Tuesday, November 28th, 2023

Olivia Rodrigo – Bad Idea Right?

“The Singles Jukebox says goodbye” — the biggest lie we ever said…


[Video]
[8.11]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Our foremost pop-critic-disguised-as-a-pop-star returns! And god, what a return — from that faux-casual “hey” at the start to those “Cannonball”-esque bass-and-guitar riffs to the Johnny Cash quote, “Bad Idea Right?” feels explicitly targeted at people still mourning The Village Voice. It’s an odd choice for a big pop single, and if “Bad Idea Right?” wasn’t also an incredibly tightly written hook machine it’d come off as pandering. In practice, though, it’s fun! “Yes-I-know-that-he’s-my-ex-but-can’t-two-people-reconnect” is the delivery of the year, Sam Stewart’s pseudo-Fripp guitar solo genuinely works as a moment of musical chaos rather than just a gesture toward punk rock bona fides, and the thrill of the song’s first moments never dissipates.
[10]

Aaron Bergstrom: It’s a bad idea, but it’s her bad idea, and it feels amazing. Across her previous six world-conquering singles, Olivia Rodrigo’s problems were caused by external forces (traitorous ex-boyfriends and, in the case of “Brutal,” society at large). On “Bad Idea Right?,” Olivia Rodrigo’s problems are caused by … Olivia Rodrigo! She has earned the euphoric catharsis of finally exhibiting agency, never mind the results. If life is nothing but a series of mistakes and rationalisations, shouldn’t you be the one making those mistakes? 
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: Pop music emotional understanding quiz: Of the lyrics “it’s a bad idea, right?” and “fuck it, it’s fine,” which one is talking yourself down from disaster, and which one is flinging yourself, arms wide and buttons undone, into disaster’s blades? If you answered in that order, I’m not sure you really understand this song. “Bad Idea Right?” begins in medias rush; the feelings train is already long past infatuation station. The tempo is up, the vocals are agitated, the subtlety is beyond gone. So when Rodrigo mutters “fuck it, it’s fine,” it’s an attempt to slam on the brakes, to escape the fling unscathed by emotion. To demonstrate this, she cuts the music. (She does the same thing in verse two, even less subtly–the ol’ Beyonce “world stop“–in case anyone didn’t get it the first time.) But that lasts for less than a second, because when you’re this deep into a drunken mistake, you’re never going to convince yourself even for a moment that the stakes are just “fine.” I mean, listen to what is happening. As Rodrigo sings about her thoughts melting into crush mush, the backing vocals swath her in heavenly choirs. She doesn’t deliver “It’s a bad idea, right?????” as any kind of de-escalation but anticipatory glee, the way one might text the group chat “asking” for “permission” for the thing they’re currently doing, or the way one might beg impatiently for any number of things one might impatiently beg for. The chorus is one exuberant ringing note like a slot-machine jackpot, composed to entice you and everyone listening to keep going and bet their lives away. This song isn’t even for me. I’ve been in a relationship for years. Every time I’ve reconnected with an ex, it wasn’t even that bad an idea. But if this came out last decade, I know exactly when I would put this on repeat, and in whose sheets.
[9]

Oliver Maier: A fun, horny snarler peppered with little firecracker moments, like the fuck-you-mom guitar neooowwwrring on the outro. “Can’t two people reconnect?” is such a funny line.
[7]

Alex Ostroff: “Bad Idea Right?’ is where Olivia fully capitalizes on her skills as an actor. Impeccable comic timing. Perfect minor inflections that convey disaffection, or sarcasm, or disdain, or whatever else each line-reading calls for. I’m sure everyone else will catalogue the individual joys, from “I’m sensing some undertones” to “God, when I look at you” to “fuck it, it’s fine” to “can’t two people reconnect?” to “in whose sheeeeeeets”. Tonight my favourite might be the multitracked chorus of “blah blah blah blah blah blah” after “My brain goes off / Can’t hear my thoughts”. Meanwhile, the song is dressed up in riot grrrl guitars and Waitresses-style sprechgesang and that bassline loop and the whining high-pitched guitar solo and hook after hook after hook. If, like me, you spent much of SOUR slowly realizing that “Brutal” was recorded last, and growing increasingly disappointed as a result, “Bad Idea Right?” was the moment you realized GUTS was probably something to look forward to.
[10]

