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Photo courtesy Billboard // Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album explores all five stages of grief

By Aymen Sherwani, June 4 2021—

Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album SOUR came out on May 21, 2021, following a whirlwind of drama surrounding the release of her single, “drivers license,” and as a result, it’s easily one of the most iconic breakup albums of the year. Her subsequent singles, “deja vu” and “good 4 u,” are not too far behind either and are currently taking TikTok by storm. 

Clocking in at around 35 minutes, the album is an assortment of tracks representing Rodrigo’s denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance of the end of her relationship — all of which are at the forefront of her music and are also what makes it so special. Despite only being 18 years old, she uses her vocal emotiveness to perfectly encapsulate all five stages of grief and how heart-wrenching it is to watch someone you still love slowly fall in love with someone else. 

While Rodrigo’s debut is titled SOUR, her lyrics are instead a bittersweet reminder of a pain that we have all felt at some point in our lives — being chosen over someone else. In a music industry full of artists that resign the depth of their sad songs in favour of catchiness, Rodrigo’s songwriting has both as she uses her vulnerability as a tool of empowerment. Being a Taylor Swift fan, Rodrigo revives the era of empowering breakup ballads by dedicating her entire album to her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Bassett, and laments how he was quick to date the girl he told her not to worry about following their breakup. 

The mournful vocals in tracks like ”traitor,” “happier,” and “drivers license” would make people, even in the most stable of relationships, feel the open wound-like pain of a love gone south no matter how hard they tried to save it. Rodrigo recalls how she practically bent over backwards to be the perfect girlfriend for Bassett but was ultimately left behind for someone “older and blonder.” She sings, “It only took you two weeks to go off and date her / Guess you didn’t cheat / But you’re still a traitor.”

This is in heavy contrast to the vengeful tone she takes in tracks like “brutal” and “good 4 u” — the sheer velocity of soul-shattering rage that Rodrigo’s voice carries puts her album up there with Beyonce’s Lemonade, Avril Lavigne’s “What the Hell,” and Taylor Swift’s Reputation era. Her music video for ”good 4 u” in which she sets fire to a house, features the line, “Well, good for you, you look happy and healthy / Not me, if you ever cared to ask / Good for you, you’re doin’ great out there without me / Baby, like a damn sociopath.”

If you were to take away anything from SOUR, it’s that it is okay not to be okay. More importantly, it subverts the negative narrative of the “crazy” ex-girlfriend into one that anyone can relate to whether they’re dealing with a loss of a friendship, lover or are just feeling a little melancholy. That being said, it’s clear that the “drivers license” singer will not be falling off the charts anytime soon. 

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