As we still live in the early years of the decade, it’s hard to predict what the decade’s pop culture will be known for. Olivia Rodrigo however, single handedly took over the pop world with her debut album SOUR. Her pop album welcomes feminists into the life of a young woman of color in today’s world.
Although Gen Z is no monolith, Olivia gives feminists a unique perspective to understand. Specifically, SOUR is a useful example of pop culture that can help older generations understand the experience of this generation’s young women and teens.
Chapter 1: It’s brutal out here
Olivia starts her album with arguably the best song on the album, “Brutal.”
“Brutal” represents generation z’s angst and frustration with capitalistic exploitation, resulting in our generation’s despair for a bleak future. Issues such as stagnant wages, the gender pay gap, and climate change worries much of Gen Z youth, with little that we can currently do about it.
“Brutal” alludes much of its lyrical philosophy to marxist feminist theory. Marxist feminists theorize that women cannot be free as long as there is exploitation through capitalism. Her raspy voice screams these feminist cries, “And I’m so tired that I might quit my job, start a new life. And they’d all be so disappointed. ‘Cause who am I if not exploited?”
These lyrics arguably illustrate Gen Z’s frustration with the continuing exploitation of workers, especially women workers like Olivia herself. As well as the worth tied to work that the older generations place on Gen Z.
Gen Z and Millennials have been called every name in the book, from lazy to impatient, all because the older generations don’t view our work ethic as valuable. This is ironic, since Millennials are the most educated and qualified generation of workers. If the trend continues, Gen Z will also be more educated and qualified for work than older generations as well.
Chapter 2: “Good For U” and self care
Similar to the angst of “Brutal,” Olivia’s “Good 4 U” resembles a healthy form of self-care. Hear me out.
“Good 4 U” is essentially a healthy form of Olivia attempting to get over her ex. She reflects on the relationship and her sour feelings about it. She admits to not being in a good state, and crying about it. Most young women probably can’t express their emotions through a hit pop song like Olivia, but this piece almost reminds me of a teenage girl’s diary, letting out all of her emotions in an imaginative and healthy way.
Different from past generations, Gen Z has advocated to reduce the stigma on mental health. They are more likely than previous generations to report mental health concerns. For feminists, self-care is valued with high-esteem. Both taking care of yourself and the community can help alleviate different forms of trauma and even gender faced trauma.
Chapter 3: Enough of unrealistic depictions
After flipping the page of Olivia’s journal, next comes “Enough For You.” Like “Good 4 U,” “Enough For You” feels like a page in her journal. However, this time you can start to see more of Olivia’s connection to her own self worth. She sings, “But don’t tell me you’re sorry, boy. Feel sorry for yourself. ‘Cause someday, I’ll be everything to somebody else.”
Of course, like every Gen Z woman’s journey into her self-worth, Olivia appears to sometimes struggle with her self-worth, despite the words of affirmation in “Enough For You.”
Notably, Gen Z and Gen Alpha have had to spend their formative years with access to altering filters on social media apps, and constant pictures of “perfect” women online, mostly photoshopped. “Jealousy, jealousy,” represents these consequential feelings of Gen Z women.
“I know their beauty’s not my lack. But it feels like that weight is on my back.” Olivia couldn’t have said it better; it’s time to have more discussion in the feminist sphere about the harm that social media can have on young women and girls. Women like Olivia have to grapple with their own self-worth after viewing a constant stream of unrealistic photos and videos of other women online. Honestly, social media sites need to take more measures to mitigate this type of harmful content.
Chapter 3: I hope we’re all okay
Lastly, ending the album strong, Olivia sings “Hope Ur Ok.” A song that is presumably about young LGBT members living in families that won’t accept them.
“Hope Ur Ok” symbolizes the issues of hatred in the world, racism, ableism, homophobia, etc., and Gen Z’s acceptance of each other. It’s a song about community and intersectional feminism — recognizing the importance of identity and lived experience.
That being said, Olivia’s album is more than just a breakup album, it’s a Gen Z feminist proclamation. But it’s also a damn good album to cry to when going through a breakup.