Will Adams: Olivia’s sprechgesang mode is not my thing, but I’d be a fool to miss the brilliance of “Bad Idea Right?”. It takes “Brutal” and cranks the saturation to 11 without abandon, the same way you might dive back in bed with an ex knowing what’s to come.
[6]

Michael Hong: “Bad Idea Right?” steamrolls any criticism — her mind’s made up. Call that late-night text fate, call it destiny. Call it a bad idea and Rodrigo will stomp all over it, then relent to the quieter voice that sighs, “why not?” It’s a trove of winning line reads: the hair twirled as she picks up the phone anyway, despite sensing some undertones; the pause as she considers turning home; the gleefully laughed “but I never said where or in whose sheets,” already knowing her friends will get mad at her for backsliding again. But she goes anyway. Rattling over the drums, screaming to tune the thoughts out. It’s a hookup you’ll regret, but God, does it feel good.
[8]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: My gorgeous [10] of a friend is going through a rough breakup and was thinking about calling her ex, so I made her watch the lyric video. You wouldn’t believe how wide her eyes got. 
[9]

Lauren Gilbert: The comparisons between Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift are perhaps overdone; God knows Olivia herself avoids them these days. But it’s hard not to hear Taylor in GUTS: not restrained, “it would have been fun / if you would have been the 1” Taylor, but “better known for the things she does on the mattress” Taylor. GUTS is messy in a “Speak Now” way, in a way we have all been; the kind of self-destructiveness where you’ve talked to your therapist about what you should do and you’re gonna… drive straight over to his house as soon as you leave. It feels like all those emotions you don’t entirely want to feel; the Apple-spinny-wheel-of-death feeling when you see an ex in public. Dan Nigro’s production is part of why it works, no doubt, but some of it is that sometimes we all feel like we’re 19 and kind of want to blow up our lives.
[9]

Andrew Karpan: There’s surely something arch about mashing the kind of savvy mid-career Taylor Swift records that Rodrigo sings, asking how they would sound if Sleigh Bells recorded them instead, and then rhetorically calling the thing “Bad Idea Right?” But it’s a perfectly fine idea, even if it doesn’t reach the soaring, eternal melodramatic heights of “Deja Vu” or even “Lacy.”
[7]

Dorian Sinclair: Musically, “Bad Idea Right?” is…fine. The structure is serviceable, the instruments sound good-but-not-great, and there’s nearly no melody. Dramatically, though, the song is great. All those elements that seem lacklustre on their own snap into focus when you consider how they contribute to the narrative (rather than compositional) phrasing. There may not be many flashy, attention-grabbing moments, but there are so many little details that speak to the care put into the song’s construction, all held together by Rodrigo’s deadpan vocal. The occasional moment of awkwardness (“I’m sure I’ve seen much hotter men/but I really can’t remember when” has really bad scansion) is more than made up for by the occasional moment of transcendence, like those stutters on the second “my brain goes ‘ahhh!!'” The result is a damn good song.
[8]

Joshua Lu: The greatest Wet Leg song ever made.
[9]

Alfred Soto: Bratty, self-righteous, observant, demanding, introspective by design but not choice, Olivia Rodrigo wants respect and a guy, in that order, but she won’t lose the former for the sake of the latter. She loves riffs more than guys, and in “Bad Idea Right?” the riffs are the equivalent of snarls. As a Cars homage it tops anything coughed up by the Strokes.
[8]

