What do you feel after you’ve been taken advantage of? Anger? Fury? Disappointment in yourself for failing to see the signs? All of the above and more form the swirling, ominous storm that saturates Olivia Rodrigo’s latest single, “vampire,” a fiery kiss-off to an ex, and an earth-quaking start to her forthcoming record, GUTS.
It’s been two years since we last heard new music from Rodrigo, and the singer has moved from the brokenheartedness of her debut album Sour and straight onto scorching indignation. Described vaguely by Rodrigo as a song that “reflects the pent-up anger that you have for a situation,” the track surges in strength over its four-minute run time. What begins as a piano-backed ballad slowly crescendoes in volume, until the singer is belting at her ex at the top of her lungs over a thumping, synth-driven release.
Rodrigo wrote the track alongside Dan Nigro, the producer behind Sour. Per the singer, the song spilled out of her one day while she was playing the piano in late 2022. “Writing this song helped me sort through lots of feelings of regret, anger, and heartache,” she said of the track on social media. “It’s one of my favorite songs on the album and it felt very cathartic to finish. I’m so happy it’s in your hands now and I hope it helps u deal with any bloodsuckers in your life.”
Thematically, the song is about something everyone who’s dated can relate to: being mislead and manipulated by a bad dude with bad intentions. In Rodrigo’s case, the complicated factor of also being a globally famous superstar is thrown in the mix, too, and she likens the situation to being stalked by a blood-and-fame-thirsty vampire. (Yes, Twilight was on the mood board of her Petra Collins-directed music video because, yes, Rodrigo is also very publicly a Twilight fan.)
The song begins by laying out the land: As the fantasy of the relationship shatters, Rodrigo can finally see her ex for who he truly is, a clout chaser who collects relationships by judging how many rungs they can add to his social ladder. “Hate to give the satisfaction asking how you're doing now/ How’s the castle built off people you pretend to care about?/ Just what you wanted/ Look at you, cool guy, you got it/ I see the parties and the diamonds sometimes when I close my eyes/ Six months of torture you sold as some forbidden paradise/ I loved you truly/ You gotta laugh at the stupidity,” she sings.
Throughout the song, she highlights the parasitic — or rather, vampiristic — nature of their relationship. She mentions how he only “comes out at night,” and how he “sold her for parts.” On the bridge, she calls him out for not having a heart, a noted characteristic of the undead.
Rodrigo’s songwriting never fails to factor in her own role in her misery, and that striking, vulnerable element is also present on “vampire.” On the hook, she laments how she let herself be deceived: “I should've known it was strange/ You only come out at night/ I used to think I was smart/ But you made me look so naive.”
On the song’s second verse, her self-examination is even more incisive: “And every girl I ever talked to told me you were bad, bad news/ You called them crazy, God, I hate the way I called 'em crazy too.” It’s these little details and admissions that give her music a ringing, messy authenticity. When you’ve suffered a wrong, the disappointment and anger you have for the other is only comparable to the disappointment you have for yourself. True rage explodes in 3D, and it’d be taking the easy path to ignore that part of the equation. But Rodrigo’s embrace of what’s hard to admit out loud is what helps her songwriting eclipse its cliches.
“Bloodsucker, fame-f*cker, bleeding me dry like a goddamn vampire,” goes the thunderous central lyric of the song. In the wake of her stripped-down confessions, these words hit even harder.
So, who’s the fanged figure in the singer’s life? Her song does offer some hints — the mention of “six months of torture,” and a lyric that suggests an age difference: “Went for me and not her/ Cause girls your age know better.” Tabloids are already speculating, but Rodrigo is keeping it vague — for now. “I think it reflects the journey that I was going through and the anger that gets pent up in an experience like the one that the song’s about,” she told Rolling Stone.