Only nine months into her music career, Olivia Rodrigo has dominated the charts and headlines after the release of her VMA-winning song ‘drivers license’. Although some were already familiar with her (us included) from the High School Musical-inspired Disney+ show, it was her debut album SOUR that made her known to all. It is typically referred to as a ‘break-up album’ as many of the songs describe Rodrigo’s experiences after the end of a relationship, but we think there’s so much more to it.
While the majority sees the smash-hit album as one that simply talks about heartbreak, to us it is an album that explores the sour (yes, we know we’re funny) aspect of our teenage years. A lot of the time, the lyrics found in the songs included seem dramatic and overexaggerated, but in actuality, they serve as a pretty accurate representation of the chaotic thoughts that go through our minds on a day to day basis. SOUR reveals the internal struggles and conflicts that teenagers like us usually hide deep within ourselves because of how hard it is to let it all out. As we analyze the album through this perspective, it not only becomes more meaningful but also more powerful because we get to realize that it expresses the things most of us are too afraid to say aloud.
If there’s one question we want you to ponder on as we go through this album charged with emotions you might just relate to, it’s this: Do you get deja vu?
One of our favorite lines in the opening song ‘brutal’ is, “She’s having a really good time,” even if it’s only an adlib in the background. At first it was mostly because it was funny considering its satirical placement in the song. However, when you listen to it again with the intent to further understand the message, it actually sums up what the song is trying to say.
Many people, including teenagers as well, believe that youth is supposed to be the golden age of a lifetime. After all, it’s supposed to be about being carefree and pure, right? The truth is, it’s not that simple. Throughout our teenage years, our minds eventually get tainted by ugly thoughts that sometimes seem too petty and immature. Everything looks so big and scary because we’re still at that point where we’re trying to figure out who we’re supposed to be on top of all the hardships life has to offer—and that’s when the insecurities come in. Sometimes, it’s like there are more things to cry about than to enjoy, but what we don’t remind ourselves is that all these conflicting feelings are valid.
Not enough people tell us that it’s okay not to be okay. Yes, that sounds like some generic quote people use to sound deep, but it’s true. We’re always expected to stay happy, optimistic, and grateful because of our youth. Those expectations unconsciously make it uncomfortable for us to open up. It comes to a point where it becomes so easy to mask our true selves. “She’s having a really good time,” people would say when they easily believe what’s written on our faces. The concerning part of it all is that most of this negativity happens in our heads. Sometimes, no one even notices, and sometimes, we don’t realize we’re in need of help because it doesn’t seem to affect us on the outside. Life continues to move on though to hit us with more blows, and we’re left to simply deal with it.
If we’re being honest, we didn’t actually like ‘brutal’ during our first listen because of its chaotic flow as it experiments with pop and rock elements. After time passed though, we realized that this exact tune clearly represented how teenage years sometimes go—messy with a little bit of swag.
One step forward, three steps back
“Forever” is a big promise to make to anyone and to yourself.
It’s terrifying to think about how easy it can be to conceal your true thoughts. However, most of the time, it doesn’t stay easy forever even if you actively try to keep it all in. Eventually, there comes a trigger.
The fan-favorite track ‘traitor’ talks about a relationship that was played like a twisted game. The song was a reflection of a girl who ignored all the red flags that showed how her partner was possibly in love with someone else. She kept her suspicions quiet though, and when this relationship had ended, the boy she loved went straight to the other girl she was paranoid about.
Although the song is mostly praised for its storytelling, it actually provides a clear example of something we’ve been talking about so far—keeping your thoughts unheard. Earlier we said that the reason why we do this is to live up to others’ expectations. ‘Traitor’ not only portrays this well, but it also shows that doing this won’t do you any good in the long run. Keeping everything inside doesn’t make it go away; it will just continue to pile up until a trigger happens (in this case, it was the girl losing the relationship) and then it all backfires. You just explode—metaphorically, of course, but it can be literal if you want it to be. You do you!
‘ Drivers license’ is pretty self-explanatory—it’s about how a broken promise changed everything. Listening to this song is like going through all the stages of heartbreak even if you’ve never experienced it. Just like ‘traitor’ though, it represents something bigger. After the ‘explosion’ we talked about earlier, everything—all your worries and fears—begin to overwhelm you. You spiral and start to think of what you could have done differently to prevent something from happening. The weight of it all hits you a ton, and you can’t help but wonder how everything ended up this way. Rodrigo sings about longing for the relationship she lost, but in a broader sense, she was actually singing about the feeling of longing for the “happier” past before it all went south.
Sometimes, life can feel like Monopoly. You take one step, but something forces you to take three steps back. No matter what you do, you just can’t understand what’s going on. First, you kept quiet, and that didn’t work. Then, you “face” your emotions, but that only made you feel worse. ‘1 step forward, 3 steps back’ portrays this exact feeling through the story of a toxic relationship.
Rodrigo talks about a relationship wherein all she did was doubt and overthink. She knew it wasn’t going well and that no progress was being made, but she made compromises instead of leaving it behind. When negativity overwhelms us, we do the same thing. We make compromises because it’s easier than finding solutions. We try to convince ourselves we’re okay, and we try to be better. However, the effort to keep up that ‘act’ only becomes mentally and emotionally exhausting. That’s when you realize that you’ve dug yourself in a hole, and it’s like you can’t find a way out.
“You don’t understand, mom!”
After tirelessly trying to compromise, resorting to anger, bitterness, and rage would most likely turn into a coping mechanism. Since the problem becomes too overwhelming and the weight on your shoulders just feels too heavy, you may find yourself blaming everything on someone else just to make yourself feel better.
