTS, in my opinion, is a spiritual twin of her debut album, and acts as a refined part two to her teenage, drama-ridden experiences. I do think, however, that she will have to change things up for whatever her next album may be—perhaps even a Taylor Swift-esque transformation. According to my calculations, Livy’s best way forward is a high-praise congregational worship album focused on the atonement of Christ.
So, whether you’re suffering through a tough Redeemer break-up, wanting to get into your feels instead of doing your school work, or just looking for music to jam out to while you tackle that week-old pile of dishes, this album will satisfy your desires. Why? Because when we look below the surface, there is an abundance of common grace radiating throughout the GUTS album. The deep longings, the hurt, and the sinful desires she describes in her songs remind each of us of our need for a savior. For if God can save a sinner like me, how much more can He redeem the works of Olivia Rodrigo?