Olivia Rodrigo – “Bad Idea Right?”
You can play spot-the-influence all day. It’s fun! Why not! Elastica! Fountains Of Wayne! Wet Leg! And yes, it’s strange and miraculous that a baby pop star with a Disney pedigree is making a revved-up power-pop banger with a noisy-freakout guitar solo and a “Boy Named Sue” lyrical quote. But it’s more than that. It’s bigger. “Bad Idea Right?” is a straight-up monster earworm, an instant pop classic that demands a full-throated singalong on the second listen. It’s a great song, one that can hang and bang with any of its possible antecedents.
Olivia Rodrigo has already overachieved on every conceivable level. She’s mastered the forms of heart-wrecked power-ballad and sugar-rush pop-punk ripper, and she’s achieved mainstream household-name pop stardom in an age when that’s functionally impossible. “Vampire,’ the first single from her sophomore album, was a screaming, raging gutstomp buildup that still debuted at #1. “Bad Idea Right?” almost certainly won’t make the same pop impact, and it doesn’t need to. The song does something more valuable. It captures the twitchy, nervous headrush energy of doing something that you know you shouldn’t do, something all your friends are warning you not to do, something you don’t want to resist anyway. It’s got charm and hooks and frantic excitement working for it. It’s funny, and it’s addictive.
“Bad Idea Right?” has the simple setup of an improv skit and the delirious urgency of a midnight confession. It’s an Olivia Rodrigo song that doesn’t depict her as the wronged party in a breakup, which feels like some kind of breakthrough. It works because it’s a tightly constructed, energetically performed alt-pop rager but also because Rodrigo commits to the lyrical conceit with wild-eyed theater-kid gusto. This feels like a novel way to build a huge pop career: Stop worrying about chart placement and just keep making really, really great songs. That’s a fresh concept. One might even call it a good idea. —Tom