Olivia Rodrigo: Speeding to Success

Olivia Rodrigo’s new single “drivers license” has catapulted the 17-year-old Disney actress into unprecedented fame.


I may not have a driver’s license or a broken heart — but that doesn’t stop me from blasting Olivia Rodrigo’s new single 24/7. 

On January 8, 17-year-old Olivia Rodrigo released her debut single, “drivers license.” which quickly rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Since its release, the song has broken multiple records, including the most streams ever in a single week on both Spotify and Amazon Music. 

Rodrigo is a talented actress as well as a singer/songwriter. She has worked with Disney for the past five years, first as Paige Olvera on Bizaardvark, and currently with a lead role in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS). In 2019, she wrote and performed the song “All I Want,” which has become the most successful track of HSMTMTS’ soundtrack. Her path seems to be following those of Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato, all of whom launched their careers on Disney Channel before gaining celebrity in the music industry. 

Listening to the song, the reason behind its popularity is clear. Her vulnerability and heartbreak are earnestly conveyed through shattering lyrics and pain-filled vocals over a delicate, melancholy piano accompaniment. The song tells the story of her driving past her ex’s house, reminiscing about their lost love, devastated that he has moved on to another relationship. Her storytelling incorporates poignant details about her drive through the suburbs: “red lights, stop signs / I still see your face in the white cars, front yards / can’t drive past the places we used to go to / cause I still f*ckin’ love you, babe.” The song also includes a reference to an older blonde girl who her ex is now presumably dating. 

Drama surrounding the song has also boosted its popularity. Fans speculate that the song is about Rodrigo’s relationship with Joshua Bassett, her co-star in HSMTMTS, and that the blonde girl is Sabrina Carpenter, another Disney channel celebrity. Bassett and Carpenter’s newly released songs seem to be interconnected with “drivers license,” one titled “Lie Lie Lie,” and the other with the lyric “maybe blonde was the only rhyme,” rumored to refer to Rodrigo’s song.

Though many teens relate to the elation of driving for the first time and the despair of a first heartbreak, Rodrigo’s experience is still dramatically different from that of the average high school student. How many of us are able to transform our emotions into song lyrics and set them on display for millions? For anyone, especially someone Rodrigo’s age, “drivers license” is an incredible accomplishment. Her debut single has already propelled her to stardom, and she is well on her way to becoming a defining artist of our generation. Heartbreak may not be so terrible if it produces great art.