Tag Archives: singing

Olivia Rodrigo’s Inspirations and Parallels

With its perfectly balanced bridges, feelings of teenage nostalgia and varied influences, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album “Sour” struck a heavy chord with both Generation Z and Millennials.

Released in May 2021, “Sour” explores themes of adolescence, young love and heartbreak. The album broke the Internet for its relatability. It is important to note some of the major inspirations, parallels and references scattered throughout the albums. To celebrate Rodrigo’s debut album, I put together a list of some of her inspirations and parallels.

Sound Comparisons

In the early days of the album’s release, Twitter users pointed out three obvious song similarities: “deja vu” and “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift; “good 4 u” and “Misery Business” by Paramore; and “1 step forward, 3 steps back” and “New Years Day” by Taylor Swift. I would add the way Rodrigo sings the chorus in “1 step forward, 3 steps back” sounds reminiscent of “Six Feet Under” by Billie Eilish. 

However, it is important to note the use of interpolation in these tracks, in which an artist uses a melody from an original song into a new piece of work by recreating it note for note. Learning about these song comparisons pushed me right down the rabbit hole of other songs with lyrical similarities and parallels.

Lyrical Similarities

In the first verse of “favorite crime,” Rodrigo sings from the perspective of someone being ‘buried’ by someone they once loved and trusted. These lyrics reminded me of “my tears ricochet” by Taylor Swift from her 2020 album “Folklore.” In an Instagram post, Swift explained how the song tells the story of an “embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of his fallen object of obsession.” In the song, she sings, “you wear the same jewels that I gave you as you bury me.” To me, these songs are related to a mother-daughter relationship, which is ironic because both songstresses have jokingly referred to each other as mother and daughter.

Even though this next comparison involves Taylor Swift once again, it is impossible to not point out. They are two songs about young and painful heartbreak: “enough for you” by Rodrigo and “Dear John” by Swift. In the chorus, Swift sings, “I see it all now that you’re gone / Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with? / The girl in the dress cried the whole way home.” 

In the bridge of “enough for you,” Rodrigo sings just as emotional and a bit angrier with the lyrics:  “Don’t you think I loved you too much to be used and discarded? / Don’t you think I loved you too much to think I deserve nothing? / But don’t tell me you’re sorry, boy / Feel sorry for yourself / ‘Cause someday I’ll be everything to somebody else.”

Also in “enough for you,” Rodrigo sings about wearing makeup to please an ex-lover. It is similar to Swift singing about high heels that an ex-lover didn’t like in “Begin Again” from her 2012 album “Red”, which will also be re-released in November as Red (Taylor’s Version).

In another heart-aching track, the feelings of betrayal in “traitor” are nostalgic of “Burn” from the American Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” I didn’t completely understand this comparison until I listened to a mashup of the songs on YouTube and have not known peace since. The lyrics feel most related when Rodrigo sings about “brown guilty eyes and little white lies,” while Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton sings about “sentences border[ed] on senseless…paranoid in every paragraph.” It is almost like the comparison of “favorite crime” and “my tear ricochet,” except Rodrigo sings from a younger perspective, while Soo sings from a more grown-up perspective.

Parallel Storytelling

When I listened to “Sour” on the night of its release, I cried on the floor of my bedroom to the final track, “hope ur ok.” In the song, Rodrigo reminisces about old friends who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Though she’s no longer in close contact with them, she wishes them the best and reminds them of how proud she is of them today.

In the outro, she sings, “I hope you know how proud I am you were created with the courage to unlearn all of their hatred.” The song’s message alludes to the story of “seven” by Taylor Swift from “Folklore.” Similar to Rodrigo, Swift reflects about childhood friends with unhappy lives at home. Except Swift focuses on her innocence and how she thought tough problems could be solved by packing up their suitcases and running away to India. When I listened to Rodrigo’s song, I felt like she took this story and sang directly to the characters in Swift’s song.

Shifting from the album’s focus on young love and heartbreak, “Sour” also has tracks about  adolescence and the misleading promises of the younger generation stood out to me. Songs like “jealousy, jealousy” and “brutal” are examples of this. Both songs feel incredibly loud, vocally and lyrically, which reminded me of artists like Lorde and Billie Eilish.

