Olivia Rodrigo’s Originality: Intimidation and Inspiration in the Music Industry

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https://www.kix.fm/oliva-rodrigos-sour-prom-concert-experience/

By Mariel Gousios

Despite the immense success of Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour album, critics have pointed out some songs that sound reminiscent of other artists. Many claim the song “Good 4 U” has been taken from “Misery Business” due to similar background music. In addition, others have pointed out how her album cover and music videos appear similar to other artist’s. With all these allegations against Olivia Rodrigo, it appears obvious that she’s unoriginal and ripping off other artists. However, as music is a creative field the story may not be that simple. 

Upon listening to a very famous mashup on youtube, by Adamusic, many draw their conclusions that the songs are just too similar. This is due to their chord structure, which goes from D, to A, to E, and then to F# minor. However, this is a very popular chord progression, especially for songs in the pop-punk genre. It would be unfair to call out Olivia Rodrigo for using a chord progression that many popular songs do. Additionally, songs are more than just chord progressions. There are numerous aspects of what makes a song a song, including lyrics, rhythm, vocals, and more. If having the same chord progression as another artist made you unoriginal, there would be no original singer ever. Writing Olivia Rodrigo off as a stealer negates all of the originality that “Good 4 U” brings. Olivia as an artist has an original, breathy voice that differs from the aggressive and powerful voice Hayley Willaims has in Paramore’s “Misery Business”. When you take into account her meaningful lyrics and original perspective, it’s clear “Good 4 U” is not ripping off any song. 

Aside from having similar songs, Olivia Rodrigo has also been slammed for having a similar promotional picture as Hole’s album “Live Through This”. Both pictures feature the singers in prom dresses, with a bouquet, tiara on their heads, and mascara dripping down their eyes. However, you cannot copyright high school tropes. There have been countless prom scenes in iconic movies such as Carrie, F the Prom, even Radio Rebel. These all have sad prom almost queens. The idea of crying at the prom is nothing you can trademark. Additionally, the music video that she got heavily criticized had her in a classic cheer uniform, playing into her high school theme. She was told she stole the aesthetic of a smaller indie rock band “Pom Pom Squad”, but a cheer uniform is nothing new. No one should gatekeep an “aesthetic” or cheer costume. Under all of the baseless accusations, I believe there’s something else causing all of the issues. 

It seems a lot like misogyny and jealousy. Olivia Rodrigo is having a similar problem to Taylor Swift, who found herself being criticized for things her male counterparts were not. As the article “Feminist icon Taylor Swift has fought misogyny her entire career” by Mia Gallo has pointed out, Taylor Swift was criticized for using her exes as her inspiration for her songs, even though countless artists do so. Even though Olivia Rodrigo has all of her songs on her “Sour” album reaching the top 100 list (all being over #30), she is continually criticized by those who are jealous of her success. It’s a common thing in the music industry for young, successful, female artists to be criticized for anything and everything by those who don’t like their music. But as we move to a better future we should second guess ourselves when we feel inclined to criticize an artist. Is it fair? Is it helpful? Or is it just because she’s a young artist who’s more successful than you? The music industry is a huge blurry line, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between stealing creative ideas and taking inspiration, but for a young artist who’s only released her first album, it’s realistic that she’s still figuring out her own style. Additionally, there’s no harm in learning how to incorporate the artists that she loves into your style especially if you’re giving them credit while doing so. 

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