Olivia Rodrigo – “​Brutal” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“brutal” is a raw reflection on the harsh realities of teenage life, feeling out of place, and struggling with identity. It’s a commentary on societal pressures and the overwhelming feeling of never being enough. The song isn’t necessarily about a specific person but more so about Olivia’s own experiences and frustrations. Olivia penned this track to vent her feelings about the highs and lows of her youth and the external and internal pressures she faces.
Oh, and spoiler: growing up isn’t always the fairy tale we thought it’d be.

Through her candid lyrics, Olivia Rodrigo has beautifully encapsulated the youth rollercoaster. Let’s break it down.


“brutal” Lyrics Meaning

Starting with “I want it to be, like, messy”, Olivia sets the tone for a song that’s unfiltered and raw. It’s about her real feelings and struggles, minus the sugar coating.

She mentions her insecurities, “I’m so insecure, I think”, highlighting her internal battles daily. The weight of societal opinions is evident when she says, “I’m so caught up in the news, Of who likes me, and who hates you.”

“I’m so sick of 17” is a powerful statement. While 17 is supposed to be the prime of youth, for Olivia, it’s anything but a dream. Instead, she’s grappling with the idea that her teenage years aren’t what they were hyped up to be.

Her lyrics, “And I wish I’d done this before, And I wish people liked me more,” emphasize her longing for approval and acceptance. Isn’t that something we all can relate to?

“Unrelentlessly upset” is a repeated sentiment. It’s a powerful phrase capturing the relentlessness of teenage angst and the pressures of growing up.

The chorus line, “God, it’s brutal out here” is the song’s focal point. It’s a raw confession that life, especially in the teenage years, can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright harsh.

In the latter part of the song, Olivia talks about having only two real friends and feeling a disconnect from her surroundings. Lines like “I love people I don’t like” and “I hate every song I write” reveal her internal contradictions and self-criticism.

Her confession, “I’m not cool and I’m not smart,” isn’t just about self-deprecation. It shows that even someone as talented and successful as Olivia can feel out of place and inadequate.

To wrap things up, “Got a broken ego, broken heart” and “God, I don’t even know where to start” bring us full circle. Olivia is navigating the chaotic journey of growing up, trying to figure herself out, and dealing with heartbreaks and disappointments along the way.

The Story Behind “brutal”

At the time of releasing this track, Olivia Rodrigo was a fresh face in the music industry, having just transitioned from being known as an actress in Disney’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series to a chart-topping artist. The jump from a world of TV scripts to candid songwriting is monumental. With her debut album “SOUR,” Olivia didn’t just give us songs; she gave us a peek into her diary. “brutal” is like a page ripped straight from that diary. Written during a tumultuous phase of teenagehood, the song mirrors the messiness of growing up, especially under the scrutiny of the public eye. For many artists, the pressure to maintain a pristine image can be suffocating, and Olivia wasn’t immune to it.

While it’s not explicitly stated, the transition from TV to music and the sudden blast of fame might have overwhelmed Rodrigo. “brutal” seems like a cathartic release from these pressures. The lyrics ooze with authenticity, expressing sentiments that aren’t typically broadcasted by someone in the limelight: self-doubt, insecurity, and a yearning for normalcy.

A significant aspect to consider is that Olivia was navigating the ups and downs of her personal life, from friendships to romantic relationships, while the world watched and commented. Such a spotlight could exacerbate feelings of isolation and out-of-place-ness, themes strongly present in the song.

In essence, “brutal” is a testament to the whirlwind of emotions and experiences Olivia grappled with during this phase of her life. It’s a candid reflection of the challenges of transitioning from a teen star to a global music sensation, all while juggling the universal struggles of simply being a teenager.