In “jealousy, jealousy,” Rodrigo addresses the unrealistic beauty standards society often places on young women on social media. In an interview with the BBC in March 2021, she shared that she wrote the song when she was addicted to social media and found herself “crippled by the comparisons” of other girls. 

For me, it is the type of song that makes you wish you were born a nepotism baby with daddy’s money, a pretty face and a pretty boyfriend. It is also Rodrigo’s moment to comment on this issue in her own words, similar to “The Love Club” and “White Teeth Teens” by Lorde. While Lorde’s songs criticize the hollowness of cliques, Rodrigo discusses constant comparison and self-hatred as a result of social media. And the tone of her voice as she sings the chorus brings me back to the energy of ‘”idontwannabeyouanymore” by Billie Eilish.

Lastly, it would not be an article about Olivia Rodrigo without mentioning the fan-favorite song “brutal.” Its loud, angry scream-singing in the chorus brings me back to another song by a former Disney star: “7 Things” by Miley Cyrus. While both songs have some quiet moments, they are quickly met by a loud rage of emotion by both of the artists. They are the kind of jump around your room and scream at the tops of your lungs, beloved, angry songs. 

When it comes to the sound and beat of “brutal,” it is eerily similar to “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill. If you listen to the songs back to back, it is in the rise and fall of how each song flows. Its similarities also lie in the sound of the guitar, working simultaneously with the volume of the microphone at certain parts. Also, I cannot help but think about how Rodrigo’s singing of “God, it’s brutal out here” sounds just like “I know I wanna take you home I wanna try on your clothes.”

Final Thoughts

Even though I have loved “Sour” since I first listened to it, I fell in love with the album more after noticing its inspirations and parallels in the vocals, sounds, lyrics and storytelling.

Rodrigo’s debut album serves as a current accumulation of her style as a singer and as a songwriter. It’s a reminder that she is a young artist capable of elevating original songs by other artists, and crafting a new narrative based on her life and experiences. The outpouring of love for her first album might also indicate more success for her future.

Illustration by Valerie Aldana

How to Keep a Positive Mindset in the Face of Stress

If you’re like me, not only are you a full time student, but you’re also juggling a job, being involved in organizations, homework, creative projects and somehow finding the time to have some iota of a social life. College, really just life in general, is rough and the stigma around mental health makes it all the more difficult to face. In case you’re unfamiliar with the topic, mental health is somewhat taboo in most social situations so people tend to put it on the back-burner.

To quote the words of a popular Vine, “That is not correct”. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, if not more so. We all have issues that we’re doing our best to conquer on our own. (And you go, queen, you’re doing great.) But just in case you think you need some advice or help from someone who is struggling through the same thing, here are some tips that help me to get through those especially rough days.

Make a list; of things that matter and things that don’t, of things you’re thankful for, of things you know you want to change.

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I know it sounds cheesy. But I did this my freshman year, when I was feeling especially overwhelmed for the first time and it helped me to take a deep breath, both mentally and physically. I made a list of all the good things in my life and all the things that weren’t going too well for me. Then I went through the latter list and wrote out why they weren’t important or how I could make those things better. This could go downhill very quickly so be sure to pay more attention to the happier list and not put too much importance on the troublesome list. Or, better yet, only make a happy list. I’m personally more of a realist so I like to consider both sides but if you’d rather look at the optimistic side of things, you do you, boo.

Take some time for yourself

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It’s hard to get away from responsibilities. For some people, i.e. me, it’s hard to say no when people ask you to do things so you end up with too many rolls on your metaphorical plate. However, it’s important to take care of yourself as well as others. Take some time out of the day, or at the very least once a week, to do something for yourself. It could be as simple as taking a break from homework to having a bubble bath and reading your favorite book while a face mask soaks your skin with all kinds of moisturizers. Is it obvious which one I’m fantasizing about more?

Surround yourself with things you love

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Because so much time out of the day is dedicated to schoolwork/things we have to do, I think surrounding yourself with things you love when you can becomes even more important. By this, I mean that you should find things that bring you more joy than anything else. If you’re stuck in an organization that only stresses you out, maybe it’s time to find another place to spend your time. If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy, maybe it’s time to move on. And this doesn’t have to involve people; in fact, sometimes the things you’re surrounding yourself with aren’t people at all. If you want to go to your room, close the door and read books for hours on end, then that’s what you need to do. Not wanting to be around people is completely normal and is something I find myself wanting often. Although, it is important to note that you should be careful not to push away people that care about you. There are ways to be alone that don’t hurt those who want to spend time with you. It’s all about communication and letting them know that it’s not them, it’s you. Unless you’re breaking up with someone…then you should never use that line.

