On January 8, seventeen-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, star of the Disney+ show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, dropped her very first single song under her name, a 4-minute ballad entitled “drivers license”. Little did she know, the song she wrote herself about teenage heartbreak would become the fastest song to reach one hundred million streams on Spotify (dethroning established pop princess Ariana Grande), and has since dominated the charts and created a huge cultural impact.
Singing about the sorrows and intensity of losing one’s first true love, Rodrigo writes about getting her driver’s license, a hallmark of young adulthood, only to not have the one person she wants in her passenger’s seat. Her sweet disposition towards the subject of her musings, rumored to be her co-star Joshua Bassett, is ever-so relatable. Her lyrics surround the pain of loss and the insecurity she faces as Bassett moved on quickly after the end of their relationship. She channels the energy of previous pop sensations Taylor Swift and Lorde; Swift, who wrote openly about heartbreak and ex-boyfriends throughout her entire career and Lorde, who’s latest album Melodrama has been praised for its capture of the teenage spirit.
Listening to Rodrigo’s lyrics of her sorrow, feeling the tenor of her voice as she belts that she still loves her ex, one can’t listen to the song without feeling a little bit of themselves in it. The raw, unfiltered emotion bounds through each verse of the song, and it feels like Rodrigo’s lyrics are dancing straight from her heartbeat to the listeners. Rarely has a mainstream pop song, even the ones that surround heartbreak, had the conviction to express such striking, vulnerable, and ever-so relatable inner anguish. To me, that was the most addicting facet of the song. Playing on repeat, I could relate my own adolescent insecurities to Rodrigo’s.
Being seventeen is so sweetly innocent yet so hot-blooded and passionate. When you’re seventeen, you feel with your whole heart, and every life experience is new. Everyone has that seventeen-year-old inside them, and Rodrigo provided us with a piece of her own soul for us to feel ours through.
There is no surprise in the massive success of this song. Although most listeners probably couldn’t have recognized Rodrigo before the release of the song, most found themselves feeling for the oh-so-too-familiar feeling of young love and loss. This song catapulted Rodrigo’s previous relationship with Joshua Bassett and Bassett’s current relationship with fellow Disney star Sabrina Carpenter into massive scrutiny, prompting the two to both release songs in seeming response to Rodrigo. Thus, Rodrigo’s teenage melodrama has metamorphosized into a drama-filled celebrity feud. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the spectacle, but the centerpiece has always been Rodrigo’s immense bravery to be vulnerable to millions. Rodrigo is now equipped with the talent and fanbase to have a fulfilling and exciting solo musical career.