It’s been two years since we last rode in the passenger seat of freshly licensed Olivia Rodrigo’s road trip to triumph and stardom. She made various pit stops along the way — a massive list of broken records, the Grammys, a world tour and even a visit to the White House. After a brief halt, this now 20-year-old pop icon has refueled her car and is gearing up for another voyage brimming with female rage and empowerment.
With the guidance of talented producer Dan Nigro, Rodrigo’s ability to combine lyricism and instrumentation as a gateway into her mind has allowed works such as her debut single, “Drivers License,” to sparkle like a jewel hidden in a mountain of stones. Rodrigo’s public appeal became apparent when her debut album Sour developed into a piece so intricately put together that it was nearly impossible to recreate.
June 30 became the much-anticipated date for listeners to hear how their beloved strawberry ice cream-lover could top her previous masterpiece in the comeback single “Vampire.” Rodrigo did not disappoint; the single is a beautifully rendered narrative of revelation that demonstrates her understanding of the emotional damage endured in her previous relationship.
The beginning is slow, thoughtful and melancholic. In an abysmal room, a mournful piano resonates. Rodrigo’s voice comes in raw, and every breath and crisp pronunciation emphasizes her depressive and contemplative attitude. “Vampire” is a breakup song from the get-go, with somber overtones in its opening words and melody.
The lyrics paint a mosaic inside her mind, with few to no splatters to spoil the experience. She employs a unique technique in her storytelling where she tugs and pulls the details, unveiling frustration in this broken relationship. Rodrigo exhibits this effect when she goes through phases of gradual poeticization and vocalizes her narrative without taking breaks. Then, at the peak of her lyrical unloading, she abruptly slows her pace so she doesn’t spill all she has to express.
As a synthesizer accompanies the lonesome piano, additional instruments are introduced into the mix in the chorus, and Rodrigo’s voice becomes louder and exceedingly confident to display her inner frustrations. She presents the concept of comparing her ex to a vampire: “As you sunk your teeth into me, oh/ Bloodsucker, fame fucker/ Bleedin’ me dry like a goddamn vampire.”
Then, the second verse and chorus become remarkably thunderous and lyrically intricate as Rodrigo exploits how manipulated she was in the relationship. This is the stage of discovery where she sinks her teeth into the details of her trauma to conclude that her ex was this so-called “bloodsucker.”
She loses all restraint in the bridge as she becomes fierce and intense in her rage, giving space for the instruments to mimic her fury. The bridge and final chorus serve as the epiphany, where Rodrigo liberates herself from holding back her trauma, finally realizing that her ex was the one in the wrong.
The production choices of the single are superb, as the voice mix and instrumentation complement each other perfectly. A package of angelic harmonies and raspy shouting eventually create a typhoon of overpowering sound, a perfect musical incarnation of Rodrigo’s angsty emotions. “Vampire” has a punk-rock feel while expressing emotional torture through ballad-like lyricism.
Though “Vampire” borrows some sounds from previous work like “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U,” it is lyrically and vocally a much more mature piece that marks an exciting new era for Rodrigo. With a garnish of adulthood included in her confounding story, her newfound confidence in her range shines. This pop sensation is back at it, and one can only speculate how exceptionally her upcoming sophomore album, Guts, will distill her creative brilliance.