Disney has finally seemed to take the hint and let their stars act their own age. Following in the steps of predecessors like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus who leaned into rebellion and a bit of edge after their time with the mass media company, Olivia Rodrigo channels teenage angst and heartbreak with mid-2000s nostalgia turned way up on “good 4 u”.
The video, directed by Petra Collins, instantly gives Rodrigo some of that cool girl cache that otherwise might not be associated with a Disney star. Nodding to the school girl/cheerleader motif present in “Baby One More Time…” and The Princess Diaries, we are shown Rodrigo as we expect her to be — fitting into that pop princess box — but reeking of disdain and vengeance. And while she has made a name for herself as a pop artist to watch with the viral hit “Driver’s License”, “good 4 u” sounds like it came out in 2007 at the peak of pop-punk and Paramore.
The video itself is bold for a multitude of reasons. First, we get to see Rodrigo who otherwise might be hailed as an ingenue as unhinged and vindictive in the most enjoyable way. She struts through cheer practice and the supermarket as if she were possessed — her expression vacant, but menacing. She also gets to yell “fuck” which might be a first for anyone who is or was part of a high school musical franchise. It’s hard not to compare Rodrigo to artists who followed a similar trajectory as her (think Ariana Grande or even Miley Cyrus who were child stars turned recording artist and leaned heavy into the pop world). Through that lens of what has traditionally been successful and what we as consumers have come to expect, for Olivia Rodrigo to even go near guitar music on her first record is a welcome surprise. And in contrast to a track like “thank u next” which radiated positivity and dominated the pop charts pre-pandemic, “good 4 u” is in such harsh opposition, dripping with sarcasm and pointed jabs. Rodrigo does not care about growth or personal development. She is enraged. And that’s perfectly fine by her.
Maybe Rodrigo is given the freedom to lean into her darkness because we’re now living in a post-Euphoria world or maybe Disney realized they lost too much talent when they tried to make their adult actors continue to act like children, but regardless of what caused this shift, it’s exciting to see a young woman own her ferocity with such focus and intent. Here’s to more guitars, latex, and pyro for Miss Rodrigo.