The horrors of social awkwardness take centre stage on “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl”, the fifth track of Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album GUTS.
The title pays homage to Bob Dylan’s acerbic “Ballad of a Thin Man”, but where that song’s venom is directed outward, Rodrigo turns her criticism inwards as she reflects on her own experiences as a homeschooled teen.
The track starts strong with upbeat production backed up with powerful drums and grungy guitar as she drawls out the first verse in a low, almost defeated register, “Cat got my tongue and I don’t think I get along with anyone”. Right before the chorus, it turns exasperated in its self-awareness: “The party’s done, and I’m no fun, I know, I know, I know, I KNOW!!”
The chorus itself drips with that same sense of self-loathing and dry humour, perfectly encapsulating the feeling of lying awake at night obsessing over that one awkward thing you did years ago. You can’t help fixate on the dumb things you did, but there’s also something funny about how small some of those things are.
That push and pull between wry self-deprecation and outright mortification powers the entire song. The second verse devolves into a straight up list of major and minor embarrassments, but there’s still a propulsive energy to the chorus. A sense that an outpouring of negativity can, sometimes, be cathartic.
But even that hits a dead end in the final line when Rodrigo realises that she can’t even come up with a fitting line to close on, making do with some half-hearted nonsense that lets out in a well-deserved but slightly disgusted sigh.
Funny how sad that is.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.