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Review: Olivia Rodrigo "bad idea right?"

While some may say she needs no introduction, Olivia Rodrigo is an actress and singer who rose to fame on television, where she landed her first starring role as Paige Olivera in the Disney Channel show Bizaardvark, which ran for three seasons from 2016-2019. However, her real takeoff as both an actress and singer came from her role as Nini in the wildly successful 2019 spin off TV show of the beloved trilogy High School Musical, fittingly titled High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Her first single "Drivers License", rumored to be about Joshua Bassett, her co-star and love interest in the aforementioned show, skyrocketed her fame and lead fans across the world to fall in love with her vocal ability and lyrical storytelling. Her celebrity only expanded from there, with her first studio album Sour releasing in 2021 and topping the US Billboard charts as well as winning her the Best Pop Vocal Album Award at the Grammys. Olivia is undeniably one of the most popular artists to emerge in the 2020s.

Despite her riveting success in 2021, Olivia didn't release any music in 2022, leading fans to speculate about and wildly anticipate any new release. On June 30th, 2023, Olivia broke her hiatus and released a new single titled "Vampire", while simultaneously announcing her upcoming sophomore album Guts, dropping September 8th of this year.

"bad idea right?" dropped on August 11th, 2023 and is the second track released off of Guts. It's a drastic shift from the lead single. While 'Vampire" was a harrowing breakup song about feeling as though your partner has sucked the life out of you, "bad idea right?" is a fun and playful pop-rock anthem about succumbing to the temptation of reuniting with your ex even though you know it's a reckless decision.

In a Rolling Stone interview, Olivia comments on the creative process of this track and collaborating with singer-songwriter Petra Collins:"'bad idea right?' started with us making a joke song about me hooking up with an ex-boyfriend, but then we realized we were actually onto something. We were throwing the weirdest things at the wall - in one of the choruses there’s a part that sounds like an instrument, but it’s me gradually screaming louder and louder."

While "bad idea right?" wouldn't rank highly on my list in terms of emotional lyricism, it does succeed in being an incredibly fun and catchy while still effectively conveying a narrative. Throughout the song, Olivia utilizes humorous anecdotes to tell a fictitious story in which she receives an unexpected call from an old flame beckoning her to come and see him. While she knows this rendezvous is ill advised, she can't resist the temptation. The song is incredibly relatable, down to lying to your friends in fear of their disapproval, the brain fog that attraction to someone can create, and the rosy lens through which you may view an old lover.

The pre-chorus is a beautiful crescendo vocally and instrumentally, which mirrors the intensity of the situation described throughout the track, repeating the phrase, "Seeing you tonight, it's a bad idea, right?", while increasing in volume, and finally concluding with a cheeky and relatable rationalization of "fuck it, it's fine", before diving into a boisterous chorus.

"Seeing you tonight, it's a bad idea, right?"

The entire single is very reminiscent of Olivia's song "Brutal", the first track off of Sour, down to the speak-singing in the verses and the simple yet effective instrumental that builds up to a loud, pop-rock chorus. Still, "bad idea right?" manages to embody a different feel by telling an entirely separate story lyrically and, in my opinion, refines the instrumental concepts presented in "Brutal".

Composition wise, the track begins with a steady drum beat and electric guitar melody, while slowly building in complexity by adding electronic elements and subtle but effective instrumental changes throughout the song. Notably, the bridge features a digitized guitar solo that sets the song's instrumental apart from others in Olivia's discography and puts a genre-bending spin on the traditional instrumentation of the pop-rock genre.

In terms of mixing, the filtered vocals throughout the song are a stylistic choice that offers a nice, nostalgic 2000s touch and complements the vibe of the track. However, there are instances within the song, namely in the first verse, where I feel as though these filtered vocals combined with the robust instrumental can muddle Olivia's vocal clarity and hinder the listeners' ability to really hear the lyrics. With that being said, in its defense, the songs' essence isn't hinged on its lyricism, and hearing the song a few times over with attentive listening solves the problem of deciphering the lyrics.

Overall, "bad idea right?" grows on me more and more with every listen and is slowly but surely solidifying itself into my day-to-day soundtrack. Its playful and reminiscent nature makes it the perfect song to jam out to, especially as a majority of Olivia's lead demographic heads into the back-to-school season. In reuniting with past flings that may have been distant during summer break, these listeners may find themselves connecting to this song's storyline, which makes this release time enhance the track's relatability. This track has genuinely increased my excitement and curiosity for the imminent release of Olivia's second album. I look forward to seeing what other music she has to offer in this next chapter of her artistry.

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