Olivia Rodrigo’s pop star Good 4 U made our top ten songs of 2021 list, and I’m the lucky staffer who got to come and see her in person, at Glastonbury festival, in the early Saturday evening. We’re not going to worry about Olivia’s baggage in the form of the archaeology behind her songs, we’re here for some aural thrills.
Olivia appears in heavy boots and camo, but not in quantities that would be any use in a fight. She gets the crowd jumping from the first moment, she’s got us singing along – on her demand – in the first chorus so… it’s safe to say we’ve all come here on purpose and are into it. She’s grinning, having fun, and it’s the shot of life and energy we hadn’t yet had today.
Obviously Glastonbury is a very broad festival when it comes to genre, so it doesn’t really matter where you’d try to pigeonhole Olivia, but we are contractually obliged to so: her music is pop, but shot through with guitars like Avril Lavinge’s was, but at times there’s a genuine sense of anger and chaotic energy you never got from the former… but Olivia sings Avril’s Complicated just so we can really see the difference. It doesn’t fit. Olivia is better.
Driving Licence turns into a crown singalong, and Olivia seems pleased. As the show progresses Olivia’s voice remains strong and carries over the same sense of damage, the crowd join in when bidden, there’s even a guitar solo from one of the band.
There’s a misstep, when Olivia invites Lily Allen out to perform. Olivia doesn’t need has been, inferior pop acts to prop her up. She then slides into a political speech and a version of Fuck U spoiled entirely by Allen’s performance. Fortunately she goes away after one song.
She saves Good 4 U for last, but it’s a different experience in this field: the anger and danger of the song is gone, replaced by Olivia’s grinning joy at this festival experience, and no one’s going to begrudge her that. The crowd are at their most animated too, having been ready for this moment since the start. It’s almost as if Olivia can’t believe it. Maybe, after the pace of the last year or two, she can’t.
Photos by David Court