But millennials, the generation defined by nostalgia and anxiety, can’t stop thinking. In the popular imagination, millennials are forever teenagers—perceived as irresponsible, overly sensitive, constantly broke, and highly critical. Of course, no millennials are teenagers anymore—the oldest among us recently turned 40, and many have teenagers of their own. Compared with the supposedly stoic, therapy-refusing Boomers, is it so terrible to be a generation that deeply values reflection?
For Yvonne, a 38-year-old in Atlanta, Rodrigo’s work transcends locker rooms and school dances. “I remember being a sullen teenage girl with a crush who didn’t want me back. Hell, I remember being 30 and trying to get over an ex-boyfriend,” she says. “Those feelings don’t really change even if you mature as a person. Sour captures that.”
Taken literally, Sour is a soundtrack for rides to cross-country practice and basement parties with three scrounged Corona Lights. But all art is up for interpretation. “Olivia has created one of the all-time great divorce albums,” argues Richard Clark, a 38-year-old self-identifying geriatric millennial. The album is cathartic for people who are “dealing with probably the most intense, high-stakes breakup they’ve ever had,” he says. “They’re not allowed to react in the way Olivia does, at least not blatantly. I think that—the pure lack of restraint—is where older millennials are finding it to be a breath of fresh air.”
Pop culture podcaster and proud Gen X’er Abby Gardner agrees—Rodrigo hit upon something timeless. “I think she has tapped into an unresolved teenage pain that many people my age have never forgotten and taken us back there, but in a good way,” she says. “She’s put voice to feelings that are universal to a lot of women.”
Do Gen Z kids let out their feelings in a way we never could? Are they better than us at being teens? “I’ve had an existential crisis because I’m a decade older than Olivia and I haven’t had this specific life experience that the album is about—not that I want to get cheated on and dumped,” says Bethany, a 27-year-old living in Portland.
I felt similarly—why am I making plans to divide my grocery list between the stores that have quality produce and the ones that have better deals on dry goods? I should be in Malibu, licking the same ice cream spoon as my flighty lover! Gen Z seems so enviable—their recession isn’t as bad as ours! They have way more years to prepare for the fact that they’ll never be able to afford property! It’s not fair! They get therapists, and they get flattering jeans.