4 Copywriting tips from Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘SOUR’

It’s only been a couple of weeks since 18-year-old pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo took the world by storm with her record-smashing debut album, SOUR.

I may have definitively evolved into an Olivia Rodrigo stan in the 20 times I’ve streamed the album from start to finish, but I’ve also learned a lot. About heartbreak, some juicy Disney gossip, songwriting and music production, being 17 in the age of social media, and, to my surprise, copywriting.

For the average listener, SOUR is one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. (If “drivers license” didn’t do it for you, buckle up, folks.) But if you’re a Copywriter, Rodrigo’s storytelling might just blow your mind.

She spares no detail, yet is so concise. She paints the most vivid picture of a scene you were never part of, yet you can see yourself there: crying on the floor of your bathroom. She gets you in your feels. All of ‘em.

If you don’t plan on listening to SOUR any time soon (I’ll try my best not to judge you), here are my top takeaways to apply to your next copywriting endeavor.

Let your imposter syndrome fuel you

We all have insecurities. And as creative professionals, they creep up more than we’d like them to.

But instead of letting the side effects of imposter syndrome get the better of us, we can turn them into fuel for our creative fire.

Take Rodrigo’s opening track, “brutal.” In just 2 minutes and 23 seconds, she bares all her insecurities before she proceeds to knock your jaw to the floor with her talent.

Self-doubt, fear, and shame will always be there. We can either let them consume us, or we can embrace them, and show the world what we’re really made of.

Fall out of love with your first version

You’re probably well aware of this piece of advice, but let me be the one to tell you (again): the first version isn’t final.

I mean, I get it. We procrastinate, sometimes for hours, patiently waiting for inspiration to strike. And when it finally does, we can’t help but feel like that idea’s the best we’re gonna get.

But what we often think is a great idea can always be better. There are words to cut out, grammar errors to clean, and doses of personality to sprinkle in.

The first single from Rodrigo’s debut album, “drivers license,” wasn’t just the most talked-about song at the start of 2021. It was the number one song in the world. But to get there, lyrical edits had to be made. We’re talking super simple changes of adding the right words. Production took various directions before landing on the final version we all love to belt in our cars.

Don’t be satisfied with the first thing you write. You never know what kind of hit you can produce with a little extra editing.

Keep up with your audience

Staying relevant is an absolute necessity in copywriting. We can keep up with trends as much as we want, but our audience’s behaviors, personalities, and needs fluctuate.

We have to meet our audience wherever they are, exactly as they are. Otherwise, we risk losing them.

Part of what’s made SOUR so successful is Rodrigo’s uncanny ability to speak to not just her tribe of Gen-Zers, but multiple generations.

The kind of vulnerability she displays in her lyrics reflects many long-overdue conversations surrounding mental health. The sheer pain of heartbreak is so well-exemplified that we can feel exactly how she’s feeling, even if our past breakups were nothing like hers.

A lyric like “ego crush is so severe” perfectly captures Gen-Z’s self-awareness and growing up with social media. “Comparison is killing me” and “I’m anxious and nothing can help” are phrases we all have said once or twice. I don’t know about you, but I feel seen and heard in these songs.

To keep up with audiences, follow in Rodrigo’s footsteps with copy that’s real, honest, and human.

Give the juiciest details

A good story doesn’t skimp on the details. If we want to hook audiences in, we’ve got to give them the good stuff. We have to get specific.

Imagine if the “drivers license” chorus went something like this:

“I know we weren’t perfect, but I really like you
And I just can’t believe you’ve moved on
Guess you didn’t mean what you said about me
But you broke up with me so now I drive alone”

I really didn’t want to butcher the song like that, but for the purpose of this article, I had to. Now, let’s take a look at the actual chorus, brim with details, details, and more heart-tugging details:

“And I know we weren’t perfect but I’ve never felt this way for no one
And I just can’t imagine how you could be so okay now that I’m gone
Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me
’Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street”

OK, whoa. Did he say forever? Then dump her? Wait, he wrote a song about her?! Tell. Us. EVERYTHING.

Details are magical. They give us just enough to reel us in, only to leave us craving more. No matter how many characters you might be confined by, give your audience something they can grab on to like a flimsy safety bar on a wooden rollercoaster.

Now get out there, and go write some hits.

Cover photo from Wonder.ph

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