While a then-17-year-old Olivia Rodrigo initially captivated listeners with her striking power-ballad “drivers license,” it was the edgier, pop punk-leaning “good 4 u” that had the most staying power from her world-dominating debut, SOUR. On sophomore project GUTS, it’s pretty clear that Rodrigo and returning producer Dan Nigro took note of that. Together, they sidestep the sophomore jinx with a project that finds Rodrigo both bidding her youth goodbye with expectedly mixed feelings and mining the last bits of delightfully bratty exuberance out of it through talk-singing, belted sneers and a variety of tracks that feel unexpectedly like they might have come from the last Wet Leg album. If you’ve wronged Rodrigo, you’re about equally likely to receive a simple, shouted “you suck” as you are a full-verse poetic dismantling on this album.
The best moments are where the two sides combine, like on presumptive future smash hit “get him back!” where Rodrigo offers a clever lyrical twist playing with the title’s double meaning, or when she elects to let her still-stunning vocals shine a little more over the indie-rock soundscapes. A couple ballads still hang around, but if GUTS succeeds at one thing, it’s proving that Rodrigo certainly isn’t a flash in the pan or a one trick pony. She’s a multitalented powerhouse, and in a lot of ways, she’s exactly what we needed to shake up the mainstream pop scene and make it interesting again.