Exercise, exercise, exercise

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Trust and believe that I know how awful this sounds. I hardly have time to exercise, let alone want to. My mom always told me to do this in high school and I blew her off due to the simple fact that I didn’t want to. However, now it’s one of the most effective strategies I use to battle anxiety and stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise and other physical activities reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and enhance overall cognitive function. It doesn’t even have to be as time consuming as going to the gym; meditation, going for a walk, even just taking a really deep breath is enough to release those sweet, sweet endorphins. One of my best friends does yoga right after she wakes up and she swears by it. It’s not about having the time but about making the time.

*My Chemical Romance voice* Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls…

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SINGING! Jamming is the best form of self-healing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any reliable statistics to back up this theory. But I have years and years of personal experience that I could share, if you cared enough to ask. Blasting your favorite songs and belting out the lyrics either in the car, with your friends, or whilst performing in the shower is one of the easiest and most fun ways to occupy your time and your mind. Or, if you ever need a good cry, create a sad playlist (or you can use mine) and cry out every failed test, dead pet and broken heart you’ve ever had. You’ll feel much better afterwards. My roommates think I’m crazy for suggesting it but it’s therapeutic to me.

Find some time to get sh*t done

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It sounds simple but it’s really not. We get overwhelmed and flustered and then, next thing we know, our eyes burst open at 2 o’clock in the morning because we forgot about that essay that’s due tomorrow. So, find some time in the day to sit down and feel productive. It can be as easy as sitting in the Union and cracking out a few emails or writing your thesis for that paper you’re dreading. Hopefully this will make you feel more confident in your work and inspire you to continue your progress when you get home. But, if not, it’s a way to justify binging Game of Thrones when you should be working on homework.

Watch your favorite movie/tv show

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I’m a film major so I’m fairly biased when it comes to this. However, transparency aside, it’s hard to overthink when you’re not thinking about anything at all. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sit down, put on your favorite movie and let the actors take you away. My particular favorite is when you decide to watch a movie from your childhood. That’s when the nostalgia hits you in the gut. But it’s a love punch so it doesn’t hurt.

Find healthier outlets that don’t involve mind-altering substances

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You know the saying: say nope to dope. This is definitely not to shame anyone who decides to partake but if you’re dealing with stress or anxiety, it’s really not a good idea. A popular myth is that some drugs, such as marijuana and alcohol, help you to forget about your problems and just make you feel g o o d. The truth of the matter is that these things can make you feel better for a short period of time but in the end, you just feel worse than before you started. It may be tempting but it’s always better to just say nay. Instead, have a talk with some friends or try any of the other tips on the list before resorting to this option.

Write

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Again, I have no statistic to back this up and this is completely a subjective opinion because I personally use the title of “writer” to describe myself. However, there is a reason that every cheesy teen pic has a character that keeps a diary. Writing out your feelings helps you to sort out your inner workings. Not to mention, writing is fun. Keep a daily journal, either by writing or typing, and chronicle your day in the life. You can write about anything you want, from what you had for breakfast to which professor you have a crush on this semester. What better person to vent to besides yourself?

Find a puppy. Or a cat. Or a giant lizard.

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Finally, there is my personal favorite: PUPPIES! If you’re like me, you had to leave your dogs back at home and from time to time, you go through dog withdrawal while at school. The easiest cure for this is to find a pup to love on in their absence. You could find a family member or friend to dog sit for or you could even volunteer at a local shelter, if you have the time. Regardless, it’s hard to be upset when you’re loving on a cuddly mammal. Dogs are support animals for a reason. Of course, not everyone is a dog person. This is also applicable to cats, birds, hamsters and, if you’re like my roommate, giant lizards. Animals are almost always better company than people anyway.

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As much as I want them to be, none of this advice is foolproof. Life is hard and sometimes it takes more than advice from a 20-year-old to help you feel better. Please, check out these links if you’re going through a rough time and are in need of professional help. Remember: you are not alone and you are loved. You’re doing the best you can.

Suicide Prevention Hotline

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Institute of Mental Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Featured image courtesy of  Pexels