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Lyrical Breakdown of "All-American Bitch"

Updated: Apr 16

Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album GUTS came out in September of 2023. GUTS has a pop-punk-inspired sound that emphasizes the album’s themes of high expectations, impossible pressure, growing up and making mistakes while in the spotlight, and sometimes being messy while making those mistakes. “All-American Bitch” was the first track on the album and set the tone for the rest of GUTS. It provided Olivia’s perspective not only on how she is being perceived by society but also on how she thought her album would be received by fans. I think this is the best song on the album, so let’s get into why these lyrics are so ingenious. 

“I am light as a feather

I'm as stiff as a board

I pay attention to things that most people ignore

And I'm alright with the movies that make jokes 'bout senseless cruelty

That's for sure”

Olivia begins the song by twisting the classic children’s phrase when playing the levitation game and using it to describe herself. Being “as light as a feather” and “as stiff as a board” means that she is thin, which is seen as the societal body standard for women, especially celebrities. She is also observant and doesn’t mind offensive jokes and humor, “that’s for sure.” All of these traits are how society expects and encourages women to act and to be. 

“And I am built like a mother and a total machine

I feel for your every little issue

I know just what you mean

And I make light of the darkness

I've got sun in my motherfucking pocket, best believe

Yeah, you know me, I”

Not only is Rodrigo leaning into the idea that women should be “built like a mother,” and be natural nurturers and caregivers for others, but she is also a “total machine,” meaning she never gets tired and never has to take a break. She is the perfect female celebrity, always giving back to fans and never getting tired of performing for them. Her songs are perfectly relatable and she knows “just what you mean” by describing how you feel in them. And, since she’s a “machine,” she can just keep producing new songs with no issue. She doesn’t get exhausted, no, instead she is always happy and grateful for her opportunities, never complaining about any of it. Do you see the irony yet?

“Forgive and I forget

I know my age and I act like it

Got what you can't resist

I'm a perfect all-American”

At this point in the song, the guitar, bass, and drums join in, and Rodrigo’s tone goes from cheerful to angsty. She points out the contradiction of expecting celebrities who are women to “act their age” but then also be “irresistible,” to be both modest and sexualized but not too much of either. All of these traits described in the song are expected of women by American society, so she says she is the “perfect All-American.”

“I am light as a feather

I'm as fresh as the air

Coca-Cola bottles that I only use to curl my hair

I got class and integrity

Just like a goddamn Kennedy

I swear

With love to spare, I”

Rodrigo must stay thin and reinvent herself often in order to stay “fresh,” or interesting enough for people to pay attention to. Even so, she also must stay classic, referencing Coca-Cola as a classic American brand, but she doesn’t drink it because she must stay healthy and thin, so she just curls her hair with the cans. She compares her elegance to that of the Kennedy family, who are regarded very highly by American society. This is also an ironic comparison considering JFK was famously disloyal to his wife, but men are held to different standards than women, which Rodrigo points out by bringing him up here.

“Forgive and I forget

I know my age and I act like it

Got what you can't resist

I'm a perfect all-American bitch

With perfect all-American lips

And perfect all-American hips

I know my place, I know my place, and this is it”

Rodrigo repeats the chorus, but instead of saying she is the perfect All-American, she now states that she’s the “perfect All-American bitch.” The use of the word “bitch” is significant here because it shows how no matter how “perfect” a woman is, American society will still degrade her. Not only can “bitch” mean rude or mean, it is also a less respectful way of referring to women. The irony is that Rodrigo understands that that is all American society wants – the idea of an American woman who is perfect in every way – but it will still never be enough. She will constantly be criticized even if she does everything right, so to have a “place” as a famous woman in music, she has to claim it herself. Young people, especially women, are often told to “remember their place,” and Rodrigo fires back that she does “know her place, and this is it!”

“I don't get angry when I'm pissed

I'm the eternal optimist

I scream inside to deal with it

Like, "Ah"

Like, "Ah" (oh my fucking God)”

As she lists more of the contradictions of how she is expected to act, trying to convince herself that it is possible to achieve all of them at once, she can’t help but scream. The scream represents her frustration with all of the expectations placed on her by society, her fear that she is not living up to them, and the overwhelming stress of having to perform all the time.

“All the time

I’m grateful all the time

I’m sexy and I’m kind

I’m pretty when I cry

Oh, all the time

I’m grateful all the fucking time

I’m sexy and I’m kind

I’m pretty when I cry”

“All the time.” To me, starting the last verse this way is an acknowledgment of how she wants to scream all the time. Because she is so famous, she is always being watched. She has to be perfect and embody all these contradicting traits all day, every day, for her whole life. She then clarifies and says “I’m grateful all the time,” which feels like Rodrigo is snapping back into performance mode and saying what she is trained to say. In this final verse, the emotion is gone from her voice again and she returns to the cheerful tone of the beginning of the song. I especially like that she included “I’m pretty when I cry,” in this verse because that is such a painfully woman-coded line that many people can understand and relate to. Have you ever been told that you look pretty when you cry? It’s one of those things people say, especially to women, that says so much about how women are perceived and valued. Who cares about how you look in a moment of emotional vulnerability? But the thing is, women have to. We’re taught to. I also like how when Rodrigo repeats the lines in this verse for the second time, she adds “I’m grateful all the fucking time,” because it breaks her out of the robot-performance mode for just a second before she snaps right back in. It’s as if her inner self, the version of herself that “scream[s] inside to deal with it” slipped out momentarily. 

I love how this song criticizes the double standards expected of women and speaks to Rodrigo’s real-life experience in how she deals with all of the pressure in such an intense spotlight. I found this song relatable and catchy, and I especially liked how the sound of the song intensifies the lyrics. When she is being the “good” version of herself that society wants her to be, the music is peaceful. When she starts getting frustrated and critical of the double standards, the music follows her into the rebellious sound of female rage. I like this song because it speaks to something many women and femme-presenting people can relate to while also touching on her unique perspective on it. Olivia Rodrigo is not leaving the pop music scene anytime soon, and I look forward to watching her songwriting abilities grow as she does.

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