Written by: Chloe
Edited by: Megh
Visuals by: Allison
If you know anything about pop-culture, you’ve probably listened to “drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo at least once, read the countless conspiracies and speculations behind the song’s lyrics, participated in the infamous “red light, stop signs” TikTok transition trend, or all of the above. That being said, I don’t blame you – the song has become a quintessential part of 2021, topping global charts the day it was released, breaking numerous records including ‘most single-day streams from a female artist“, and even earning praise from numerous pop legends like Taylor Swift. But what was it that contributed to the songs’ meteoric rise to popularity? Was it Olivia herself? The catchiness of the lyrics? Or the drama associated with it? In this case, it is a combination of all three.
Starting with the woman behind the song: Olivia Rodrigo. A half Filipino singer/songwriter and actress, she made her acting debut as ‘Paige Olvera’ in Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark. However, it wasn’t until she got the role of ‘Nini Salazar-Roberts’ in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (abbreviated as HSMTMTS) that she began to gain prominence and make a name for herself in the entertainment industry. She released an original song for the show’s soundtrack entitled “All I Want” that received several accolades, transforming her career from a musical ingenue to a household name for teens overnight. Suffice to say, since the show’s first season came to a close last year, millions of fans have been anticipating a bonafide single from the talented lyricist.
Keeping in mind that pent-up excitement surrounding a possible single, it is obvious why the songs’s initial release caught the attention of so many. Perhaps what stood out most, though, was how deeply personal the song was – how much Rodrigo was able to connect to her audience by stripping down her experience with heartbreak. Olivia had been rumored to be dating HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Bassett, who appeared alongside her as her main love interest. Though the two seemingly broke it off around summer last year, fans were left wondering what exactly happened between the two. Rumors spread like wildfire, and people began speculating whether the rumoured couple’s age gap facilitated the split, or if it had anything to do with a certain Sabrina Carpenter, fellow Disney Channel star who was spotted out with Joshua (suspiciously) promptly after the news was leaked. Despite the controversy of such an idea, it actually became widely accepted as the principal cause for the breakup. In the coming months, Sabrina and Josh did matching Halloween costumes, and she was featured in his music video for “Anyone Else”!
Hearing the lyrics of “drivers license” for the first time created a frenzy among fans, and soon practically everyone was postulating whether or not the song was about her and Josh’s break-up– a significant factor in the song’s instant fame.The first few lines already hint at this possibility; “I got my driver’s license last week/ Just like we always talked about”. During a cast interview, Olivia admitted that Joshua had taught her how to drive when she turned 16. It can be assumed that finally getting her license was a sentimental part of their relationship, and something they discussed often.
The next verse, though, was a dead giveaway: “And you’re probably with that blonde girl / Who always made me doubt / She’s so much older than me / She’s everything I’m insecure about”. Sabrina Carpenter, Josh’s new flame, sports blonde locks, and is four years older than Olivia. With all of social media acting as detectives for the week, many more connections were made and the picture became clearer and clearer, but neither of the three have made any comments.
Notwithstanding the drama surrounding the song, many fans agree that the emotionally-charged lyrics were what made the song such a hit amongst teens. Junior Sirah thinks the song’s instant popularity came “as a result of the relatability of the song; so many teens experience young love that goes unrequited, and this song represents that feeling perfectly. I’ve been following Olivia for awhile now and I think she is one of the most talented songwriters of our generation; you can feel the raw heartbreak in her voice and you can tell she means every word she sang.”
It is plausible that we may never know Olivia’s true intentions when she wrote “drivers license”, but we know a few things for sure– Not only does the 17-year-old have an extremely bright future ahead of her, but having a Filipino like Olivia in the world stage will allow young Filipino girls everywhere to have someone they can identify with and look up to. The hype that ensued after the song was released is only the beginning of Rodrigo’s career as an artist.
“Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License.” Genius, 8 Jan. 2021, genius.com/Olivia-rodrigo-drivers-license-lyrics.