The debut album by 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, Sour sounds just like teenage heartbreak. The record was written and recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent period of isolation. The album started out as an EP, but the first single Drivers License topped the charts as soon as it came out. The sudden success inspired the artist to write more songs and to turn Sour into a full-length album.
Like many pop artists in the last decade, Rodrigo comes from the Disney Channel. She starred in the 2019 High School Musical TV series and became immediately very popular among American teens and pre-teens. Though her singing skills made her famous, it was her songwriting ability that made Sour a hit.
The inspiration for her writing came from other female songwriters such as Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, and Taylor Swift. Swift is also credited as the writer on two tracks. As a result, the two struck up an immediate mentoring friendship after Sour‘s release.
A title you can feel
Sour is not only the record’s title, it is also how the record feels to the listener.
I’m obsessed with the concept of awesome things in my life – like my relationship with myself and with others – progressively going sour as I get older
Rodrigo candidly explores feelings she thinks aren’t talked about enough among young women. The album is about insecurity, jealousy, sadness and heartbreak. Rodrigo portrays them as intensely as any teenager experiences them. Sour transports the adult listeners back to the drama of the teen years, and the intensity that they usually demand. Emotions like grief, angst and uncertainty permeate the whole record. As a result, Sour sounds like teenage heartbreak. The record tells a story of love and loss, a universal tale that every human being can relate to.
Heartbreak is a shared human experience, this makes Sour’s appeal universal.
Musically, Sour compliments the lyrics’ bitter tone. The extensive use of electric guitars and a few Musically, Sour compliments the lyrics’ bitter tone. The extensive use of electric guitars and a few drum outbursts give Sour a strong sound. The record is a pop album, though with grunge crossover and folk influences. The third single Good 4 u features a strong bassline and a rock attitude. 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back is a bittersweet ballad. This is where Rodrigo showcases her lyric-writing abilities. The different genres coexist on the album. It’s Rodrigo’s storytelling mastery that holds it together.
The album’s production is sharp and modern. The songs have no musical frills in order to enhance the vocals. In the bridges and in the choruses the producer chose to layer harmonies. Rodrigo’s witty lyrics and catchy choruses ensure the album is an instant classic in modern pop-culture.