The “tortured artist” persona has long been a pervasive trope across most art forms, and music is no exception. It represents a commonly held belief that the best songs come from a place of romantic suffering — a belief that still stands in 2022, where “sad girl music” is a booming business headed by the likes of Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Clairo and many more. But Olivia Rodrigo, arguably the past year’s reigning leader of the Sad Girls, believes the opposite.
“The starving artist complex is like, stupid, essentially,” she told Elle in reference to one of her favorite books, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. “If you’re a fulfilled, happy person, your art can only be more whole and better received. So I like to subscribe to that mindset.”
In fact, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter revealed in her new interview with the magazine that she doesn’t even relate anymore to much of the content on her debut album Sour — which secured her seven Grammy nominations and 11 Billboard Hot 100 top 40 hits — and hinted that her next album will likely move on from the themes of heartbreak and anger she experienced these past couple years.
“I’m definitely not as sad as I was when I wrote Sour,” she told the publication. “I’m so excited to make my next record and explore more colors and textures and feelings and grow as a human being even more. I’m really stoked for that.”
That sentiment didn’t just happen overnight, though. It used to be difficult for Rodrigo to even listen to songs like “Drivers License” and “Traitor” because they reminded her so much of the pain she felt while writing them. “I have a little distance from them now,” she said of the songs on Sour. “I actually just feel so proud of them and it’s so much fun to sing them now.”
“I’m just so excited to sing them on tour and hopefully people will sing them back,” she continued. “And I just think when you put them out into the world and they help people and make people happy … it’s not quite as devastating anymore. And it’s a very empowering thing.”
None of that is to say, however, that the “Good 4 U” artist isn’t a fan of sad girl music. She even shared that Phoebe Bridgers is her favorite artist in the category, saying: “I love her so much and I hung out with her a little at the Women in Music Billboard event. She’s just the coolest person in the world and her music’s so great.”
It’s more just that she’s moved on from the time period in her life that her first album documents, be it the “heartbreak that kept on giving” (as she called it in her new Disney+ film Driving Home 2 U) or the anger she expressed with songs such as “Brutal.” “My gosh, it’s so funny,” she said of one line on the Sour opening track: “Who am I if not exploited?”
“I look back at it and I was like, ‘Wow, I was so angsty. I guess I was just coming to terms with being like a really young person in the industry and feeling weird about it. But I don’t think I feel that way anymore, which is nice.”