Jeffrey Brister: There’s something to be said about committing to the bit. Rodrigo’s approach–the walking bass line, the speak-sing, surrounding herself with scuzzy guitars–leans into so many signifiers so seriously and completely that its embodiment becomes a feat to be admired rather than a pastiche to be amused by. The guitar solo at the end really seals the mid-90’s alt-bar-rock vibe.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: There’s never been a better time to be a ’90s kid. Finally I’ve aged into having purchasing power! People respect my opinion at work! My fashion choices are in vogue, and pop stars half my age are pandering to my aesthetic. More like a series of gags above a bassline, but delivered with enough glee that they survive 50 retellings, this feels like a cross-generation-friendly cry to make either a lot fewer or a lot more bad choices. If you see me scrolling through long-lost WhatsApp history, you know why.
[9]

Rose Stuart: “Bad Idea Right?” is Rodrigo’s ’90s-esque riot grrrl anthem, filled with attitude, witty lyricisms, and a bass line to die for. More pop girls should get their Shirley Manson on occasionally.  
[7]

Alex Clifton: Rodrigo is a theatre kid at heart, and she showcases it well here: the smirk in “I’m sensing some undertones,” the dry “fuck it, it’s fine” in the pre-chorus, the sarcastic yip of “I just tripped and fell into his bed!” Moreover, she nails the (annoying) emotional truth about “bad ideas”–they’re fun. Part of the appeal is that you should absolutely not call this person because they’ll break you in pieces and it’ll fuck everything else up in your life, but there’s something decidedly, perhaps deludedly, exciting about the entire experience. Young love is never about stability; it’s about chasing the highs and living for your next hit. I’m glad I have a secure, boring life in my 30s, but “Bad Idea Right?” is good enough to almost make me want to relive my teenage years. 
[10]

Jonathan Bradley: As a singer, Olivia Rodrigo has kept her actor’s sense of timing, and “Bad Idea Right?” is a comic set-piece of a song told through vivacious one-liners (“I know I’ve seen much hotter men, but I really can’t remember when”) and musical jokes (“I know I should stop–” followed by a sudden cut to silence). It culminates in a slapstick punchline — “tripped and fell into his bed” — that’s played as a romantic comedy pratfall with the barest hint of mock-angst. A teeter-totter bass line and stage-patter delivery enhance the fun.
[8]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The Elvis Costello-esque “Brutal” now feels like a launchpad for the jittery New Wave instrumentation that gives “Bad Idea Right?” its frenzied, anthemic verve. The lyrics are funny, but even more amusing are those bright guitar melodies that adorn the blah-blah-blahs, the winding riffs that feel like spinning around 20 times. What’s a better template for a song that dissects our salacious selves than the buttoned-up prankster’s version of punk rock? “The biggest lie I ever said,” Rodrigo sings, as if to an entire studio audience. Even she knows that she’s a clown–a modern jester, even.
[7]

Brad Shoup: The arrangement is maximal New Wave, like “Never Say Never” produced by Mutt Lange. Rodrigo switches between all these conversations–with her friends, the guy, herself–and every line of communication crackles. It feels like her brain is on fire; she can’t even let the solo unfurl without interjecting. It’s pop, though, so it can’t be fully feral: “Fuck it, it’s fine” works as an aside once, but twice? Surely she could’ve drawn up something as funny.
[7]

Ian Mathers: “Fuck it, it’s fine” does more with a sudden stop of the music than anything in pop since Billie Eilish’s “duh” in “Bad Guy.” Bonus points, too, for a genuinely weird and kind of off-putting guitar break; it seems for a second like it’s going to scream right into hair metal hell. Since the rest of the song’s roar seems practically vacuum-sealed for freshness, it’s a pretty crucial rupture right when you need it and almost an implicit eruption of the not-very hidden truth of the song; if you have to ask this many times, not only do you know it’s a bad idea, you know that you know.
[9]

