Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
“Who would have thought that a girl like me would double as a superstar?” That question, once posed by a barely-teenaged Miley Cyrus, has resonated with young people more in the last 25 years than ever before, thanks to the teen starlet boom of the late ’90s, the Disney tween machine of the mid-aughts, and the seemingly endless child and teen influencer waves. The allure of child stardom has particularly been sold to girls, who are inundated with teen idol after teen idol—those paragons of glamor and femininity who use their coolness to sell everything from lunch boxes to lip kits.
History has shown that the reality of becoming famous as a young woman is often far from the ideal of having the “best of both worlds,” as Cyrus once put it. But the emotional reality of that experience is generally not heard by the public until the star in question is well into adulthood. Enter Olivia Rodrigo, who has recently demonstrated her commitment to being an on-the-ground anthropologist of child-to-adult stardom with a three-song story about fame told across her new sophomore album, GUTS.
On GUTS, wedged between bedroom pop ballads and angsty rock anthems (and satisfyingly placed at the beginning, the midpoint, and the end of the album) is a three-act ode to the complex trajectory of the teen starlet. “All-American Bitch” (track 1), “Making the Bed” (track 6), and “Teenage Dream” (track 12, the finale) chart Rodrigo’s own teen idol journey: The first expresses an enraged self-awareness of her role in celebrity culture, the second is a resigned reflection on what she’s sacrificed for her music and for fame, and the third culminates in her fear of what lies beyond the teen idol wheelhouse.