Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” merchandise leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths

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Album cover used under fair use from Olivia Rodrigo

It’s brutal out here. Young actress and pop star Olivia Rodrigo receives backlash due to her merchandise line. Many fans took their complaints to the Internet, going viral by showing off their faulty merchandise.

On May 22nd, 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo released her merchandise line centered around her debut album Sour.

Fans were excited to order her array of clothing and accessories from the website. However, they were surprised when the clothing and accessories were not identical to those advertised in the online shop. Controversy arose from the disappointed buyers as they took it to the Internet to express their frustration. 

Rodrigo’s rise to fame

Olivia Rodrigo starred on Disney Channel’s show Bizaardvark, and from then on her fame only grew.

She then starred in the Disney+ original series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series where her original song, “All I Want” became the gateway that helped her transition to pop stardom.  Specifically, “Drivers license”––Rodrigo’s debut song as an artist––broke Spotify records and became number 1 on Billboard 100s in less than a week.

When Sour was released, it had the biggest opening week for an album by a female artist in global Spotify history, with around 385 million streams seven days after its release on March 21. Sour has accumulated around 1.367 million dollars, which is a fourth of the young popstar’s net worth. Its 11 songs evoked everyone’s inner heartbreak and teenage angst, and many of its hits are recurring bops on radio stations throughout the United States. Due to the releases of “drivers license”, “deja vu” and “good 4 u” before the album, the songs greatly advertised Sour’s debut.

After a couple of months, the pop star released a Sour merchandise line on her store website to celebrate the album’s success. Unfortunately, that’s when Rodrigo’s reputation took a turn for the worse.

Merchandise turns SOUR

The trendy merchandise appealed to her predominantly female fanbase due to its Y2K aesthetic, and the website received a huge traffic flow only hours after its dropping.

Before her Sour merchandise line, Rodrigo sold many of her pieces from music videos and her closet at affordable prices on her Depop. The Depop was considered a game-changer for merchandise because not many artists sell their own clothes online. And even if they did, the prices would easily be marked up hundreds of dollars. Rodrigo, however, kept the prices reasonable for the product, and she received a lot of commendations for her ability to be in tune with her fanbase and audience.

Because of this, fans expected her merchandise to live up to the fame surrounding the pop star’s Depop.

Loads of fans purchased clothes and other accessories from the line, but many noticed that the merchandise they received did not match the items advertised on the website, unlike her Depop. Angry fans uploaded their disappointment to social media platforms, most notably to TikTok.

The merchandise appeared to be of subpar quality, and the colors did not match the ones displayed on the website. From misspelled words to wrong sizing, Rodrigo’s merchandise received harsh backlash from its disappointed buyers. The TikTok hashtag “#Oliviarodrigomerch” exploded on the app, and it received over 15 million views and counting.

Here are a few of the viral TikToks that sparked uproar amongst the social media platform: 

@_delaneyshaethey’re not ready for my strongly worded email ##oliviarodrigo ##oliviarodrigomerch ##sourmerch ##WelcomeBack♬ original sound – Delaney McCabe

In this Tiktok, Delaney McCabe expresses her disbelief about the shirt she ordered. In the video, she states that “I don’t want to be mean at all, but it’s just––I feel silly, I feel like I’ve been hoodwinked. Like, whoever’s in charge of this website has tricked the masses, and I fell victim to it.”

McCabe’s purple “I want it to be, like, messy” shirt matched neither the color nor the quality that was shown in the picture at the beginning of the TikTok. She exclaims, “I just want my money back” and “It’s giving off Michaels [vibes]” in response to the shirt’s cheap material and bright color.

@chloemahaleyThis is honestly so brutal. ##oliviarodrigo ##oliviarodrigomerch ##sourmerch ##oliviarodrigosour♬ brutal – Olivia Rodrigo

This TikTok showcases a long-sleeved lavender T-shirt that Chloe Mahaley expected to arrive in the mail.

Instead, Mahaley received a shirt that had no cuffs, did not match the advertised color, and was far shorter than the image online depicted. She ends the TikTok off with, “it’s [the merchandise] not good and I’m sad.”

@queen.lenagirly pop this will fit a TODDLER ##oliviarodrigo ##oliviarodrigomerch ##merchfail ##itsbrutalouthere ##thisiswhatiwanted ##thepastels♬ original sound – Madeline

Lena Daniels opted for a TikTok audio rather than her own commentary, but it still achieved the same message. The audio in the background cries, “they’re so ugly. This is what I wanted––the pastels––and this is what I got.”

Daniels shows the picture of the bucket hat she ordered online, and then reveals the bucket hat that she actually received. Not only do the colors not match, but the bucket hat appears to be very small for her head.

Pullquote Photo

Just because she [Olivia Rodrigo] is the face does not mean she is in the wrong. Maybe she can bring her team’s attention to it, but she is not exactly obligated to do anything since it isn’t her fault.”

— Ayesha Raparla, senior

Is Olivia at fault for these defective clothes?

While she is the endorser of her products, many celebrities hire teams of professionals to handle areas outside of their expertise. Rodrigo received backlash for this controversy, but it may have been out of her control. Many speculate that the merchandise team did not accurately estimate the number of fans that would purchase items off the website, so they had to compromise quality for quantity to ensure that everyone receives their merchandise on time.

However, Rodrigo has yet to make a statement about her merchandise line. Many fans are giving her the benefit of the doubt that she is still not made aware of the problem, but because she is a member of Gen Z, a lot of her fans expect her to be active on TikTok and therefore be aware of the situation.

Favorite crime

Unfortunately, the faulty merchandise is not the only controversy facing the young popstar at the moment.

Recently, it has been reported that Rodrigo is paying the band Paramore and Taylor Swift millions for publishing royalties specifically around the songs “good 4 u”, “deja vu” and “1 step forward, 3 steps back”. Rodrigo has been under heat for “stealing” the tunes of Paramore’s “Misery Business” and Swift’s “Cruel Summer” and “New Year’s Day”.

Despite the merchandise fiasco, many fans are standing behind Rodrigo, claiming that these artists who have been in the industry longer than Rodrigo are taking advantage of her naivety. Others argue that Rodrigo’s songs were clear rip-offs from Paramore and Taylor Swift’s songs.

Copyright battles over songs happen all the time because whether the artist intended to or not, song tunes and chord progressions tend to repeat themselves. A famous example of this was back in 2013 when Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was sued for copyright infringement by Marvin Gaye’s legal team as they felt that the song sounded too similar to Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up”. Thicke eventually lost the case and had to forfeit a sum of his royalties to Gaye.

Although Rodrigo admitted to drawing inspiration from Taylor Swift, her favorite artist, it is yet to be confirmed that Rodrigo actually copied these songs. 

Rodrigo has yet to release any statements regarding any of her controversies, but many are still on Rodrigo’s side as she is still a teenager and is fairly new to the industry. Regardless, her fans are looking forward to new albums and songs in the future because, despite the failure of the merchandise, Rodrigo’s songs still resonate with her listeners. 

Raparla, a big Olivia Rodrigo fan, exclaims, “I love Olivia Rodrigo’s style. While some people criticize her songs for being childish and maybe even ‘toxic,’ I think it just furthers the point that she’s still a kid. She’s just a teenager and still has a long way to go before she’ll figure it out.”