Olivia Rodrigo launches a fiery barrage of pinpoint lyrical missiles at unnamed targets on her laceratingly catchy second album, GUTS. But ask the Grammy-winning 20-year-old singer to go into specifics about who she’s put a bullseye on in her lyrics and the singer who snarls “I wanna meet his mom/ Just to tell her her son sucks” on the new album’s “Get Him Back!” is not going there.
Such as in a new Rolling Stone cover story, in which interviewer Angie Martoccio attempts to get an answer to a burning question about whether Olivia is currently feuding with her musical inspiration Taylor Swift. “I don’t beef with anyone,” she said about the singer she said she was “in awe” of constantly in an 2021 interview with Ryan Seacrest; the pair also exchanged letters, Swift gifted Rodrigo a ring she wore while recording Red and the singer later gave Taylor (as well as producer Jack Antonoff) co-writing credits on the Sour songs “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” and “Deja Vu.”
“I’m very chill. I keep to myself,” Rodrigo explained, despite heated rumors that the GUTS song “The Grudge” is about a Swift fallout. “I have my four friends and my mom, and that’s really the only people I talk to, ever. There’s nothing to say. There’s so many Twitter conspiracy theories. I only look at alien-conspiracy theories.”
Pressed further on how the co-writing credits on her debut happened — she also retroactively gave Paramore a co-write on “Good 4 U” — Rodrigo demurred. “It’s not something that I was super involved with,” she said, making it unclear if her hand was forced in the matter. “It was more team-on-team. So, I wouldn’t be the best person to ask.”
As for whether she might do the same to a young artist if they were clearly inspired by one of her songs, or if she’d slough it off as Elvis Costello did when the clear similarities between his “Pump It Up” and her “Brutal” were pointed out, Rodrigo said she doesn’t think she would. “But who’s to say where I’ll be in 20, 30 years,” she said. “All that I can do is write my songs and focus on what I can control.”
The profile also featured a co-sign from Katy Perry about the intense pressure to follow-up a debut album, with Perry recalling that she faced similar angst while recording 2010’s Teenage Dream. “You have your whole life to make your first record, and then maybe two years to make your second — while going through a real psychological change as well,” said Perry, who added that she offered to be Rodrigo’s pop music mentor and sounding board. “Like, ‘Oh, my God, I can buy my mom a car,’ and, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t have to have the stress from my past.’ But it’s a mental jungle out there.”
For the record, Olivia said, even though there’s a song on GUTS called “Teenage Dream” — and she calls Perry’s album of the same name one of her favorite sophomore collections — it was totally a coincidence. “We thought about changing the name,” she said. “If someone looks up ‘Teenage Dream’ on Spotify, there’s no way in heck that my song’s going to pull up first.”
Rodrigo also noted that the goal on GUTS was to make a more “playful” record than her debut, Sour, which she said was “definitely a breakup record, much to my chagrin.”
One of the pop third rails Rodrigo would also not touch was the speculation that her breakthrough hit from that album, “Drivers License,” was inspired by a love triangle that allegedly involved her, her ex, fellow High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett and another Disney actress/singer, Sabrina Carpenter.
“I mean, that’s a tricky one. I actually, genuinely did not read the article you’re talking about,” she said of an story from 2022 in which Bassett said he had a major health crisis as a result of the backlash from strangers about the alleged love triangle. “But, yeah, all that stuff was really crazy. It’s all been handled privately… Handled isn’t the right word, but it’s just not something I like talking about publicly. I take all that stuff seriously, but it happens in privacy. I’m not going to put out a statement. That’s phony. We’re all just people at the end of the day. I deal with it on a person-to-person level that people on Twitter don’t see.”