We're severely overdue for an Olivia Rodrigo Top 10 list! With her meteoric rise to stardom, SOUR tour announcement, several Grammy nominations, and now a SOUR documentary coming to Disney+, we can't ignore the teen idol's contribution to music over the past year.
Rodrigo took a risky leap from starring in Disney's High School Musical: The Musical: The Series to producing her own work. The risk paid off with her debut album SOUR, and Rodrigo garnered praise from music critics, teens, and nostalgic adults alike. Many believe SOUR captures the essence of teen angst and anxiety. While it's mostly a breakup album (that seems to be inspired by Rodrigo's ex, Joshua Bassett), it's also about the hardships of being a adolescent living in the 2020s. Themes like social media comparison, depression, parental neglect, and even the pressures of having to "enjoy your youth" all make an appearance on the record.
While drafting this Top 10 of Olivia Rodrigo's songs, we realized the singer has exactly 11 tracks on SOUR. So we figured...why cut one great song when we can include them all? We didn't plan on including any songs from Rodrigo's High School Musical performance onto our list, so here's every song on SOUR ranked!
Just because it's the last track on our ranking doesn't mean we think "happier" is bad. It's just...we think the back-to-back playthrough of this song and the next track on our list marks the lowest point of SOUR. We feel the combination is a little sappy and "woe is me."
Still, "happier" marks the part of SOUR where Rodrigo shifts from scorned young lover into a mature woman ready to accept her past relationship for what it was. Even though she wants her ex back, she's doubtful it will happen. Rodrigo wants him to know that even though she is letting him go, she wants him to remember she was the best he could ever get.
Musically, "happier" has a bittersweet sound. The beat and flitting piano melody really accentuate that "hope she gives you butterflies" lyric.
10. "enough for you"
Knowing how gorgeous, smart, and sweet Rodrigo is naturally, "enough for you" is hard to listen to - as Rodrigo opens up about how she tried to change herself so much just to get her lover's affection. Still, it's very honest lyrically, and definitely channels a bit of Rodrigo's Taylor Swift admiration.
According to verified commentary on Genius, Rodrigo said about this song, "I wrote 'enough for you' entirely by myself which I’m very proud of. I wrote it literally on my bedroom floor. I actually was on 'breakup' TikTok for a while, which is really funny. I was literally scrolling through TikTok and I found this really hopeful breakup video. It’s so embarrassing that this inspired this really emotional song, but I really was very inspired by this TikTok."
9. "favorite crime"
An underrated song on SOUR when it comes to Rodrgo's vocal performance. Not because she does any wild riffs or high notes: but because the emotion behind her singing feels incredibly raw and truthful.
Rodrigo has described this song as "one big metaphor" in her SOUR Diary "Journal / Zine." There's a ton of wordplay that relates to crime, murder, and the court system, yet this song still manages to be a poignant piece about heartbreak. It would be a crime to rank the track lower. Now every time we hear a siren, we think about this bop.
8. "1 step forward, 3 steps back"
Now we're getting to the sweeter stuff on SOUR! Besides having a stellar title, "1 step forward, 3 steps back" is a poetic track that showcases Rodrigo's songwriting prowess well. It's about the ups and downs of life and the challenge of navigating relationships with an inconsistent partner. Every time Olivia takes a step forward towards meeting her true love, she immediately feels pushed back from her career and personal goals.
This song is famous for containing a slight interpolation of Taylor Swift’s 2017 track “New Year’s Day.” The title also strays from the typical version of the saying: instead of “1 step forward, 2 steps back”, it is “1 step forward, 3 steps back”, a reference to Swift’s favorite number, 13.
Despite the intensity of the lyrics, we love how small, quiet, and subtle-yet-emotional this track feels.
On "traitor," Rodrigo reflects on what went wrong in a past relationship, the feeling of being betrayed, and still missing what she had. It's a pretty consistent theme on all of SOUR, but this piano-driven ballad hits especially hard for people who've been cheated on or have been broken up with only for their ex to find someone new way too quickly.
Of course, this is another song suspected to be about Joshua Bassett. The "her" Rodrigo mentions throughout the song is believed to be Sabrina Carpenter, who Bassett dated right after Rodrigo. "traitor" has only heightened the dramatic love triangle drama between the young superstars!
Besides its lyrical strength, we love "traitor" for Rodrigo's astounding vocal performance, especially during the chorus and bridge! Our heart breaks every time she sings, "God, I wish that you had thought this through / Before I went and fell in love with you."
6. "hope ur ok"
This is a very hot take, but we feel that whenever a song appears on SOUR that addresses something other than Rodrigo's heartbreak, it slaps.
"hope ur ok" is the last song on SOUR, and after several minutes of anguish and Rodrigo thinking about her ex, this thing hits you like a ton of breaks from out of nowhere. The track is about Rodrigo learning an important life lesson that helps her come of age: no matter how big you think your problems are, there's someone else out there who has it worse than you.
"hope ur ok" tells two sad stories: one about a boy suffering through abuse, possibly self-harm, and parents who care "more about the Bible than being good to their own child," and the other about a girl who raised her brothers on her own and got criticism from her parents about who she loved. It's hinted that both of these teens might identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite losing contact with them, Rodrigo reminds her friends that nothing is as bad as it seems and wishes them well. This song will definitely make you cry, but it's also incredibly hopeful.
