Olivia Rodrigo, All-American Bitch

Olivia Rodrigo, All-American Bitch

By Erica CampbellApr 08, 2024

Glitter, fishnets, a sea of violet crop tops and tweens screaming the word, “fuck!”

It’s Friday night in Manhattan and pop prodigy Olivia Rodrigo is playing the first of four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. Moments after she takes the stage, as she erratically spins to the distorted chords of her witty, toxic-love ballad, “bad idea right?”, you can almost see where the former Disney darling ends and the larger-than-life stage performer begins. She’s sexy without being vulgar, earnest in her crowd banter without being shy and, judging by how she controls the audience's energy between each saccharine meets devastatingly honest track, she’s been preparing for this moment her whole life.

“Tonight’s gonna be so much fucking fun,” she warns with a knowing grin at the start of the set, right before reminding her congregation (which is mainly made up of dads who’ve been dragged to the arena by their pre-pubescent kids, millennials like myself who appreciate the nostalgia lining her post-punk gritty pop sound and teens who can relate to every lyric) that the goal of the evening is to “feel all your feelings!” We happily comply.

Since her last tour stop in NYC (at Radio City Music Hall for her Grammy award-winning debut Sour), Rodrigo has added space for 13,000 more fans and a level of production typically reserved for stars with twice her discography. For most of her GUTS performance, she’s flanked by dancers whose movements dynamically reflect her words as she goes from sour to sweet, angsty to love drunk.

She levitates over our heads while sitting on a crescent moon; she disappears into the stage throughout the night, reappearing with an evolving costume of sequined mini-outfits. Her all-female band plays viscously — giving songs like “good 4 u” and “brutal” a raw rock slant that can’t be felt or heard while listening to them in the comfort of your home. In fact, played out from the stage, Rodrigo’s entire collection takes on a brand new life, one that points to who she may be in the future just as much as who she is to her fans right now.

The girls (and I mean that in the royal “we” sense) are angry. They’re tired of “vampire”-esque relationships that drain them. They think “love is embarrassing,” and they’re no longer buying into the archaic promises of the “teenage dream.” Rodrigo’s music, with all its odes to less-than-pretty emotions like jealousy, revenge, and desperation, resonates deeply, for better or worse. Sure, popular music will always be drenched in stories of fairytale love fantasies, but when she sings about the darker underbelly of relationships, the fraught territory of simply being a girl and being alive, every person in the crowd repeats it back like each word is true.

As the last sounds of the night play, and Rodrigo greets her fans at the barrier, hugging them and thanking them, it’s easy to see she’ll be around for a long time, slowly evolving with her honest writing, shifting from the teenage dream to a fully grown pop-star reality. For now, as the full breadth of her pop prowess takes over one of the world's most famed stages, she's a living testament to leaving the idealized version of pop purity behind. We don’t have to be pretty while we cry or grateful all the fucking time. Who needs to be Miss America, when you can be an “all‐american bitch”?

Photography: Toby Tenenbaum