Guts (stylized in all caps) is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo, released on September 8, 2023, via Geffen Records. It was written and recorded with Rodrigo working closely alongside Dan Nigro, the producer and multi-instrumentalist of her debut album Sour (2021). Inspired by the period of time immediately following Sour's success, Rodrigo conceived Guts hoping to reflect the process of maturity she experienced toward the end of her teenage years.
A sonically diverse pop record with energetic songs and soft ballads, Guts experiments with more rock influences than its predecessor, utilizing a variety of guitar and drums sounds from older alternative and pop rock styles. The subject matter deals with Rodrigo's transition from adolescence to adulthood and its tribulations.
Met with widespread acclaim from music critics, Guts was praised for Rodrigo's lyrical wit, complexity, and topicality as well as the overall music aesthetic and energy. Reviews noted both humorous and emotionally fraught lyrics in the album, detailing Rodrigo's struggles with identity, romantic and professional disillusionment, unexpected stardom, and societal expectations as a young woman. Commercially, it topped the album charts in 12 countries, including the United States, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Three singles were released from the album. The lead single, "Vampire", became a number-one hit in the US and several other countries, followed by "Bad Idea Right?" and "Get Him Back!", which reached the top 10 internationally. To further support the album, Rodrigo will embark on the Guts World Tour in 2024.
On May 21, 2021, Olivia Rodrigo released her debut studio album, Sour, to huge commercial success. Produced by Dan Nigro, it became the most-streamed album of 2021 and won Rodrigo three Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist. She embarked on the Sour Tour, which consisted of 48 shows across North America and Europe, in spring 2022. In August 2021, Rodrigo surmised that her upcoming record would probably "be a lot happier" than her debut. Talking to Billboard in February 2022, she confirmed Nigro will return as producer and she had a title and "a few songs" ready. Rodrigo aimed to "get as much done as possible" before embarking on the Sour Tour. In late 2022, while revealing her Spotify Wrapped, she confirmed that new music was underway. On January 8, 2023, she posted a clip which featured a piano-driven track on her Instagram.
In early June 2023, Rodrigo's website was updated with a countdown that was set to end on June 30, a date she had also teased in late May. On June 13, Rodrigo officially announced the album's lead single "Vampire", slated for release on June 30, and revealed the single cover. On June 20, she revealed another Easter egg by leaving her fans a voicemail greeting, which turned out to be the first preview of "Vampire" and played a piano-driven instrumental. On June 26, 2023, her webstore revealed the official album title, Guts, and its release date. Following this, Rodrigo posted the artwork and officially announced the album on social media.
Writing and recording
In a statement, Rodrigo shared that the album is about "growing pains" and figuring out her identity at this point in her life. She stated "I feel like I grew 10 years between the ages of 18 and 20", and described it as a natural part of "growth", and hoped to reflect that with the record.
Rodrigo recorded Guts while experiencing "lots of confusion, mistakes, awkwardness & good old fashioned teen angst". Described by her as a "time capsule", the record contains "wrenching, cinematic" ballads and "playful and insouciant" songs, according to Vogue. Rodrigo abstained from songwriting for six months following Sour's release, so that she could "live a life in order to be able to write about it". Work on the album concluded about a week before "Vampire" was released. In an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Rodrigo revealed she had the title in mind since the time she was making Sour. It was influenced by the "interesting contexts" she noticed people use it in: "spill your guts, hate your guts".
Guts features a sonically diverse range of tracks, from delicate ballads like "Lacy" to retro-inspired guitar-driven tunes such as "Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl". Rodrigo's collaboration with Nigro played a significant role in the album's development, providing constructive feedback and contributing to its overall sound. According to The A.V. Club, Guts offers a mix of nostalgic and contemporary music elements, helping in the album's appeal with a wide audience.
Rock music plays a larger role here than on Rodrigo's first album. She expands particularly on the aggressive songs and alternative rock sounds demonstrated briefly on Sour, with elements from emo, new wave, shoegaze, and rap rock used on different songs here. As Los Angeles Times lead critic Mikael Wood writes, Rodrigo and Nigro are shown "switching up guitar tones and drum sounds to give each track a distinct signature". Rolling Stone journalist Brian Hiatt and Vulture writer Craig Jenkins both regard Guts as a rock album and argue that such a strong direction into the genre is uncommon for a major pop artist like Rodrigo.
In another comparison to Sour, The A.V. Club identifies much older sources of inspiration behind Guts, particularly the grunge and pop-rock sounds of the 1990s and early 2000s. Along with grunge and new wave, Jenkins names power pop among the stylistic tactics behind the album's sentimental ballads and alternative rockers. Echoing this, Will Hodgkinson of The Times says that the album alternates "between heartfelt balladry and raucous indie rock". "Vampire", which begins as a hushed piano ballad, intensifies into a rock opera.
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