The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and are not representative of those held by The Hysteria Collective as a whole.
I couldn’t be less interested in High School Musical The Musical The Series the Sing-along-film-a-malarkey of Disney chaos, but I am very much interested in 11 songs picking apart the very essence of teen heartbreak, something I knew all too well.
When I was Olivia Rodrigo’s age, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friends car, windows down, singing along to A Day To Remember, Linkin Park and James Bay, talking about how hard it was “because what if I just never speak to him again? He said not now, but when does he mean we can be together?”
It was pretty dire. Olivia, on the other hand, despite being a 2003 (ughhhh) baby, seems to have a damn good grip of the kind of music we need when shit hits the relationship fan. Breakup music should be a genre in it’s own, as far as I am concerned, because it is just a brilliantly personal and specific thing that somehow we all universally get.
What does Olivia Rodrigo’s enough for you have in common with Linkin Park’s In Pieces, you may ask?
Why can people who have never even experienced a break up relate to songs like traitor or Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone?
According to PsychologyToday, “Because of their lyrics and melodies, breakup songs are emotionally engaging, which is more important than being happy”.
It doesn’t actually matter what emotion you are experiencing at the time, or what type of song the break up song is. Songs like these tunnel deep into our need for experience and our desire to be emotionally engaged, they make us feel part of a broader social feeling and make us feel nostalgic for love loss or fearful of loss to come. There is something almost primal about hearing someone scream about their heartbreak in a beautiful song when all you can do is eat ice cream, go to work and drink eight margaritas at the bar with your friends.
We all have different tastes in music, different things that make us feel and for some of us, that is the poppy-romance of Rodrigo, for others it is wailing heavy metal. Many songs relating to heartbreak explore different parts of it. Heavy, by Orla Gartland for example explores the things you won’t get to do again, Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood is all about the anger you feel and the pity for the next person after you and deja vu by Olivia Rodrigo is the sadness of seeing some doing all the things that made you love them with someone else.
When we listen to any kind of music, I believe we are seeking empathy in a shared experience even if we haven’t had that yet, and may never. We are constantly looking for emotional mirroring, understanding and validation, no matter what we listen to and that is why so many people love SOUR. It goes through every bit of a breakup, every facet of emotion, every need to scream and cry or curl up and hide and reminds us what it is or could be to feel those.
Olivia Rodrigo is 18 years old and these emotions will have accumulated over the last few years for us. My first big, proper heart-breaking, ground shaking, don’t leave your bed for three days and try tequila for the first time breakup was 6 years ago. I sought out music that made me feel heard, I spent two hours on a cross trainer in the gym playing Taylor Swift’s, We Are Never Getting Back Together on repeat because that’s what I thought you were supposed to do. In every rom-com that involves a break up, that’s what the protagonist does, and we crave that kind of romanticism of our own heartbreak after hitting rock bottom – even if with hindsight, he wasn’t even that cute and you didn’t really love him.
In the last 6 years, I have learnt exactly how much I should drink after a break up for optimum mistake-forgetting but not life-ruining. I have perfected the pink hair dye on the bathroom floor at 3am and the cutting your fringe between lectures. I have done all of the break up clichés and yet still, SOUR slaps. I am in a very happy relationship, yet I am still standing in the shower screaming brutal, because I can find other experiences and emotions to attach to the lyrics – I enjoy the melody and the vibe. I love her voice.
One things for sure, though, this album dropping six years ago, back when Rodrigo was 12, would have been absolutely lethal. I would have been a nightmare, using every lyric to justify my feelings, shouting them from the rooftops and being reckless. Maybe that is the difference a few years, and a few more heartbreaks, can make. We can use lyrics to empathise, but not romanticise our own decline in mental wellbeing, not empower ourselves to make bad choices like we used to, to the lyrics of songs that ‘just get us’.
Olivia, I know it feels like shit right now, but hey, you have made one of the best albums I have ever heard with your heartbreak, and in a few years time, you’ll realise he just isn’t that cute.
Image courtesy of Renee Fisher.