Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, Sour, is making a lot of millennial women feel very seen and heard right now. Here’s why…
I’m obsessed with Gen Z. They are the change this world needs; from leading the charge on the climate crisis to speaking up about mental health and fighting for equality. Sure, I’m well aware that this fondness and respect isn’t reciprocated. But even when Gen Z shame my millennial generation for wearing skinny jeans, boasting about Hogwarts houses and liking coffee – I just assume they have a point.
That’s why, when my fellow 30-something friend told me I had to listen to Sour, a new album by an 18-year-old Disney star called Olivia Rodrigo, I was happy to give it a go.
Reader, I have spent the last 48 hours playing that damn album on loop. Her lyrics have reached inside my soul. Like the iconic female coming-of-age female albums before her – Avril Lavigne’s Let Go, Arlo Parks’ Collapsed In Sunbeams, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, Taylor Swift’s Fearless – I know I’m going to rely on this for life.
I still play Let Go from start to end at least once a year, mostly during a rainy walk while having a little cathartic cry. And, on a Sunday afternoon in lockdown, I sat on the sofa, closed my eyes and absorbed every single lyric that Parks took from my head in Collapsed In Sunbeams. But what is it about these teenager-penned albums that just ‘get it’?
Let’s put it out there: our late teens are the years when most of us experience love, in all its flawed and fabulous glory, from its intense highs and devastating lows. It’s also the time when we are our rawest, most vulnerable and angsty selves. Who didn’t scrawl “I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love!” in their diary one day, then scratch it out the next?
The thing is, those big feelings around matters of the heart – losing our identities in relationships, utter heartache over a rejection, red jealously over an ex’s new love – never really go away. We just get better at hiding, reasoning and dealing with them. But they are always there as we continue to navigate relationships – relationships which only seem to get harder as the years go by, too.
“So when you gonna tell her that we did that, too? She thinks it’s special, but it’s all reused,” Rodrigo sings in Deja Vu, making anyone who’s ever envied an ex’s new girlfriend feel very seen. “That was the show we talked about, played you the songs she’s singing now when she’s with you.”
Similarly, in Driver’s License, Rodrigo offers further assurance about our comparison culture with the line, “She’s everything I’m insecure about.”
And when it comes to the point in a breakup when you’re nearly, but not quite, ready to let somebody go, Rodrigo nails it in Happier: “Think of me fondly when your hands are on her, I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier.”
I mean, come on… this girl sees me.
I’m not the only 30-something who is very affected by this teenager’s words. My friend Emily, 30, also gets the chills when she listens to Happier: “I think it’s very refreshing to have someone admit a very selfish but ultimately human feeling that you want to have mattered to another person and meant something special to them.”
Charlotte, 33, says the album is “on-point” no matter what age you are: “She really maturely tackles the weight and pressure of social media and comparison culture. It’s massive as a teenager but, fuck, even as a 33-year-old, I spend a lot of my time looking at other people and assuming that their beauty is my lack of beauty, their success is my failure (even though I know deep down that it’s bullshit).
“I love Deja Vu because it made me think about how I feel like I’m being unfair if I meet somebody else after my ex, and vice versa – I’d probably be raging and feel really strange. Like, those memories you made together are broken because they’re making the same ones with new people.
“Rodrigo feels like that as a 17-year-old girl and I feel that as a single, childfree, confused woman in my 30s. There are certain emotions that go way beyond romantic relationships that we just live with for a really long time.”
It’s little surprise that Rodrigo’s second single from the album, Good 4 U, went straight to the top of the Billboard chart this week. And, with Taylor Swift declaring herself a big fan, it’s clear that the Sour hype train is something we all want to board. She even looked exactly like a young Kate Bush (another pop genius) with that billowing red dress and messy long brunette mane during her Brit Awards performance, damn it.
Now excuse me while I go and sob/scream/throw myself about during my 20th listen of the album. Because, like Rodrigo says in the opening track: “God, it’s brutal out there.”