Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Guts’: All 12 Songs Ranked

There are a million reasons why a musical artist catches lightning and sends a song to the top of the charts: Maybe they’re a superstar with a bulletproof commercial offering, or they’re an unknown riding cultural headwinds to a strong reaction, or they’re somewhere in between, with the right TikTok challenge at the right time. Sometimes, though, they’re just that good — commandingly, undeniably good — with a song that showcases that talent.

That’s how it felt in January 2021, when the co-star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series released her debut single.

With the still-dazzling “Drivers License,” Olivia Rodrigo arrived as a fully formed pop savant, capable of piercing turns of phrase, major-key choruses and bridges that stop you in your tracks and force you to sway along. Of course her debut album, 2021’s Sour, was just as impressively detailed and sumptuously catchy; of course songs like “good 4 u” and “Deja Vu” became just as ubiquitous on top 40 radio and streaming services; of course the best new artist Grammy was in the bag; of course the first headlining shows were giddy shout-alongs. With a preternatural talent like Rodrigo, the artistic and commercial successes felt predestined from the moment we first heard, “‘Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street.”

With Guts, Rodrigo’s feverishly anticipated sophomore album, the rocket ship keeps climbing higher and higher: if Sour represented a rock-solid, no-skips debut, its follow-up is a bigger and better sequel, more confident and gripping in almost every way. The personal stakes are higher as Rodrigo gestures at the life changes (and expectations) that her newfound stardom have produced, but she matches them by thrusting her songwriting into more adventurous, and rewarding, territory.

Rodrigo expands upon the heartbreak central to Sour on songs like “Logical” and “Love Is Embarrassing,” but also addresses fame leeches (“Vampire”), social awkwardness (“Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl”), body image standards (“Pretty Isn’t Pretty”) and pre-adulthood anxieties (“Teenage Dream”), among other topics. Just like he did on Sour, Dan Nigro, Rodrigo’s main studio collaborator, helps push the right buttons while getting out of the way of her towering songwriting, as the pair hopscotch through pop-punk, new wave, indie-folk and hushed balladry without sounding haphazardly constructed or dulling any one-liners.

Because that’s what stands out the most on the first few listens of Guts: the way Rodrigo can bring a lyric to life with a gut-punch metaphor or a pitch-perfect vocal delivery. That gift stood out on Sour, and has sharpened on its follow-up. “I am built like a mother, and a total machine/ I feel for your every little issue, I know just what you mean,” she sings on opener “All-American B–ch,” crystallizing the impossibility of Relatable Female Pop Stardom in one lilting rhyme. On “The Grudge.,” Rodrigo flattens a breakup into, “We both drew blood, but man, those cuts were never equal.” And on “Making the Bed,” Rodrigo distills the ephemeral nature of success: “Another perfect moment that doesn’t feel like mine/ Another thing I forced to be a sign.” Guts has plenty of potential singles to join the already-minted Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits “Vampire” and “Bad Idea Right?,” but those lyrics — the ones that feel painfully perfect, that you want to write down for your own inspiration — are even more plentiful.

That remarkable songwriting ability is what ultimately separated Rodrigo when “Drivers License” launched, and what makes the sky her limit today. With Guts, Rodrigo has released the most complete pop album of the year, and nudged her trajectory even higher.

All 12 songs on the standard edition of the album are top-notch, but which are the early standouts? Here is a preliminary ranking of every song on Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts.

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