Leah Isobel: Like Sucker if it had been produced by Andrew WK, “Bad Idea Right?” wields a bass line like a battering ram, its breathless forward momentum so irresistible that it pulls Olivia’s vocal rhythms into its current. The resultant chorus is an all-consuming pop headrush with Greek tragedy levels of prophetic weight, more foreboding with each repetition and, therefore, more joyful and thrilled. If Sour-era Olivia was preoccupied with failure, atonement, and restriction, and bitter at how those things are distributed unevenly across gender lines,Bad Idea Right?” — and GUTS as a whole — suggests that her fame has acted as an equalizer. Her star presence is naturalized, and her power is undeniable: she can get whatever she wants, whenever she wants it, and deal with the consequences later. But if Olivia gets her every desire, who does she become? What do her desires say about her, and what does their fulfillment leave her with? What is a life without stakes to give it dimension and meaning? Ah, fuck it — it’s fine!
[8]

Tara Hillegeist: My first exposure to this breezy little number was as the backing track of a trailer for a genuinely entertaining-looking romantic comedy, and that, more than anything, inclines me favorably here. I can’t remember how many years it’s been since the last time I’ve heard a song cue in one of those trailers selling me on any of the vibes involved besides the usual heterosexual motions. You could, and someone probably should, write something at length about the storied history tracks tackling subject matter like this have as pop hits, from the burgeoning days of “pop music” past through more recent(ish) fare like “Miss Independent,” and how this reflects the cultural outlook on the idea of the moment. But just as easily, you could lose yourself in the confidence with which Rodrigo both elaborates on all the reasons Why Not To Do It and then pivots, knowing the song will catch her on the comeback, to that effortless assurance that’s all the reason she needs for Why Not Do It Anyway. So… yeah, you know what, why not just play it again, right? Fuck it. It’s fine.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: Olivia doing piss-take Beastie Boys raps is pretty novel, tbh, especially since the “ahhh” note is hit so well that it kicks off the pre-chorus quite comfortably, and that when it lurks behind, she can cut it off with a weary “fuck it, it’s fine.” We all know it’s not, but at this point the decision has been made, the fun’s been had, there’s only one thing to do. Not tell your friends cuz you’re not ready for the judgement on that aborted guitar solo… fuck it, it’s fine.
[7]

Frank Falisi: Of the three Olivia songs I’ve spent the month of November listening to on my iTunes library’s “TSJ Resurrections” playlist, this is the one that doesn’t feel transcendent, that feels like you can feel the seams holding together the parts (lyrics that get a little cute, guitar solo beamed in from Icky Thump, confiding in/depending on the listener in a posture that assumes their fandom on arrival.) But Olivia’s singing with that Red-era confidence where even a schlocky Johnny Cash reference rendered in a half-talky finish to Verse 2 gets by. Fuck it, it’s fine, etc.
[6]

Stephen Eisermann: Maybe I’m feeling generous because HEY, WE’RE BACK! but this is easily in my top five songs of the year. Everything about it is a blast, and for every person who told me it would eventually grate on me due to the NOISE or the YELLING, no, sorry, you were wrong. This was a [10] then, it’s a [10] now — a rowdy, anthemic, eye-roll inducing, hilarious, cringeworthy:
[10]

Hannah Jocelyn: “Bad Idea Right?” is genuinely raucous and almost off-putting with its aggressive distortion, but it’s saved by the best vocal delivery of Rodrigo’s career thus far. I love how the multitracked Livys egg Rodrigo on, encouraging her to act on her worst impulses. That youthful messiness is refreshing and sorely needed, especially in a pop year like this one. In a lot of ways, it’s a retread — “I know we’re done, I know we’re through” could end with “and I can’t even parallel park” — yet those feel like endearing quirks of her writing instead of lazy callbacks. It’s funny analyzing this critically after hearing it all year, even though there’s a lot to love (the vocal stuttering on the second pre-chorus!). When it comes on, my brain goes aaaaaahhhhh…
[7]

Reader average: [8.31] (16 votes)

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4 Responses to “Olivia Rodrigo – Bad Idea Right?”

  1. Genuinely the only one I really liked from this album!

  2. It might also be the greatest Liam Lynch song ever made, which is more impressive.

  3. This song is genuinely so much fun that sometimes I forgot how well-written and well-structured it is.

  4. Is this the highest score with the most folks writing on it (20+)??

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