Brutal

Album: Sour (2021)
Charted: 12
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Written when she was 17 years old, this grungy rock song finds Olivia Rodrigo expressing her feelings about the brutal world of adolescence.

    If someone tells me one more time
    "Enjoy your youth," I'm gonna cry
    And I don't stick up for myself
    I'm anxious and nothing can help


    Rodrigo questions how people can expect her to relish her teenage years when she is plagued by raging hormones, insecurity, and emotional issues. No adult seems to understand what she is going through.
  • Producer Dan Nigro complements Rodrigo's angsty lyrics with pop-punk guitars and a crunching rhythm. The last song recorded for Sour, "Brutal" opens the album, but almost didn't make the record. Rodrigo told Apple Music: "Everyone was like, 'You make it the first [track], people might turn it off as soon as they hear it.' I think it's a great introduction to the world of Sour."
  • After a 15-second string intro, Rodrigo declares:

    I want it to be, like, messy

    Thrashy guitars kick in and the song pivots into a rock anthem. The opening line reveals Rodrigo's wish to defy the expectations placed up on her. Rather than being a neatly packaged teenage pop star, she wants to sing of messy breakups, adolescent angst, and to carve out her own sound in her own lane.
  • Rodrigo explained the album title to Apple Music: "I sort of wrote it about this like period of time where I felt like everything that I had that was really awesome and good in my life went really sour like I was super insecure and going through this awful heartbreak stuff like that. So, that's why it's called Sour. Also, it has my initials in it - 'OR' - which I think is a fun added perk."
  • But I wish I could disappear
    Ego crush is so severe
    God, it's brutal out here


    During an interview with Zach Sang, Rodrigo explained to the radio presenter what an "ego crush" is:

    "An ego crush is just like feeling like you're so inadequate and inferior and getting angry about it ... feeling like your entire is just like, gone, which I think is something that I definitely felt and something that teenagers feel, I suppose, as they're growing up."

    She added: "It's a song about when you're in that pity party and you're just like feeling sorry for yourself - it's stuff that you would say when you're in that."
  • Olivia Rodrigo connects back to the driving theme of her hit single, "Drivers License" in the third verse:

    And I'm not cool, and I'm not smart
    And I can't even parallel park


    Having based hear breakthrough song on the accomplishment of passing her driving test, it is ironic that Rodrigo still struggles to park her car.
  • The guitar riff in this song sure sounds a lot like the one in Elvis Costello's 1978 track "Pump It Up," and Elvis is OK with it. "This is fine by me," he posted on social media. "It's how rock & roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy. That's what I did."
  • The teenage-dream-gone-wrong video features Rodrigo as a tearful ballerina, a bitter high schooler, a reluctant celebrity trying to sell an energy drink, and a blonde influencer having a meltdown on Instagram Live. The clip was directed by Petra Collins, who previously helmed the visual for her smash "Good 4 U." Actors Lukas Gage (White Lotus) and Nico Hiraga (Moxie) make cameo appearances along with the model Salem Mitchell.
  • Rodrigo and Nigro wrote "Brutal" five days before she released the Sour track list. Her Disney+ documentary Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film) reveals they penned it because Rodrigo wanted "one more upbeat song on the record."

Comments: 1

  • Onyas from Sydney, AustraliaHas Olivia ripped Rogue Traders’ Voodoo Child for Brutal ?
see more comments

Editor's Picks

David Gray

David GraySongwriter Interviews

David Gray explains the significance of the word "Babylon," and talks about how songs are a form of active imagination, with lyrics that reveal what's inside us.

Chad Channing (Nirvana, Before Cars)

Chad Channing (Nirvana, Before Cars)Songwriter Interviews

Chad tells tales from his time as drummer for Nirvana, and talks about his group Before Cars.

Desmond Child

Desmond ChildSongwriter Interviews

One of the most successful songwriters in the business, Desmond co-wrote "Livin' La Vida Loca," "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" and "Livin' On A Prayer."

Dave Mason

Dave MasonSongwriter Interviews

Dave reveals the inspiration for "Feelin' Alright" and explains how the first song he ever wrote became the biggest hit for his band Traffic.

Krishna Das

Krishna DasSongwriter Interviews

The top chant artist in the Western world, Krishna Das talks about how these Hindu mantras compare to Christian worship songs.

Loreena McKennitt

Loreena McKennittSongwriter Interviews

The Celtic music maker Loreena McKennitt on finding musical inspiration, the "New Age" label, and working on the movie Tinker Bell.