5. "drivers license"
The song that seemed to start it all for Rodrigo. “drivers license” was the first single released for SOUR and remains one of her biggest hits. It is a possible love ode about Rodrigo moving on from her previous relationship with Joshua Bassett by doing the one last thing that she promised him: getting her driver’s license.
The song contains a brilliant balance of unfiltered outpouring and elegant specificity. It walks a fine line between universal lyrics that appeal to everyone while remaining unique to Rodrigo's situation. This song is genius for so many reasons: the opening car beeps that lead into piano chords, that soaring bridge, Rodrigo's vocal honesty.
You can't skip this song while driving through the suburbs. The Recording Academy certainly didn't skip it: "drivers license" has 2022 Grammy nominations for Best Song and Best Pop Vocal Performance.
4. "jealousy, jealousy"
We can't say "jealousy, jealousy" is an underrated song on SOUR, but it definitely deserves a lot more attention than what it's received. It's a song for the social media age - criticizing the unrealistic standards society has set for young people, particularly young women, and especially young women who use the internet.
On the track, Olivia sings about the constant comparison and self-hatred that using social media often leads to. "I wrote that song at a time when I was borderline addicted to social media and I just felt crippled by the comparisons," Rodrigo told the BBC in March 2021. "I am someone who has somewhat of a large following, so I think it’s cool that I can be like, ‘Yo, I still hate myself. I still compare myself to other girls.’"
Not only is "jealousy, jealousy" extremely relatable, it's also got a sick tempo, fantastic wordplay, and an insanely catchy bridge. We just want to yell "happier, prettier, jealousy, jealousy," along with Rodrigo whenever we hit that part!
3. "deja vu"
The vibes of "deja vu" cannot be beat. This track is packed full of lyrical imagery, cool wavy synths, and strong vocal chops from Rodrigo. Olivia questions both the authenticity of her ex’s new relationship, as well as his emotions for his new love. She also portrays feelings of pity towards this naive new girl, who is not experiencing anything unique with her now-lover.
Like other songs on SOUR, "deja vu" draws a lot of influence from Taylor Swift. There's a sneaky interpolation of Taylor Swift’s August 2019 song “Cruel Summer” within the bridge and outro of the track. Swift received official songwriting credits on "deja vu" months after its release. We also really love the music video of this track, as it shows Olivia spying on another woman (actress Talia Ryder) and copying her life out of adoration.
Olivia Rodrigo has been credited with helping reboot the pop rock genre that was left behind back in the early 2000s. This song - as well as the #1 spot on our list - are the tracks that have catapulted her from being a simple teen idol into a pioneer of musical experimentation.
With its pounding beat, furious chorus, and extremely relatable lyrics that dive headfirst into teenage angst, it's so easy to sing along to "brutal." Who else wanted to rip their ears out every time an adult dismissed their pain with the annoying phrase "enjoy your youth?" This song addresses teenage anxiety in the digital age, and it's the cathartic bop we all need on bad days.
It also almost got Olivia Rodrigo in trouble, since it features a similar guitar riff from Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up." Fortunately, the elder music star was honored by the hat-tip, saying "It's how rock & roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy."
The placement of "brutal" as SOUR's opening track is also masterful in itself. Besides being an energetic opener, its message encapsulates the youthful themes of SOUR as a whole. That quick opening line, "I want it to be, like, messy," shows Rodrigo’s lack of concern for being a neatly packaged teenage pop star - and we're all here for it.
1. "good 4 u"
Finally, we finish with the banger Rodrigo is known best for. "good 4 u" may not do much to make you dance at first. But after listening to this guitar-heavy pop rock track two, three, ten, fifty, hundreds of times...it definitely grows on you.
Unlike the other breakup songs on SOUR, there's little gloom or worry on "good 4 u." It's pure anger, revenge, and crushing sarcasm. Olivia sharply addresses her former partner for quickly moving on from their relationship without any care towards her at all. If there's any catchy song that will put you right into the shoes of a heartbroken and emotionally-distraught teenage girl, it's this one.
"good 4 u" as been hailed as one of the biggest hits of 2021. It debuted at #1 on U.S. charts May 29 - Rodrigo's second chart-topper in the country after "drivers license." In the UK, it debuted at #2, then held the top spot for five weeks: the most by a guitar-driven song since the four weeks spent by Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” in 2003.
And of course, we can't talk about "good 4 u" without noting its predecessors. The pop rock sound has drawn comparisons to 2000s acts like Paramore and Avril Lavigne. In fact, "good 4 u" contains an interpolation of the former band's iconic hit "Misery Business." Paramore members Hayley Williams and Josh Farro received official songwriting credits on "good 4 u" back in August 2021. "good 4 u" even mashes up perfectly with Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
Why does "good 4 u" sound like so many other songs...and why does it sound so good? It's because the song uses something called an axis chord progression, which is featured on several hit pop songs. If you'd like to learn more about the genius music theory behind "good 4 u," we recommend watching this insightful video essay by Adam Neely. Now, excuse us while we rewatch "good 4 u's" icnoic cheerleader music video, which currently holds a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video.
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Article Image: Olivia Rodrigo attending the 2022 BRIT awards, featuring the logo of her 2021 album "SOUR." (Cubankite via Shutterstock and Olivia Rodrigo/UMG [Available through Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.)