‘Deja vu’ delivers a message about how Rodrigo saw her old partner reuse the all-too familiar games, jokes, moves and antics in his new relationship. The music video of this song gives off light, fun, and bright visuals, but that is the irony behind it. Whenever we experience a fallout with someone, the happy memories often hurt us more than the sad ones. This applies to non-relationship dilemmas too. Once we see others having a great time and remember what it was like to be that way, the deja vu becomes a bittersweet feeling. However, we would never want to admit that, which is why we throw blame to someone else and criticize them instead of ourselves.
The catchy and empowering song ‘good 4 u’ clearly shows everyone what female rage is all about. Resentment can sometimes fuel your heart once you see the person who hurt you doing good considering you probably feel the opposite way. Instead of being sad about it though, anger starts to show because we cannot seem to find a way to be happy and healthy. From tears to fuming flames, it is honestly painful to see other people having it way easier than you.
The classic sad ballad ‘enough for you’ sends out a message about how some relationships make us feel so insecure, but at the end of the day, we realize that we had nothing to be insecure about. People pleasing is so evident nowadays, and we sometimes find ourselves trying so hard to be everything that others want us to be. We get so obsessed with trying to be that picture perfect girl or guy to the point that we feel like we are never going to be enough. In this song, Rodrigo talks about how she was so focused on trying to be pretty, smart, and talented, yet it all comes down to nothing because the guy ends up leaving her for someone else. He always told Rodrigo that she was never fully satisfied with anything but in reality, he had ridiculously high standards that no girl could ever reach to begin with. In short, we sometimes lose ourselves trying to be “enough” for others or trying to reach their expectations when really they should be able to love us for who we truly are.
With all of these different emotions and realizations, it sometimes feels like it would take a long time before finally managing your emotions and gathering your thoughts. It is normal to experience flashes of anger, bitterness, sadness, and rage, but do not forget to deal with them properly. After all, we just want you to feel happy and healthy.
“I’m not happier, but I’m trying.”
After all of those tiring and confusing stages, it is normal for you to try to be a better version of yourself and move on from everything that happened. However, moving on is not exactly the easiest thing to do. It is one thing to say it, but actually, doing it is another story.
Whenever we hear someone say, “I’m happy for you,” to someone who hurt them, we cannot help but wonder if they really mean it. At this point in the album, the song ‘happier’ talks about Rodrigo wishing someone the best but still secretly hoping that they would not experience the same kind of happiness they had with her. It highlights the fact that we may not be over something just because we have accepted it. This song brings out the selfish yet relatable part of all of us that still wishes things would go back to the way they used to be.
‘Jealousy, jealousy’ is the song that encapsulates the moment when we become self-aware about our toxic feelings, and we realize that it needs to stop. This feeling eats you up alive, and it leads you to looking at other people’s lives and wishing that you are in their position instead. The impact of social media hits so hard because we end up comparing ourselves to people we do not even know. Worry and fear starts to bottle up, and we always wonder what other people may think of us. However, if you look at it from others’ perspectives, almost every teenager feels the same way. This is a phase of self-loathing for feeling like a burden. We end up getting sick of ourselves, and jealousy always finds a way to creep back into our minds and hearts.
In the song, ‘favorite crime’, Rodrigo looks back on a relationship where she did everything she could to be called “theirs” because she craved for the very few good parts of the relationship. However, when it all ended, she learned that it was wrong, and she knew that she was partly responsible for the downfall as well. At one point in our lives, we realize that there’s a reason why things happen. We realize that the world isn’t simply against us for no reason; difficult experiences allow us to learn and grow, to open up our minds and see that we just didn’t know any better in the past. The ironic part of it is that sometimes that lack of knowledge we used to have seems more appealing than the truths we know now because it was just simpler then. Committing crimes and mistakes are always perceived as something no one would ever want to do again. What we don’t admit though is that the feeling of doing them without knowing the consequences is sometimes thrilling to us—making situations like these our favorite crime.
It is not easy to just forgive and forget someone or something that destroyed you. That feeling of selfishness, jealousy, and missing a toxic experience can make you feel so confused, but know that whatever you are feeling is valid. One day, you are going to look back at all of this and realize that moving on really is possible. Just take a step, and you will eventually figure it out.
We hope that you’re okay ♡
After the rollercoaster ride we call “heartbreak” that seemed to go on forever, Rodrigo ends her album with ‘hope ur ok’. Although this song is definitely underrated, it speaks volumes. Rodrigo talks about her friends’ different experiences throughout the verses, but at the end, she uses first and second person pronouns which make it feel like she is directly talking to you. One of our personal favorite lines in the song is, “Hope he took his bad deal and made a royal flush.” It is her way of saying that she wishes the best for everyone even though life does not always go well. In this song, she talks to the audience, and it shows that we really need someone to tell us that they care during our teenage years because it can feel like no one understands. It gives us this sense of validation and makes us realize that everything will be okay because we are never alone.
Through this song, we just want to say that we are proud of you, your life, and everything you have surpassed. Although you may have gone through a lot, you have reached the end of the chapter and the beginning of a new one. We genuinely hope you are okay because you deserve to be happy. The album SOUR can not only help you process your different thoughts and emotions, but it can also serve as a reminder that what you are feeling is valid and that so many people are on the same boat. If it makes you feel better, let us remind you that Olivia Rodrigo is one of those people.
Here’s to the sweet and sour parts of our teenage years!