“SOUR” Review: A Thank You Letter to Olivia Rodrigo

To many Asian-American creatives, Olivia Rodrigo is a trailblazing inspiration and excellent representation of a talented, young Flipina artist.

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Media by YouTube/Olivia Rodrigo

In the music video for her third single “good 4 u” off of her debut album “SOUR”, Rodrigo showed the world she was ready to set the music industry on fire. Angry, passionate and incredibly honest, Rodrigo’s “SOUR” is an album with no skips.

Listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album “SOUR” (released just a couple of days ago, May 21), I felt like a proud mom despite being a year younger than Rodrigo.

Joining the ranks of Zendaya, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, Rodrigo’s intimate, refreshing and impressive “SOUR” marks the beginning of another Disney starlet’s rise to fame in the music industry. 

Gen Z has seen Rodrigo first appear in Disney’s “Bizaardvark” and as the lead actress in the mega-hit “High School Musical The Musical: The Series.” 

As an Asian-American girl myself, seeing Rodrigo, a young Filipina star, play a role with utmost talent with nothing to do with her race made me feel so seen and proud. Until recently, it has been rare to see an Asian-American in Disney being portrayed as anything other than a pitiable nerd. 

When “driver’s license” came out and broke Spotify’s record for the most streams for a single in a week, I vividly remember breaking down into tears of unbridled happiness. To me, and many other Asian-American creatives, Rodrigo is a trailblazing inspiration.

So naturally, after blasting her teenage breakup anthems “driver’s license,” “deja vu” and “good 4 u” on repeat, I was beyond ecstatic for Rodrigo’s release of “SOUR.” 

As expected, Rodrigo not only met but exceeded my expectations.

The track-list to “SOUR” features eight new songs in addition to the three hit singles Rodrigo has recently released. Media by Geffen/Interscope

“Brutal” is the first song of the album and opens with a stunning orchestral instrumental that immediately cuts to a punk-rock guitar solo. I was blown away. My favorite line from the track is “they say these are the golden years, but I wish I could disappear.” 

Then, the following breakup ballad “traitor” exemplifies Rodrigo’s range by the mere second song. As someone who has not personally experienced heartbreak, this song still made me ache for a loyal lover. Rodrigo has mentioned Taylor Swift as her biggest musical inspiration, and many elements of Swift’s style (layered vocals, lyrical storytelling and a bridge-chorus structure) are present in this song.

“Traitor” is followed by the now iconic “driver’s license.” In the context with the rest of the songs in the album, the placement of this song as track three makes it even better. “Driver’s license” represents the transition from apathy to regret to pure sadness. 

“1 step forward, 3 steps back” is one of my favorite tracks on the album and one of the best songs I have heard in a long time. A perfectly accurate manifestation of post-break up confusion, “1 step forward, 3 steps back” allows Rodrigo to sing out in a characteristically angelic belt while maintaining the integrity of the simple melody. 

“Deja vu” and “good 4 u” signify the transition to an angry and bitter teen girl after a heartbreak. “Good 4 u” still fills me with intense emotion despite having listened to it on repeat ever since Rodrigo released it as a single earlier this week. I am an avid fan of pop-punk, so “good 4 u” was immediately added to all of my playlists.

The final track on the album, “hope ur ok,” is a representation of what we often consider to be an oxymoron: delicate strength. ”

“Enough for you” is a sharp turn and heartbreaking glimpse into Rodrigo’s efforts to change herself for a toxic relationship. “I wore makeup when we dated ‘cause I thought you’d like me more,” and “I don’t want your sympathy, I just want myself back” are two lines from this song that gave me chills. This song is a masterpiece, as heart-wrenching as it is simplistic. By this point in the album, I was in awe of Rodrigo’s groundbreaking talent. “Happier” and “favorite crime” also echoed similar themes.

“Jealousy, jealousy” is yet another song that gave me chills. Think if Lorde, Billie Eilish and WILLOW had a musical lovechild. Once again, Rodrigo has proved herself as a versatile artist.

The final track on the album, “hope ur ok,” is a representation of what we often consider to be an oxymoron: delicate strength. It’s a message about acceptance. Not only did this song give me chills, but also it prompted many, many tears. Beautiful. 

From just these 11 songs, it is clear to see that Rodrigo will secure her spot as the new face of pop. Thank you, Olivia Rodrigo, for creating the perfect pop soundtrack for summer 2021.