Olivia Rodrigo – All-American Bitch

18th December 2023 · 2020s, 2023, Music

Gotta confess it took me a long while to take Olivia Rodrigo seriously. First there was her background as a Disney princess in High School Musical. Then there was her phenomenal pop success.

When she first turned to music as an 18-year-old her debut single Drivers Licence instantly became the fastest and biggest selling song of all time with 80 million streams in its first week, making her the youngest ever US chart topper.

Being a music snob I thought: 80 million people can’t possibly be right. I got that very wrong.

I did miss out on her first album, Sour, but I caught her headline-grabbing performance at Glastonbury last year on TV, when she brought Lily Allen out of retirement to sing her (Lily’s) anthem Fuck You – dedicated to the US judges who had just banned abortion.

So when it came out this year her second album Guts caught my eye, if not my ears, not least for sharing a title with one by John Cale.

And its opening song, All-American Bitch, takes its title from a phrase she read in Joan Didion’s book The White Album, which was a favourite of mine when I was a bit older than Ms Rodrigo (who is, alarmingly, still only 20).

Then I listened to its blend of catchy pop-rock anthems and power ballads, and to her sharp, often very funny, confessional lyrics, and discovered that her musical influences include The White Stripes and Rage Against The Machine, No Doubt and Green Day.

And finally I saw this sensational performance of All-American Bitch, a song that sums up perfectly the pressure on young women to conform to their place in American culture and society and become the “perfect woman”, on Saturday Night Live.

As she told The Guardian: “I’ve experienced a lot of emotional turmoil over having all these feelings of rage and dissatisfaction that I felt like I couldn’t express, especially in my job. I’ve always felt like: you can never admit it, be so grateful all the time, so many people want this position. And that causes a lot of repressed feelings.

“I’ve always struggled with wanting to be this perfect American girl and the reality of not feeling like that all the time.”