I have a lot of other things I should be doing right now, but all I can do is listen to Sour on repeat - the iconic first album by Olivia Rodrigo. Not only is she super talented, but she has a team behind the scenes making this launch honestly one of the best that I’ve seen. I sometimes struggle to get a blog post out (inconsistent posting if you’re #following), but this one came out of me like word vomit. There was so much to process and express so here is me diving deeper into the album, from the promotions, to pop culture history, to the actual songs.
Back to the Beginning (Back to when the Earth, the Sun, the stars all aligned)
I was going to start at the first single, but once I wrote this subtitle Come Clean by Hilary Duff immediately popped in my head so we have to talk about Disney. I guess it’s only fair to start with the ultimate 2000s Disney pop-star Hilary Duff. Disney can do a lot for a teen’s brand. From Raven, Miley Cyrus, Zendaya, Dove Cameron - Disney had a big part in launching these young girls’ success in the entertainment industry at a young age. This definitely allowed for the resources which could justify why Olivia had such high awareness from the start.
Pop Culture History
Ever since the Britany Spears documentary and the Me Too movement, we've slowly been adjusting the way we talk about women in entertainment. Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, countless others we just completely bullied. On Taylor Swift, all of her personal relationships were already being so highly followed, it was east to make jokes of her songs. Belittling the actual conversations we should have been having - which is how extremely talented she was. I think we’re all getting it a bit more - and not being 2004 Mean Girls. Opinions above really curtesy of Las Culturistas
I’m glad the conversation opened to Olivia focused on her talent. Of course there is still constant conversation about who she is singing about and the whole web of Hollywood. But I don’t know, the conversation I’ve seen at least on Twitter has been so supportive (but I wonder if that’s my own bubble?). Its human to want to know who she's singing about and the internet definitely blew up on Joshua Basset and Sabrina Carpenter gossip.
But THE TALENT. I should have started with complimenting Olivia more. She is an amazing singer and a star. Disney got lucky. Genuinely, there are other stars that have a hit single, and then kinda fizzle. Olivia came on to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS) already writing songs for the show. As a teenager. It is amazing when shows are able to cast early and work with actors in the development of the show and it was a blessing to hear All I Want.
Early in the pandemic I binged HSMTMTS and started following Olivia on Instagram where she posted a few short songs from the piano. I believe her goal was to write one song a day. I started going back to relisten and showed Conor. They were all extremely catchy.
Another early pandemic obsession was Animal Crossing Conan Grays album Kid Krow. Conor would not stop playing or singing or humming to all of the tracks so it caught on. If you haven’t listened, it’s a pretty emo e-boy energy on loniliness, regrets, breakup all wrapped in this pop and rock blanket (I don’t know). It’s really a great cohesive album. Well to the point, guess who is a co-writer and producer on both Kid Krow and Sour - Dan Nigro. His TALENT. One I’ll be following from now on.
Different type of ~collaborator~ but the creative team making the visuals of the album, photo shoots, overall visual. First the title, honestly great for recall power - Sour . breakup songs -> hurt, complaining and knows it - sour -> sour candy. Then the actual visuals. We have been locked up for ever, the 90s were just in and we all got denim jackets and plaid for too many years now. If I were to get a trend to pick up right about now it’s the 2000s. Duh genius. The mean girl skirts. but now they have social rankings literally in the form of likes and views online rip. The Lisa Frank stickers were a good touch. It came to life in music videos - Directed by Petra Collins who was able to pull together that perfectly in the good for you music video released a few weeks before the album.
Not only trend driven, but with Covid lacking new memories besides sitting on your couch, we all were reminiscing of the past. I knew I regretted and enjoyed remembering both tragically embarrassing and also eye watering joyful memories. You got millennials watching Olivia.
To get to the promotion of this album - ultimately awareness drives to early success. Some artists have decided to go “surprise” Petra Collins after Beyoncé iconally did it. Honestly the only person I should do this next is Rihanna. The majority of artists independently release their music & promote through their own channels. Behind signed artists are biggest budgets, more of a team and that’s where greats promotions happen
Here were some of the promotional items I saw for Sour, all pretty big budget and impressive performances for a first album:
Release first single: Driver’s License - Released right after the New Year, a great way to create buzz early. Plus, the lyrics were so personal that everyone was invested in knowing the gossip behind the track
Tik Tok Buzz !! - Really what dictates what music we're all listening to now. The platform has become more influential than radio and we love to see teens versus DJs have this power
Release 2nd single: deja vu - It has a similar breakup theme and pop like Driver's License. It leads perfectly to the album announcement
Announce full album Sour to come in May
Release 3rd single: good for you - a rock sound, reminiscent of Paramore and Avril Levine so now you have even more millennials obsessed
Brit Awards - ( I need to watch this still to be honest, but heard it was stunning)
Saturday Night Live - speak of visuals coming to life! Dump me into a sea of butterfly clips and those skinny silk dresses
Sour commercial - This is one of the best commercials for anything I've ever seen. It's so "As Seen of TV" and personally, I've only seen 'purchase on Apple Music or Spotify' spots for artists recently, so it was a great refresh. Hotlines have also been an music marketing tactic we've all seen before, but this video makes it nostalgic
Sour Patch Kids - Artists collaborations with food brands have been extremely popular and really provides proof of the power of fans. McDonalds is doing it big with BTS, but smaller partnerships can also exist that create just as much buzz. Sour Patch Kids only sold the item in one NY location.
