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Olivia Rodrigo: The Next Big Thing

By Linda Cheung

On September 8, 2023, Olivia Rodrigo spilled her “GUTS” out, creating arguably one of the best pop/rock masterpieces of the year thanks to her use of energetic songs and soft ballads throughout her sonically diverse album.

With pieces such as “Bad Idea, Right?” and “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl,” Rodrigo provides listeners with effective and tasteful use of lyrical wit and sarcasm. For example, in “All-American B*tch,” she writes, “I don’t get angry when I’m pissed / I’m the eternal optimist… I’m grateful all the time.” Through these lyrics, Rodrigo uses sarcasm as a catalyst to convey her ideas on unrealistic expectations and double-standards placed upon women.

“You’re always supposed to be grateful and calm and gracious and poised,” Rodrigo said in an interview with People magazine. “Growing up, I really struggled with the conflict of having all these feelings that I felt like I couldn’t externalize and this expectation that I wanted to be this good girl.”

Although critics of Rodrigo believe that her songs about teenage relationships and learning how to drive are poor attempts at being relatable to her target demographic, proponents of Rodrigo’s music believe that shared, lived experiences such as those described in “All-American B*tch” are what make Rodrigo universally relatable among her female audience.

Source by Izzy Chu

Fans of Olivia Rodrigo cite her songwriting ability as one of many reasons for the success of her sophomore album.

Additionally, critics claim that Rodrigo was complicit in the midst of backlash that Joshua Bassett received after the release of “Driver’s License” in 2021. While many argue there was more that Rodrigo could have done to prevent some backlash that Bassett received, fans are not entitled to the private lives of celebrities, including any drama that was resolved in privacy.

“It's just not something I like talking about publicly,” Rodrigo said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “I take all that stuff seriously, but it happens in privacy. I’m not going to put out a statement. That’s phony. We’re all just people at the end of the day. I deal with it on a person-to-person level that people on Twitter don’t see.”

Furthermore, examples of celebrity drama in the past, such as Selena Gomez and Hailey Beiber, have taught many that celebrities can oftentimes have little autonomy over their own fanbase.

“I think people assign too much blame to Olivia about her fans,” senior Guranaad Kaur said. “She was only 17 when she wrote 'Sour,' and I don’t think anyone around that age honestly thinks they would be able to control their fan base if they were famous.”

Some critics of Rodrigo claim that she has stolen or plagiarized lyrics from Taylor Swift, specifically the bridge to Swift’s “Cruel Summer.” While Rodrigo’s “Deja Vu” and Swift’s “Cruel Summer” do bear many similarities in their respective bridges, changing attitudes toward music copyright in these instances will only continue to create a culture of fear in the music industry. Decades ago, copyright law only protected infringement from lyrics and melodies, but copyright lawsuits are increasingly being used to protect more abstract qualities, such as rhythm, tempo and even the general feel of a song.

Since Rodrigo has already given songwriting credit to Taylor Swift for several of her songs, Rodrigo’s inspiration from Swift should only be viewed as a credit to her songwriting ability rather than a detriment to Rodrigo.

“Music is inherently based on transforming other works,” Kaur said. “Even then, I feel like the claims that Olivia Rodrigo plagiarizes Taylor Swift’s music are disingenuous to both artists. It’s best if we as listeners keep a healthy distance from idolizing and speculating on celebrities in a parasocial manner.”


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