Olivia Rodrigo’s First Deluxe Album: GUTS (spilled)

The 21-year-old pop phenom drops a set of five songs to accompany her breakthrough sophomore album.
Olivia Rodrigo’s First Deluxe Album: GUTS (spilled)

Even before Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore record “GUTS” was released, she teased a deluxe version. During the album’s promotional cycle, her team put out an old-school TV advertisement encouraging those who have issues trusting their guts, spilling their guts, and all other gut-related ailments to indulge in “GUTS” the album. The segment includes the anticipated tracklist rolling up and off the screen like movie credits, but for a brief second, the screen flickers to reveal four new songs. This immediately sent fans into a frenzy, wondering how they were going to get their hands on the secret tracks not included in the standard edition. The secret(s), it turns out, were engraved into the vinyl versions of the album. 

Across each of the vinyl variants, Rodrigo embedded one of the four tracks on the B-side, in which listeners have to let the record spin in silence for nearly a minute to hear the tracks. The red vinyl edition includes the song “obsessed,” the blue version plays “stranger,” the purple variant has “girl i’ve always been,” and the white one features “scared of my guitar.” While those with record players and vinyl collections could be satiated, many were left wondering when she was going to bring all four songs to streaming platforms. For months after the album’s release, Rodrigo never openly acknowledged the secret tracks, letting them gain traction on their own in the spaces they were played and shared. The first time she openly recognized their existence was on the GUTS World Tour when — to much excitement and surprise — she included “obsessed” on the setlist. The buzz for a deluxe reached new heights, and roughly a month after the tour began, she released “GUTS (spilled),” which included all four tracks and an extra new one. 

With the official release of a deluxe, “obsessed” was put out as the fourth single from the GUTS era, complete with an accompanying music video. The pop-rock track, arguably the strongest of the new songs, is the perfect selection for a single. Here, everything Rodrigo does well on “GUTS” comes together: heavy production, tongue-in-cheek drama, and searing vocals. “obsessed” revolves around an out-of-hand infatuation with a current partner’s ex. Its subject matter is inherently playful, chronicling jealousy in all of its deranged glory. Rodrigo sells the drama; a budding pre-chorus explodes into a loud chorus, and over raging drums and guitar, she exclaims, “I’m so obsessed with your ex!” She is not afraid of how crazy she is coming across, diving into the craze headfirst instead. On “obsessed,” Rodrigo channels angst more authentically than any of her superstar peers, and nothing will assuage her jealousy.

From there, we find Rodrigo experimenting with country on “girl i’ve always been.” The short track is buoyed by an acoustic-sounding guitar (whereas much of the album relies on an electric one). This alone does not scream country, but the twang in her voice does. As a woman of many talents, she sells it well. Her vocal experimentation never wavers; in fact, she doubles down in the second verse with a handful of vocal inflections. In the song, she is reflecting on being with a lover who claims not to recognize her anymore. She swiftly shuts down this claim with a quip in the song’s outro as she sings that she is a “candle in the wind.” She is fleeting and temporary; you don’t get the right to change just because you couldn’t have or understand her. Just because you couldn’t have or understand her doesn’t give you the right to say she has changed. 

On “scared of my guitar,” Rodrigo returns to her roots: the ballad. To give credit where credit is due, she can write a blistering ballad. Her debut album was chock-full of them, and there is a reason why “drivers license” took over the entire world. Regardless, it is the pop-rock sound she explores on “GUTS” that proved to be her artistic breakthrough, which is why she no longer fits the form she is trying to return to in “scared of my guitar.” If she puts out any slow songs about love and longing now, the bar she needs to hit is incredibly high, and “scared of my guitar” seems to fall just shy of it. The stripped-down track has her lamenting about holding onto someone she doesn’t actually love, and she fears that her guitar will make her confront this truth via songwriting. As a concept, being fearful of the medium that will inevitably force you to confront uncomfortable truths makes sense. But when this truth is settling for someone and leading them on, you kind of want her to pick up the guitar and get it together. 

“stranger,” however, is an example of a well-executed ballad. It is also minimally produced, complete with a constant strumming guitar that sounds borderline country, but the story she paints here is much more vivid. When she sings, “You are the best thing that I’ll ever keep so far out of my life,” she is plucking something raw from the sky and placing it into your hands. She is more vulnerable here. We peer into her introspective process: “made a pot of coffee and poured myself a cup / I thought of all the things I did to try and win your love.” We are in this with her; we are grieving the loss of her other half as well as any of our own heartbreaks that we have endured. “stranger” works because Rodrigo is reachable, and the track is ultimately more devastating because of it. 

Rounding out the album is “so american,” a brand new song written and produced in the wake of the singer’s budding relationship with actor Louis Partridge. This release marks Rodrigo’s first official love song. Back in pop-rock territory, Rodrigo glides across ‘80s-inspired drums and guitar. She plays into her upbeat forte with infectious energy and glee. The chorus ends with two declarations: “Oh god I’m gonna marry him if he keeps this [s—] up  / I might just be in… love.” After two albums of heartbreak, this lovey-dovey confession feels well earned. 

It should also be noted that the “GUTS (spilled)” tracklist is now sandwiched between songs with the word “american” in their titles. It opens with “all-american [b—-],” a scathing, satirical rejection of womanhood and the ideals she has to conform to. She feels suffocated by these expectations which are only compounded by her identity as a woman of color. This is why, at the end of the album, when her British boyfriend “laughs at all [her] jokes and he says [she’s] so American,” it is not only a declaration of love but also a wholehearted acceptance of who she is. She is an all-American girl regardless of society’s imposing ideals and how messy her life gets. Even bigger than this though, at this moment in time, she is an American girl in love.

Image courtesy of UDiscoverMusic

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Jonathan Shlesinger, A&E Assistant Editor
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