Album Release - I'm sure there were promotions happening across retailers and with radio stations. Target had some merch and an exclusive cd and vinyl.
Press boxes - I haven’t seen PR boxes from artists, but it’s great. Doesn't hurt when Kim Kardashian posts to her x millions of followers too.
Ok now onto the MUSIC. But more of a personal note instead of my analysis on the songs. My first concerts were Miley Cyrus, 2009 - maybe post Hannah Montana + an inexpensive show House of Blues show with 6 pop-punk bands, of which I remember Forever the Sickest Kids and Artist vs Poet. Following my love for Miley really were tragic years of listening to mostly male dominated bands. Paramore stuck out as a favorite, although I’ve never seen them live (I also haven’t seen Beyoncé which is just a crime). I’ve always loved pop and rock and the intersectionality of those genres. And now all I want to listen to are women artists, to inhale their stories, melodies and talent.
Ok now onto the MUSIC in SOUR. This album is not only well promoted, but it holds up in a short and sweet 34 minutes. It combines the growing bedroom pop gen-Z gender AND the nostalgic Paramore punk rock millennials crave. Starting with the singles - drivers license, a great single to start your career and a jam. I expect it to continue to be replayed throughout the summer - Sorry dads. Deja vu released with just enough time between getting tired of driver license (poor choice of words because I truly will never be sick of it, but took a nice break). Similar to DL it immediately got stuck in my head and now I can appreciate how truly different they are. They both do amazing job at story telling while remaining relatable. It also brought up a good point of relationships - your favorite places start to mesh, so for the fact that it’s meaningful to you means that you would want to show the new person you love. It’s tragic and makes sense why Olivia is bitter, it’s human to feel hurt over it and the way she’s able to express that in this song, and really the entire album and masterful. I’m just so proud of this next generation of women in music and their unmatched, unique talent.
Last single and probably my favorite song on the album - good for you. If you’ve seen the Tik Tok it points out that the chorus is reminiscent of Misery Business by Paramore. It hits the high school angst we all needed to get out, regardless if we experienced love or heartache at that time. The sarcastic lyrics really stick out to me as favorites - ‘good for you, I guess that you've been workin' on yourself along with “good for you, you look happy and healthy.” To me, it completely embodies the feeling, the taste of Sour. Sweet and tangy, not quite spicy but has a kick.
Then the genius continues with the first track of the album starting with brutal - A sound
more grunge than the last single good for you and a surprisingly amazing way to start the album. The best way to get someone’s attention to fully listen. It is also completely grounded in the theme of young adult heart ache. Followed by traitor, a softer song with just as hash and relatable high school love lyrics, like “It took you two weeks to go off and date her. Guess you didn't cheat, but you're still a traitor.“ It’s all so honest and great storytelling, reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s songwriting - we love to see it. And the best part is that Olivia, Dan Nigro, Interscope and the countless of other collaborations have done such an amazing job at paying respect to the past generation, while doing something unique and real. And in this case, Taylor has shown nothing but support for Olivia. We also love to see this!
The album takes its breaks from heart ache to another stressor. social media. Jealousy, jealousy breaks down how we all feel in seeing perfect people and their perfect lives online. It’s impossible not to compare yourself, but a great reminder is always “their win is not my loss.” It’s difficult even stating favorites on this album, but this one stuck out to me in my first listen. It tackles a different topic and remains rooted in sour emotions - jealousy.
And it all ends in a complete 180 from the start - with two softer acoustic songs and the last on friendships. Hope ur ok - an iconic way to end the album and title similar to how I begin every email I’ve ever drafted to anyone at work. A complete contrast from brutal. The strength is in the story telling, sharing different perspectives built into feeling personally invested in these characters. Reminiscent of Love Story by Conan Grey. Relationships, friendships are not always lasting but the love you feel for people & time spent allows for the lingering “hope ur ok” messages to come up.
Sour really is a gem and literally all I’ve wanted to think, write, talk about for days. Everything about it came together and the timing was perfect, spearheading a 2000s trend that is only beginning. Olivia Rodrigo is so deserving of the recognition right now so listen to Sour ! Now !
final note: apologies if any sentence does not make sense, been eager to publish and did not proof read