Home Music

Olivia Rodrigo Is a Revelatory New Pop Voice on ‘Sour.’ Deal With It

On her debut album, the singer wields the breakup angst and intimacy of “Drivers License” like a glittery dagger

Grant Spanier*

In the first few seconds of her debut album, Sour, Olivia Rodrigo declares, “I want it to be, like, messy!” That shouldn’t be too difficult for a pop star who emerged seemingly out of nowhere in January, a Disney actress whose hit “Drivers License” ignited widespread interest in a love triangle between her High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-stars. Rodrigo belted extremely relatable, heart-wrenching lines about doing something you were supposed to do with your partner but are now doing alone — and it gave us a glimpse of her songwriting potential. It’s only May, but “Drivers License” is already the song of the year. We’ve given Rodrigo the keys. We’re just lucky to be along for the ride.

Whereas most artists build to their breakup album, carefully laying down the foundations of their future devastation, Rodrigo has already skipped ahead to her Tunnel of Love (ahem, there’s even a song titled “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back”). In the same vein as “Drivers License,” the ballads here tackle heartbreak with grace — even when she’s parting ways with an ex, she resists the urge to tear their new partner down. “But she’s beautiful/she’s kind,” she admits on “Happier,” one of the record’s sparkly highlights. “She probably gives you butterflies.”

Just like she did with Billy Joel on the hypnotic “Deja Vu,” Rodrigo brings old musical references back into our consciousness, like an excited teenager relaying gossip on a rotary phone. “I’m so sick of 17/Where’s my fuckin’ Teenage Dream?” she asks on “Brutal.” If you felt old hearing Katy Perry sing about Radiohead on “The One That Got Away,” you’ll feel ancient hearing this.