Review: Olivia Rodrigo delivers flawless Gen Z pop on her debut album

LA Times

05-21-2021

Whatever you think of Olivia Rodrigo — whatever you could say (or tweet) about the 18-year-old singer-songwriter shaping up to be pop’s breakout star of 2021 — trust that Rodrigo has already thought it. She knows she’s “obsessive,” as she puts it in one song from her wily and affecting debut album, “Sour”; she knows she’s “too emotional,” as she puts it in another. Hot on the heels of “Drivers License,” Rodrigo’s gloriously melodramatic power ballad that came out of nowhere to spend eight weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100, “Sour” might be the most self-aware pop record in recent memory. (Nigro is great at using unexpected sounds, like the frayed synth tone in “Deja Vu,” to embody Rodrigo’s state of mind.) She’s not sure where they ended up, she tells us, softly and breathily now, as though she’s looking back through the eyes of an old woman.

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48.59% objective
56.49% positive

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If one of the tracks off Olivia Rodrigo's debut album, Sour, sounds awfully familiar, don't worry, you're not having deja vu (unless you're listening to “Deja Vu,” LOL). Rodrigo's melancholic “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” uses the same piano melody as Taylor Swift's “New Year's Day,” the closing track from her 2017 album, Reputation. “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back,” however, is about insecurity after a break-up and not understanding what went wrong. Olivia Rodrigo has long cited Taylor Swift as one of her major inspirations, calling her “the best songwriter of all time" and self-identifying as a “Swiftie” to the core. The two finally met at the Brit Awards in May 2021 but had made contact before that, with Swift sending Rodrigo a handwritten note.

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The global mega-hit Drivers License, released in January, put Olivia Rodrigo on the fast track to pop superstardom. Following speedily in its wake, the fierceness and focus of Rodrigo’s streamlined debut album, Sour, suggests that the 18-year-old is going to be a real threat behind the wheel. The final ingredient goes further back, drawing on the rocky brashness of 1990s singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette and 2000s pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne. Rodrigo specialises in songs that cast her as the downtrodden victim of careless love with thoughtless boys. But the passive-aggressive wit gleaming through her sharp couplets about unfaithful exes might make you question who really has the power in the relationship.

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Is there more to Olivia Rodrigo than “Drivers License”? However, the 18-year-old pop divette — who wisely took her time between releasing “Drivers License” in January and dropping her debut album “Sour,” out now — is the real deal. Here are five highlights that prove the “Drivers License” singer has miles to go in her career. “Traitor”One of the most Eilish-esque tracks on “Sour,” this moody moment plays like a “Drivers License” sequel, with a brokenhearted Rodrigo aching in all the right ways. Co-stars Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett have been the center of “Drivers License” drama.

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