I have done many things while waiting for Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour. I’ve finished my second semester of college, moved out of the residence hall and gotten a job at Staples. Needless to say, this summer is a bit of a letdown.
Yet I will endure it thanks to the 3000-pound death machine I hold close to my heart: my 2016 Kia Sorento.
Coming home and reuniting with this gleaming mound of plastic and steel reminded me of how much I missed being behind its pleather wheel.
I have decided to enjoy Sour the only way I can truly enjoy any album: driving, windows down and commentating throughout the entire thing. What better way to experience this pièce de résistance of emotional dynamite than by (legally) speeding through a suburb and crying. Call it method acting, but it’s vital to get into the mindset this project demands: you have to be alone, in control of the car and literally nothing else.
Sour is the freshman LP of Olivia “Disney Star by Day, Songwriting Wunderkind by Night” Rodrigo, complemented by the work of her producer Daniel “39 years young” Nigro. This record looks to paint a Pollock-Monet hybrid of heartbreak. With splatters of pop-punk red and lilac bedroom acoustics to blend it all together, this album is best heard cranked up to feel every last word.
As someone who loves to scream in my vehicle, Rodrigo gave me a litany of opportunities to employ my favorite form of stress relief. After listening to “good 4 u” every time I drove to work, I’ve become a fan of the alternative sound that I tried to dislike as a preppy middle schooler. It feels nice to finally hear someone who’s really found roots in the crispy goodness of vocal fry. Along with “brutal” and “jealousy, jealousy” this album provides wavy baseline goodness that shakes the back of my car like crazy.
Although a somewhat strange analogy, the album feels like a 2000s shopping montage, where we fall more and more in love with the main character as they find themself. Though some tracks pair together like a Hot Topic neighboring a Justice next to the food court, the spontaneity adds to the hodgepodge and macramé vibe that makes the record a stand-out. Searching for the little pieces of musical inspiration throughout Rodrigo’s work is like looking through a scrapbook of memories tied together with string and glitter glue.
Honestly, one of the biggest intrigues of driving and listening to this album was being able to witness a suburb in action: grannies walking in packs, bikes tossed near trampolines and, at this time of year, the hordes of parked cars belonging to graduating students.
Rodrigo depicts heartbreak as something that stays with you. It may be because I’m a frigid ice queen (what can I say, I’m an Aquarius), but I’ve always found suburbia to be heartbreaking in the same way.
For those who live it, suburbia is something that alters perspectives, changing the way you see happiness and how you maintain it. For those who have yet to drive bittersweet streets adorned with perfect graduation signs and well-kept lawns, I think it adds to the album. It made me realize that so much of the suburban dream is parallel to Rodrigo’s feelings of trying to be enough in a world that always wants more. It’s unattainable and overwhelmingly brutal.
So after overthinking the suburbs along with every past relationship, I proceeded to parallel park my car (Rodrigo would be proud) to cry and scream along to “favorite crime.” This album felt like the perfect start to my summer, even though it’s a sucker punch. Along with her ups and downs, Rodrigo made me feel like I had a moment to really embrace the catharsis a car can bring. So, I guess this is a thank you letter more than a review. Or maybe it’s an advertisement for therapy? Nevertheless, I wouldn’t trade the experience of Sour for all the puffy stickers in the world.
Daily Arts Writer Matthew Eggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.