Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” took the industry by storm this year and the 18-year-old’s much-anticipated debut album, “SOUR,” continues to make her the unofficial spokeswoman of Gen Z. The album encapsulates teenhood in a way that is refreshingly honest and highly reflective of her peers’ experiences while still transcending generational lines.
Each track has a unique nostalgic feel to it. This album definitely would have been on repeat in the car with my friends, driving around our suburb awaiting the day when we were finally not 17 anymore. It is a time capsule of the tough transition from childhood to the brink of young adulthood.
“brutal,” “good 4 u,” and “jealousy, jealousy,” have feminist pop-punk undertones, reminiscent of one of Rodrigo’s inspirations: Pat Benatar. In between, there are softer introspective tracks like “traitor” and “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” a la the powerful emotion that steadied Taylor Swift’s “Fearless”-era work.
“SOUR,” with its focus on the rocky road of growing up, is helping to usher in a new era of breakup anthems — ones that don’t pin the blame on other women, but empower them, and hold the ones who broke their hearts accountable for their faults. It’s a whole lot less of “I want you back” and much more of “I’m moving on without you.” If you’re a fan of empowering feminist breakup anthems, here are eight tracks to listen to (and belt out in the car, of course) if you’ve had “SOUR” playing on loop for the last week.
“Nice Guys” by Beach Bunny
If you’re in the mood for another pop-punk banger, here’s your song. Chicago-based indie rock band Beach Bunny released “Nice Guys” earlier this year as a part of its EP “Blame Game.” Frontwoman Lili Trifilio gradually grows angrier at the stereotypical “nice guys” she’s dated who expect romantic reciprocation just because they were polite. In the chorus, Trifilio sings, “you win me like a trophy, not a consolation prize.” And she emerges maintaining her self worth and prioritizing genuine relationships in the future.
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “I’m sick of nice guys/I want someone who actually wears hearts inside their eyes.”
“Potential Breakup Song” by Aly and AJ
Pop duo and former Disney Channel stars Aly and AJ Michalka re-recorded an explicit version of their classic, “Potential Breakup Song” in late 2020. The request came from TikTok after a viral trend that spurred nearly 2 million videos of friend groups lip-synching to the 2007 track. Just as powerful now as it was back then, the sisters make it clear that they know their worth: “Cause without me, you know you’re lost, wise up now or pay the cost/Soon you will know.”
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “It took too long, it took too long, it took too long for you to call back/And normally I would just forget that/Except for the fact it was my birthday/My [expletive] birthday.”
“T R A N S P A R E N T S O U L” by WILLOW (ft. Travis Barker)
Willow Smith is much more than just the daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. Known as WILLOW, her latest venture into pop punk focuses on breaking up with toxic people, not just toxic romantic partners. Not only can we outgrow romantic relationships, but friendships. This track features the biting lyrics: “All your little fake friends will sell your secrets for some cash (Hey, hey), Smile in my face, then put your cig out on my back.” WILLOW’s strong message calls out bad behavior with Blink 182′s Travis Barker on drums, creating a different type of breakup track, perfect after a challenging year of finding out who our true friends are.
Lyric you belt in the car: “Transparent soul/I can see right through/just so you know”
“Gaslighter” by The Chicks
The Chicks’ “Gaslighter” was the titular track and first single from the artists’ first new album in 14 years. The track has all of the girl power sass and country twang that led to the women formerly known as the Dixie Chicks’s initial success, calling out frontwoman Natalie Maines’s ex-husband for trying to gaslight her into forgetting about his affair, with biting lyrics like “Gaslighter, denier/Doin’ anything to get your ass farther /Gaslighter, big timer/Repeating all of the mistakes of your father.”
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “Gaslighter, you broke me/You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?/Gaslighter, you liar”
“Forgive Me” by Chloe x Halle
Sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey received two Grammy nominations this year for their second studio album “Ungodly Hour.” This R&B track is your one-way ticket to moving on — led into by the album’s primary message: “don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” The sisters don’t hold back in calling out a love interest’s bad behavior, but in the end, they’re unbothered, and continue on with their meteoric rise to success. Featuring lyrics like: “So forgive me ‘cause I’m not teary/Best believe I’ll move onto better things/Oh, you lie, oh, you lie,” this song is perfect for anyone trying to leave someone behind and start the summer with a new beginning.
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “So forgive me, forgive me/I been goin’ too hard in your city”
“Simmer” by Hayley Williams
Of course, this list had to include the pop-punk princess herself, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams. (Some fans on TikTok have even pointed out that Olivia Rodrigo’s new track “good 4 u” is reminiscent of Paramore’s 2007 hit “Misery Business.”) But Williams’s solo work is much more introspective. In 2020, Williams released “Petals for Armor,” a body of work that came at a turning point in her life –– it was her first solo project outside of Paramore, and her first project post-divorce. “Simmer” is the opening track, and details the process of moving past the anger of a toxic relationship, and recognizing self worth. It’s a powerful anthem of reclamation, featuring lyrics including “If I had seen my reflection/As something more precious/He would’ve never.”
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “Give in/Control/There’s so many ways to give in”
“Your Best American Girl” by Mitski
This song may have come out in 2016, but its message still resonates. Mitski recently gained traction on TikTok through two of her other songs, “Strawberry Blonde” and “Washing Machine Heart,” which opened the floodgates for Gen Z to discover the rest of her discography. But it’s her “Puberty 2″ rock ballad, filled with electric guitar riffs and lilting vocals, that follows Mitski’s journey to self-acceptance following a relationship with “an all-American boy.” Mitski has said the song describes a relationship in which she felt the need to put her Japanese American identity aside. But in the end, she chooses herself over the romance and sings: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/But I do, I finally do.”
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/But I do, I think I do/And you’re an all-American boy/I guess I couldn’t help trying to be your best American girl”
“good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo
Now that you’ve listened to these songs, listen to “SOUR” again. “good 4 u” is easily one of the standout tracks on the album, and the accompanying music video that references the 2009 campy revenge classic movie “Jennifer’s Body,” pairs with it perfectly. This is the song to listen to when the person you’ve broken up with moves on immediately, despite the damage they’ve left in their wake. Good for you, but not really. This track is the ideal backdrop for letting it all out.
Lyric you’ll belt in the car: “Good for you, you’re doin’ great out there without me/Baby, like a damn sociopath”
Madison E. Goldberg is a journalist based out of Boston. You can reach her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @madisonevegold.