How pop star Olivia Rodrigo became a defining voice of Gen Z

Guts has already signposted Rodrigo’s musical growth by yielding a transatlantic number one single, Vampire, which begins as a hushed piano ballad before building into a mini rock opera. Rodrigo has said she was inspired by 1990s female artists “who aren’t afraid to be angry and remorseful and like spiteful and snarling,” and you can definitely hear this when she crisply eviscerates an ex for “bleedin’ me dry like a goddamn vampire”.

The album’s other trailer single, Bad Idea Right?, is driven by a chugging guitar riff that nods to the 1980s new wave era, but Rodrigo’s vocal delivery is coolly contemporary. When she repeatedly asks whether reconnecting with an ex is a “bad idea, right?” before swearing and saying “it’s fine”, it comes off as funny and relatable. She also displays her flair for a pithy lyric on Get Him Back, a hooky pop-rap track that sounds like a future single. “He had an ego and a temper and a wandering eye,” Rodrigo deadpans drolly. “He said he’s 6ft 2 and I’m like, ‘Dude, nice try’.” “The key to Rodrigo’s songwriting is her ability to tell a great story in a way that feels like a conversation or as if you’re reading her diary,” says Daly, who also praises the singer for penning lyrics that capture “how people of her generation speak”.

Like her blockbuster debut album, 2021’s Sour, which went four-times platinum in the US, Rodrigo crafted Guts with producer Dan Nigro. Rodrigo isn’t the only Gen Z superstar with a go-to collaborator – Billie Eilish writes almost exclusively with her brother Finneas – but this partnership still feels noteworthy given that many modern pop hits are polished to a high sheen by larger songwriting teams. Rodrigo explained in an interview with Zane Lowe for his Apple Music show how she loves working with Nigro, who has also written with Lewis Capaldi and Caroline Polachek, among others, because he “cares enough” to tell her when she can do better. As she recalled, after she played Nigro an early version of Drivers License, the stunningly intimate ballad that would become her breakthrough hit, he told her: “Yeah, that’s great, but you need to, like, finish the chorus.”