Kimmel Karaoke: How Olivia Rodrigo Lets Our Inner Teenager Rage
This week, on the way to dropping his two kids off at school, American Late Night Host Jimmy Kimmel picked up a hitchhiker.
Sticking her thumb out, her fingers heavy with thick silver rings, Olivia Rodrigo steps into the car.
‘Oh my god,’ Kimmel’s nine-year-old says. ‘That’s Olivia Rodrigo.’
Olivia Rodrigo is the Grammy award-winning pop-rock sensation widely known for her hit songs “Drivers License”, “Good for You” and “Vampire”. Her first album, Sour, about the trials and tribulations of heartbreak, girlhood and growing up in the social media age, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. As of late, her music video for “Drivers License” has 484 million views on YouTube. Her sophomore album, Guts, a rockier, angrier follow-up to her first album, did the same, and earned Rodrigo upwards of 60 million streams on Spotify in its first 24 hours after release. Following huge fan anticipation, and added pressure after plagiarism allegations swirled around Sour, the then seventeen-year-old had a lot to live up to with her follow-up album.
Now aged twenty, Rodrigo has proved herself more than up to the task.
It’s hardly a surprise then that on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Rodrigo was greeted with such a warm reception. Kimmel’s two children, aged six and nine respectively, were stunned into silence as she entered the car. Within minutes, they were belting out the lyrics to Rodrigo’s new songs.
‘You know Olivia,’ Kimmel says from the front of the car, ‘we listen to your music on the way to school all the time.’
Clearly, Rodrigo has a young fan base. But this should come as no surprise. Though projected into superstardom with her first two albums, Rodrigo initially found fame on the pre-teen Disney show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Considered by many to be an anti-Euphoria, this is a show that puts the “family friendly” back into programmes about secondary school. Olivia Rodrigo, one of its main stars, is a pre-teen icon. Kimmel’s video is a reminder of the fact that six-to-nine-year-olds are some of her biggest fans. As I watched the YouTube clip, a thought crossed my mind. Are we too old to be loving Olivia Rodrigo’s music?
Clearly, the internet has similar concerns. Just two months ago, a subreddit was posted on Olivia Rodrigo’s community page. The title of the thread was “Any ‘older’ fans out there?” All across the internet, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond are all asking the same questions: is it ok for me to love this music – and perhaps more importantly – is it ok if I relate to some of it?
Though Rodrigo’s music has a distinctively Gen-Z take on growing up, the emotional turmoil she writes about is remarkably universal. Whether it’s facing up to the unrealistic standards of perfectionism (“All American B*tch”), saying the wrong thing at a social occasion (“Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl”), feeling bombarded by media beauty standards (“Pretty Isn’t Pretty”), or discovering that the thing you ‘wanted’ is actually very different from what you had ‘imagined’ (“Making the Bed”), Rodrigo has all the ups and downs of life covered regardless of age or generation.
It’s also worth considering whether Rodrigo’s music, in all its mighty teenage glory, has provided an outlet for people of older ages. A study for the National Library of Medicine found that teenagers, despite having more “intense emotions”, experience “higher levels of expressive suppression” than people belonging to older populations. Whether it’s not feeling comfortable enough to share their anxieties, or not quite having the vocabulary to articulate the intensity of their feelings, teenagers are familiar with burying their emotions, and adults may only be coming to terms with that suppression at a much later stage.
Rodrigo finds the words for this expressive suppression in Guts’ opening track “All American B*tch”. Before cathartically scream-singing into her microphone, Rodrigo says:
‘I don’t get angry when I’m pissed I’m the eternal optimist I scream inside to deal with it, like, “Ahh!”’
These simple lyrics tap into exactly the kind of female rage that is so often dismissed and ridiculed in young girls. Becoming a teenager is a tumultuous affair and is frequently frustrating. It is also often the time in a girl’s life when they first encounter the gender injustices they will likely face up against for the rest of their adulthood.
It’s no wonder teenage girls everywhere are seeking an outlet for their inner rage. Olivia Rodrigo, in Sour and Guts, has somehow summoned a voice for it. It’s a rage that all adults can remember, and in some cases, might be something they can still relate to. We should all be blasting Guts on our journeys to schools, universities and places of work. Olivia Rodrigo is for anyone who needs to let their inner teenage girl sing.