Grammy-winner Olivia Rodrigo was praised as one of the most important songwriters of her generation by St. Vincent at Friday night’s Variety Hitmakers ceremony, where she was presented with the Storyteller of the Year award.

“In order to be a good storyteller, one must—to quote Olivia herself — pay attention to things most people ignore. Olivia sees the cracks and contradictions in herself and others and makes the ineffable understandable and transformational for her listeners,” St. Vincent said. “Her honest songs about the impossible task of growing up have liberated so many young people fighting and fumbling their ways through the same experiences. But it’s not merely paying attention that matters to the craft of songwriting. It’s also how you observe and how you listen.”

Vincent said one of the things that makes Rodrigo’s songs so alluring to fans is that they consider them to be their personal rallying cries thanks to the “Vampire” singer’s openness and compassion. “Her authenticity — not an affect, not a brand — allows her listeners to step inside her songs as their complete selves: struggling, searching, celebrating, just living. Just being,” Vincent continued. “Olivia’s songs pull off the magic trick of sounding like all of us at once, but also uniquely just like her. I call that a sly generosity, which is a beautiful thing to witness and to hear, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve so enjoyed getting to know Olivia over the past few years.”

Searching for words to describe Rodrigo, 20, St. Vincent landed on calling her a “precious baby angel muffin… but if a precious baby angel muffin was tough as nails and cool as hell and f–in’ loved the Breeders. She is shockingly talented, whip smart, and to me, the most important combination, curious and kind. These attributes make her great and will make her a great storyteller for years to come. Olivia’s listening, she’s asking, she’s interrogating the cracks in herself and in humanity. But because of her empathy, what she brings to the surface in her songs are the small frailties and the slivers of joy — those threads that make up our every single day. She pays attention to the things most people ignore, and makes them not just seen, but makes them shine. So I’m happy to call her a friend.”

Clearly moved, Rodrigo thanked Vincent and said her tribute made her want to cry. “I think she’s the most talented, kindest, most wonderful person I’ve ever met and I’m so inspired by her constantly and I’m very lucky to call her a friend,” Rodrigo said of her inductor. The singer also talked about writing “Can’t Catch Me Now,” from The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, saying that “telling stores through songwriting has been my favorite thing to do for as long as I can remember. I write to figure out how I feel, to move through my emotions, and to commemorate and honor seasons of my life.”

She added that even though songwriting is one of her favorite things to do in the world, “I wouldn’t say it’s always been effortless for me by any means. Especially making my most recent album, I had so many voices in my head and I felt so much pressure to please everyone with the music I was making.”

Gil Kaufman
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