Why I wanted to burn down the world in high school even without Olivia Rodrigo

By Sabrina Li

Ok, I get it. No, I swear I do!

Olivia Rodrigo’s young and cool and teen and unabashed in her status as a teenage girl and willing to indulge in her emotions while still remaining empathetic to the other side and “good 4 u” must be injected with micro-doses of ketamine for how addictive it is. Yes, I TOO… am an Olivia Rodrigo stan and will remain sharing her Instagram posts to my story for who-knows-how-long. Rest assured, Ms. Rodrigo will surely be making an appearance in my 2021 Spotify Wrapped and her grip around my neck is as strong as ever, but that’s not what I’m here for today.

The thing that Boggles my mind and makes me question my perceived concept of reality are the hordes of twenty-somethings asserting they’d have burned down the world if SOUR had just come out a few years earlier. And… okay, like, I can see it—streaming Olivia Rodrigo does in fact evoke something visceral in me that I cannot place, but Olivia’s far from being the only one, or even the first.

Okay, let’s start small. You wanna talk Olivia’s influences? BAM! Taylor’s reputation. Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Ohh… but it’s a break-up album you wanna hear? Please, the media scrutinized Taylor Swift like hell for writing about boys—stream Red. And of course we’ve got our girl Ella Yelich O’Connor in the other corner even if she don’t got us (Dear Lorde, I am once again on my knees, pleading for the release of L3.)—someone put Melodrama on loop STAT.

Paramore. We Are the In Crowd. Hey Monday. Hey Violet. Transviolet. Halsey. P!nk. Katy Perry (One of the Boys era). Kelly Clarkson. Demi Lovato. Kesha. Avril Lavigne. Sky Ferreira. Marina and the Diamonds. Florence and the Machine. Ida Maria (I just think that “Oh My God”). Grimes. Azealia Banks (you cannot tell me you don’t wanna burn the world down when you listen to “212”). Adele. Ryn Weaver (dear lord, I really would not have made it thru without “Octahate” I fear). Hayley Kiyoko. Tegan and Sara. HAIM. Echosmith. Grouplove. Sylvan Esso. Santigold. Sleigh Bells. M.I.A. Chairlift. K. Flay. Phantogram. Allie X. La Roux. Icona Pop. BRITNEY BXTCH……

Point is: Olivia Rodrigo doesn’t stand out due to her sound nor lyrical themes. Hating the world? Seething in anguish? We’ve BEEN saying this since we learned how to make fire or something ancient like that. Socrates, Plato, Wittgenstein—I’m convinced mostly all they were trying to say was, “God!... It’s brutal out here.” What’s new about Olivia Rodrigo isn’t anything specific to Olivia Rodrigo herself, but instead how well she reflects major sentiments of the time that bred her. Don’t get me wrong, I still love her and adore her and I think she’s important in the way that whether or not you put a period after “no” is important (re: very important), but calling the girl gasoline is like saying there’s only one shade of red.

And besides, even if we took music outta the equation, literally show me someone who was at peace in 2016. Exactly, you can’t. With probably the strangest presidential election in American history (Drumpf vs. Shillary?!?!??!??) happening in the backdrop as any average teenager goes thru all three stages* of automatic adolescent angst (rejection, anger, destruction), how was anyone meant to feel ANYTHING other than on the brink of collapse. And again, what if we forgot about the political climate. Let’s just talk straight up numbers. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and on and on and on… raging hormones and oscillating mood swings. Underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes and scattered senses of self. What else were we supposed to do but daydream about destroying it all.
Respectfully, if you didn’t wanna burn the world down in high school, what world were you living in?!?!???!!

Listen to these artists and subsequently scavenge for your own kindling here.

*I make no claim to truth.

P.S. I focused on non-male artists here, but truthfully my personal vendetta against the world could not have been made possible without the musical contributions of “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers (I really could’ve led a small army into war with this song), Hotel Mira, and Mariana Trench’s entire discography, just to name a few.