Two years after teen pop-rock singer-songwriter sensation Olivia Rodrigo released her debut album, SOUR, with no new music since, she finally gave fans the song that they have been waiting on the edge of their seats for.
SOUR was an emotional rollercoaster of an album describing her breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Bassett, who also was her co-star on the Disney Channel Series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. She describes the feelings of getting dumped for someone else, regretting the decisions you’ve made in a relationship, trying to grieve but also not let it consume you, and all the while trying to be a teenager in this insane modern day world.
SOUR broke many records, it became the first album in all of spotify history to have all songs exceed 200 million streams, and became the first album released in this century to spend almost two years in the top 10 of billboard 200. It was the first song to hit one billion global streams in 2021.
So why has Olivia Rodrigo been so successful? Personally, I think it’s due to many things. First of all, I think her roles on Disney Channel (and more obscurely, she starred in an American Girl movie at the age of 12) helped boost her awareness. She already had her name in the industry, so when she released her first immediately-viral single, Drivers License in 2021, she already was a familiar face. Secondly, I think it’s her songwriting; she has hard-hitting lyrics that you can feel throughout your soul and that you can really connect to–and her instrumentals always somehow kill you just as much as her lyrics can. Thirdly, I think it’s her relatability.
For the younger end of Gen-Z, it was like a breath of fresh air. We were tired of all of our role models and favorite stars all being 20 years older than us. And there she was, someone just a little bit older/younger or the same age as us, singing about real emotions. She wasn’t just singing cliched love songs with recycled concepts and thrifted lyrics. She was experimental, she was alternative, she was new. She was a rebel. She didn’t care about swearing or censoring herself. She didn’t care about setting her ex’s bedroom on fire in her music videos. She didn’t care about screaming her heart out on her songs. She didn’t care about calling people out.
And we all ate it up. I even ran out and bought her CD within a month, joined her email list (which I’m still on, it’s cute), watched her virtual “Sour Prom” with my mom, watched her documentary the night it came out with my parents, and got her transparent vinyl pre-ordered the minute it was available. I learned all her songs on guitar and piano, and sang them until her lyrics were engraved in my brain. She inspired my own songwriting–and that is why she is so prominent. Because she’s an inspiration.
So many compare her past work to her new work and make claims about how she will never be able to write another perfect, no-skip album like that again.
However, SOUR is in her past. It was an album she wrote at the ages of 15-17, and she is now 20 years old. She’s grown as a musician and person and there’s nothing good about putting someone on a pedestal like that about their past, because I believe there’s always room for improvement.
Vampire is the lead single of her highly-anticipated sophomore album, GUTS, which is set to be released on September 8.
And it’s as much of an emotional rollercoaster as SOUR was.
This song is another breakup song, and she compares her ex to being a vampire, sucking the love and life out of her.
The song starts in a major key, F, and has a tempo of 138 BPM. The track runs three minutes and 40 seconds (which is nice since the rest of her discography tends to be in the two minute range) and is in a time signature of four beats per measure.
Hate to give the satisfaction, asking how you’re doing now
How’s the castle built off people you pretend to care about?
Within the first two lines, you’re already hooked. It’s heart-wrenching, it’s bold, and it’s relatable. And the way she paints the picture of a castle being built off people who someone you know treats awfully? AH! It’s so intense.
Just what you wanted
Look at you, cool guy, got it
I see the parties and the diamonds
Sometimes when I close my eyes
Six months of torture you sold as some forbidden paradise
I can’t even with that last line. I love when a singer can just say something that totally describes how you’re feeling, but you would’ve never thought to put it that way, and how she describes torture as being sold as paradise. However, she says it’s forbidden, probably meaning either the relationship was a secret or the way the other person expresses their feelings was a secret.
I loved you truly
You gotta laugh at the stupidity
I love her for that. I want that on a shirt. It’s such a diss, it’s so cold… but it’s so true. I’m in awe. I’m purely in awe.
Cause I’ve made some real big mistakes
But you make the worst look fine
I should’ve known it was strange
You only come out at night
At this point of the song, her vocal delivery is not quite the breathy talk-singing she performed in the verse, it’s a bit stronger, but it’s also still sort of shaky, and you can tell she’s really feeling every word she’s saying.
