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Growing up takes “GUTS”

“I’M THE [WOMAN] ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN...” goes the interpolated Pink Floyd lyric. The “Bizaardvark” darling has just churned out one corker of an LP; enough to warrant a euhemerism. One writer gushes about “GUTS.” PHOTO courtesy of wikimedia commons.

It still absolutely boggles my mind that the girl I grew up watching play Paige in Disney Channel’s “Bizaardvark” is now a household name, reflecting the trials of maturity in asking questions like “when am I gonna stop being wise beyond my years / and just start being wise?” (“teenage dream”). 

“GUTS” is Olivia Rodrigo’s second album, following the wildly successful “SOUR” that earned her three Grammys last year. Yet these 12 new songs weren’t written without some hesitation. According to an interview with Apple Music, Rodrigo struggled with writer’s block in feeling the pressure to live up to the popularity (and animosity) she’s amassed over the last year. The fear would set in as she’d start to write, wondering what might happen next, and you can hear it in the lyrics “blood running cold / I’m on the outside of the greatest inside joke” (“ballad of a homeschooled girl”). 

It’s something anyone can relate to, this imposter syndrome. This writer’s block exists for the same reason that the fear of standing out does. It’s terrifying to stick out from the crowd, but still, there’s the want to be noticed — a precarious balance between existing and expecting. It’s what makes Rodrigo’s expression of such insecurities so impactful, like scratching an itch. In stepping back from standing out, I’ve heard my mind justify such conformity, thinking, “Look at you, cool guy, you got it” (“vampire”). 

It’s this consideration of reputation that echoes throughout the lyrics of “GUTS.” Rodrigo explores the typically undescribed undertone of feeling out of place but still trying to fit within an image. She explores this uncomfortable state of mind through the lens of a romantic relationship. It’s the “social suicide” (“ballad of a homeschooled girl”) of being able to “feel for your every issue, I know just what you mean” while screaming to the rooftops that “I know my age and I act like it” (“all-american bitch”) but “sometimes I feel like I don’t wanna be where I am” even though “it’s me who’s been making the bed” (“making the bed”). This is a never-ending cycle of not knowing where the road will end but running barefoot toward the horizon nonetheless.  

I will say, however, that “GUTS” is clearly conversing with Rodrigo’s previous work. “teenage dream” echoes back to “brutal” in asking “where’s my fucking teenage dream” while “vampire” recycles the sentiment “I used to think I was smart but you made me look so naïve” from 2020’s “All I Want” (“And I miss the days when I was young and naïve / I thought the perfect guy would come and find me”). Regardless, I don’t think these parallels discount the impact of “GUTS.” Instead, they demonstrate the formation of a mindset as Rodrigo matures, tacking additions onto previously solid beliefs — if not just tearing the whole house down. It’s the way an outlook changes when building more confidence, when shying away from relying on reputation to stare one’s self in the mirror and ask frankly, “what am I doing?”

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