AUDIO JUNKIE: Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’ is actually bittersweet

Published June 12, 2021, 12:25 PM

by Punch Liwanag

Get used to hearing from Olivia Rodrigo from hereon.

It was inevitable that we would be reviewing Olivia Rodrigo’s hit debut album titled “SOUR.” The reason was admittedly shallow, at first. Here’s an 18-year-old who just broke the internet with a sensitive ballad called “drivers license” that is beguiling and modern sounding as it is heartbreaking. Have to check that out soon.

Second reason is that since we heard that her eleven-track album was released in the latter part of May 2021, several songs from said album have been charting and cramming themselves on all the popular playlists all at the same time that we really had to check out what heck Olivia Rodrigo is all about.

And now we’re listening to it just for the pure enjoyment and revelation of this young and talented singer-songwriter whom we can say has one of the best album debuts of 2021.

“I’m so sick of seventeen, where’s my f**kin’ teenage dream?” sings Olivia on the grit-guitar driven album opener “brutal” wherein Rodrigo lets out her litany of teenage angst. Trying to fit in, over-thinking, wishing other people liked her but not liking herself. “God, it’s brutal out here” she exclaims. You’d think she’s miserable. Maybe, but it’s more like she’s exorcising this stuff out of her system.

On “Traitor” Olivia goes off into a Taylor Swift-styled withdrawal from an ex-boyfriend. “Took you two weeks  to go off and date her, guess you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor” she sings in a slowly building ballad and in which she reveals her heartbreak in journal style lyricism.

Olivia has a penchant for simple and pretty melodies. It’s plain to hear on the piano-decked confusion she feels and sings about on “1 step forward, 3 steps back” –- for sure, one of the memorable tunes on her debut that is sounding better as it goes.

Olivia displays some sonic flexibility as she employs some alt-pop flavors on the midtempo swell of “déjà vu.” While on “enough for you” and “Favorite Crime” she tries on acoustic guitar-driven, country-tinged balladry.

Olivia’s writing is drawn from personal experience. From her heartbreak to be exact. And listening to her sing about it feels like we’ve been there riding shotgun as she gets her young little heart broken.

But what she manages to get out of her misery is a thing of beauty. Or a whole album’s worth of stunning ballads, like “happier” in which she resists the urge to tear apart her ex’s new squeeze. “So find someone great but don’t find no one better, I hope you’re happy but don’t be happier.” Or alt-pop flavored bop and in-betweens such as “jealousy, jealousy”, “good for you” and “hope ur ok,” wherein she rocks and attacks it like Lorde.

Born Olivia Isabel Rodrigo on February 20, 2003, Olivia is born of German-Irish roots from her mother’s side and Filipino on her father’s side. The Temecula, California native said that her great-great grandfather moved from the Philippines as a teenager and that her family is as Filipino with their traditions and cuisine. Olivia is also an actor and is one of the stars in Disney plus’ Highschool Musical series.