I used to think I was smart
But you made me look so naive
A lyric like that is so interesting. It seems to be really simple and for someone not really reading too deeply into it, they don’t think it has much meaning, but when you really think about it, especially if you’ve lived it, it just sort of guts you. It’s funny how you can feel super smart and conscious, but then the moment something–like her breakup–happens, you suddenly realize how naive you were.
The way you sold me for parts
And sunk your teeth into me, oh
These lines kill me. Yup, I think on my tombstone it’ll say “Killed by Olivia Rodrigo’s lyrics.” At this point of the song, she’s belting them and reaching into a vocal range that I don’t know if we’ve ever heard of any of her studio work. I’ve heard her reach higher notes during live performances, but this really just proves her talent. I think this line I feel the most, and it’s because she puts so much emotion behind it. It’s almost as if you’re standing there right next to her. And the line “The way you sold me for parts” is just such a tragically beautiful phrase.
Blood sucker, fame f**ker
Bleeding me dry, like a goddamn vampire
In this line, she exposes her ex-lover as being a “famef**ker,” someone who either dates celebrities for their fame and the benefits of having a connection to someone with such status, or just someone who dates someone purely for the attention. She then says, in almost a whisper-sob, “bleeding me dry, like a goddamn vampire,” telling the listeners that she was taken advantage of and she uses the term vampire as much as an insult as she does a literary device.
In the next verse, a light percussion backs the piano ballad, making it almost sound brighter. But the lyrics don’t get any brighter.
And every girl I talked to told me you were bad bad news
You called them crazy
God, I hate the way I called them crazy too
In this line she taps into the mind of a manipulator, someone who would gaslight her and make her believe that all the people around her, warning her about this “vampire,” were just crazy. Although, she comes at it from a very humble point of view in my opinion. She’s admitting that she called them crazy too and she’s repenting for that.
You’re so convincing
How do you lie without flinching?
(How do you lie, how do you lie, how do you lie?)
The background vocal harmonies of her own personal choir make this section so much more fulfilling, it almost is warming and it fills the background of the song in such a perfect way.
Oh, what a mesmerizing, paralyzing, f**ked up little thrill
Can’t figure out just how you do it and god knows I never will
Went for me and not her
Cause girls your age know better
I can’t even begin. “Cause girls your age know better.” It stings. She exposes that she was involved with someone older than her, and she admits that she wasn’t mature enough to know better than get involved with them in the first place.
The chorus repeats again, with more background vocal harmonies and the percussion becomes more prominent, with a real drum set and an anthemic beat. She sings the last two lines of the song with all the instrumentals stripped back except for the piano, and then you get thrown into the bridge of the song.
Somehow, within two minutes and 30 seconds, this song has transformed from a piano ballad to all of a sudden a… pop rock song? Indie song? I can’t quite put a genre on the bridge, but my point is that it’s a whole other experience. It goes into a piercing, heartbeat of a drum pattern to a slowed down staccato with the bridge vocals overlapping it.
You said it was true love, but wouldn’t that be hard?
Here, she’s maybe referring to how one-sided the relationship was? Or maybe just how she dated a lazy person.
You can’t love anyone because that would mean you had a heart
OLIVIA!! Come on! Seriously… I love that line though. It’s interesting how some people can be so loving and how others, you question whether or not they do in fact have a heart. Her bluntness is one of her best qualities. If she held back and spared this person’s feelings, it wouldn’t be quite as good of a song.
I tried to help you out
But now I know I can’t
Cause how you think is the kind of thing I’ll never understand
Yeah, there are people like that. When you realize that they are so far beyond your help, and part of that is your lacking in being able to understand their logic and thinking.
She then belts out the chorus again immediately after the bridge over the strong, indie rock instrumental.
Then after she says “bleeding me dry, like a goddamn vampire” for the last time, the instrumental goes so hard that there’s no way you can’t say it’s rock. It’s giving grunge, alternative… all of it.
I believe that Olivia Rodrigo is a strong, empowered young woman and I can’t wait to see what her future art is like. SOUR was a masterpiece and so was Vampire, and I think she has a lot of potential. Her songs have the tendency to get overplayed, but she is in no way overrated. She deserves all the fame and attention she’s been getting. I can’t wait for GUTS!