Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Olivia rodrigo o2 150524 burak cingi04

Why Olivia Rodrigo is the perfectly imperfect role model for all ages

17 May 2024, 12:00
Words by Mitch Stevens
Original Photography by Burak Cingi

Olivia Rodrigo is translating complexities of growing up in a world that feels like it seems to be growing even faster, writes Mitch Stevens.

One of the world’s current most popular artists Olivia Rodrigo has touched down in London for a four-night residency in support of her 2023 album, GUTS, which, to me, is a record which has solidified her status as one of the most exciting acts in the world and put pop-rock firmly back on the map in a commercial sense. Not only that, because Rodrigo has also solidified her status as an ideal role model for her younger listeners – someone with experience in the messiness of life that can be confusing and frustrating for those growing up in today's world.

Olivia rodrigo o2 150524 burak cingi02

Her debut album SOUR was a gargantuan success, becoming one of the top sellers of 2021 with two #1 singles and a further top 3 and top 10, but GUTS dwarfed that achievement; it holds the seventh-highest first week vinyl sales of any album since records began in 1991 while all twelve songs on the album landed on the top 40 of the Billboard 200, making Rodrigo the first artist to do this with her first two albums. She is widely regarded as a voice of a generation, sharing purgative songs about the pains of growing up in a modern age. That’s a heavy crown to carry, and with her last show in London being at Hammersmith Apollo in 2022, it’s easy to ask yourself the question whether this is too much growth to handle for a 21 year old who is consistently growing in real time in the public eye?

Now let’s set the scene for myself. I’m a 33 year old man, I’m by myself at a show, and I’m currently looking at the longest merch line I’ve ever seen at The O2 arena, or probably any show barring a festival in the world. I’ve never had a problem with moments like this – I’m confident and have had the blessing of being able to navigate life fairly freely, but I’m definitely feeling somewhat aware of my solitude in the run up to stage time. The show feels far from a communal experience outside the venue – it’s full of more personal feelings; parents and their children sharing intimate bonding moments, or best friends promising each other the best night of their lives. All extremely cute stuff, just not the world I’m in personally right now.

Olivia rodrigo o2 150524 burak cingi07

That is, until, she steps on stage. Simultaneously balancing the kinetic stomp of tracks like "bad idea right?" and and the subtle bite of "drivers licence" all within the set’s opening is no mean feat, but it’s also part of the advantage of an already rich catalogue like Rodrigo’s. Her real power however, lies in putting into context the very real complexities of growing up in a world that feels like it seems to be growing even faster.

In case I didn’t drill it home earlier, I walked into this venue feeling like a rank outsider; I’m not here with my best friend, I’m not here with my parent or my child, and I’m far beyond the average age for an attendee at one of her shows, but I very quickly realised that one thing I do share with everyone in the arena is that we have all (or will have eventually) experienced situations in life that lead to complex emotions and reactions that feel impossible to explain. Olivia Rodrigo is able to act as the conduit to bring language to the things that can’t be communicated without a visceral response, whether that be an extremely shitty ex that devastates you at the time but will one day simply inspire pity (‘vampire’), acute social anxiety (‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’), exhaustion with beauty standards (‘pretty isn’t pretty’) and so much more.

Olivia rodrigo o2 150524 burak cingi01

The fact that she does this with a collection of tracks that could, should, and have already conquered the world is an extremely special thing. The best friends in the crowd are cathartically screaming along with the vigour of a thousand phone calls convincing each other that they’re better than that dickhead they spent way too long with, and the parents are watching their children singing along knowing full well that they have a role model who is giving fair warning about experiences that are uncomfortable, but inevitable. And with the world spinning faster every day, are only coming earlier.


bad idea right?
ballad of a homeschooled girl
drivers license
teenage dream
pretty isn't pretty
love is embarrassing
making the bed
enough for you
so american
jealousy, jealousy
favorite crime
deja vu
the grudge
all-american bitch
good 4 u
get him back!

The GUTS Tour continues tonight and tomorrow night at the O2.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next