A Beginner’s Guide to Olivia Rodrigo

By now, there are likely few people who don’t know at least something about Olivia Rodrigo. The pop maven has carved out a space for herself among the top acts in the genre. Now, two albums deep into her tenure, Rodrigo’s trajectory seems to be on a steep incline.

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For those who have jumped on the Rodrigo train more recently, take this guide as your introduction to her early days in the Disney circuit and her burgeoning step into the mainstream. Find four stops on Rodrigo’s career timeline that we at American Songwriter believe are integral to understanding where she is today.

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Disney Days

Song: “All I Want” (from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series)

All I Want” was the first snippet the world heard of both Rodrigo’s expansive vocal range and her songwriting voice. Though both of those things have matured over the last few years, all of what makes Rodrigo special as an artist is present and accounted for in this ballad. Listening to this track will give you a glimpse into Rodrigo’s first spark of stardom.

A Step into the Spotlight

Song: “enough for you” (from Sour)

Rodrigo produced many hits for her debut album Sour. Songs like “drivers license,” “good 4 U,” and “deja vu” were what took her from Disney ingénue to fully fledged pop phenom. Any one of those songs could be considered a must-listen, but we’d like to dig a little deeper into the album and pull out a deep-cut that we feel is an even better representation of Rodrigo’s songwriting prowess.

“enough for you” is a tear-stained ballad about putting your all into a relationship and still coming out the other end underappreciated. What is great about Rodrigo’s craft is that she leads with her emotions. Every ounce of hurt she feels comes rushing out of “enough for you.” It’s a great indicator of where her most cutting songwriting would go in the future.

Fleshing out her Influences

Song: “You Oughta Know” (live cover with Alanis Morissette)

A large part of understanding Rodrigo’s own musicality is taking a look at her influences. Though she has cited a number of artists as having inspired her own music, arguably her No. 1 career crush is Alanis Morissette.

It’s not hard to see where Morisette’s music ends and Rodrigo’s begins. There is an angsty element to the younger artist’s sound that is unmistakably inspired by the “You Oughta Know” singer, and Rodrigo is not shy about admitting it either.

The pair have interacted a number of times, but we love their joint rendition of “You Oughta Know” from the Greek Theatre in 2022.

Looking Forward

Song: “teenage dream” (from GUTS)

With her latest release, GUTS, Rodrigo marks a step into adulthood with “teenage dream.” Though it acts as the closer for this album, it leaves the audience on a cliffhanger of sorts. They all say that it gets better / It gets better, but what if I don’t, Rodrigo chants in the final refrain.

Rodrigo, 20, muses about leaving her teenage years behind and, by association, the music she created during them. The bittersweet track primes Rodrigo for what is to come, making it an apt choice to end our beginner’s guide with.

Photo: Courtesy of Dolby Laboratories

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