As I was watching the February 20, 2021 episode of Saturday Night Live I realized I no longer know what’s going on across the music spectrum. It began with the musical guest Bad Bunny. I thought both songs were great and spent some time learning more about it. That’s not that unusual there have been many acts I’ve seen for the first time on SNL. What killed me was a skit in the show.
The set-up is a bunch of guys are playing pool. One of them asks them to play a particular selection on the jukebox. What comes on is this very pop song which the guys all sing along to. This happens as they all say liking the song doesn’t reflect poorly on their manliness. As the skit went on, I had zero idea what the song was. I went to Twitter to find out it was “Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo and was the current number one pop song. It was a super catchy song once I knew it existed.
Olivia Rodrigo on SNL May 2021
She would be the musical guest three months later. The first song was her doing “Drivers License”. It was the second song she performed “Good 4 U” which made me pay attention. This wasn’t a song about teenage heartbreak this was a song about teenage rage. She stomped around the stage supplying a perfect pop punk vocal to a backing band all in with her. Suddenly, I was interested in what her forthcoming album “Sour” might sound like.
What I found was a group of songs split between the sadness of breakups interspersed with that pop punk personality I saw. After listening to it a lot this summer I’m admiring of the punky part. I also admire the songwriting across the board. She can alternate her voice between pop princess and angry young girl effortlessly.
Right from the first track “Brutal” the former Disney star confounds expectations. If they thought this would be an album of Drivers License-like pop this song sets them straight. It isn’t until the later stages of things that she gets back behind the piano to sing of heartbreak. None of it feels forced or cynical. It is just the type of musician she wants to be.
That second song from SNL “Good 4 U” is still my favorite on the album. I even have a mash-up with “Misery Business” by Paramore. Where the two songs tell a complete story. Ms. Rodrigo and Hayley Williams have a similar style of singing. That Ms. Rodrigo holds her own shows her potential.
The reason I know less of the popular music is because on Satellite Radio I can narrow cast to my preferred alternative music. What made me incredibly pleased was to hear “Brutal” played on that station. It fit right in. If I were still ignorant, I would have thought she was a new alternative act.
Ms. Rodrigo is a talent I am looking forward to watching grow. If you’ve never heard of her, it is worth making the effort to give her a listen.