Pay attention to Olivia Rodrigo

April 16, 2021

You might not know the name Olivia Rodrigo, but you will soon. This 18-year-old is an up-and-comer with tons of potential. Her first two singles “driver’s license” and “deja vu” have gone straight to the top of the charts, and right to the top of my heart. 

You’ve probably heard “driver’s license” whether or not you’re into Rodrigo’s music. This single blew up after its release. It became a popular TikTok audio, a skit on SNL, a trending music video and the topic of many gossip shows. The track takes listeners on a journey of heartbreak, one of being betrayed and not being able to move on—and it’s pretty obvious who hurt Rodrigo. 

But the drama isn’t why the song is good. Rodrigo stunningly crafted this song, making it into pop perfection. She even starts it with the sounds of turning on a car—the keys, the engine—before blending it into the actual production of the song. The rest of the production is simple; the clear focus is her vocals. She belts, “I guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me!” As if that wasn’t already devastating, she follows it with a whisper: “‘cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street.” All of that is packed into the first minute and a half, and it keeps getting stronger as the song continues. 

The most famous part of the song is the bridge, the part that became famous on TikTok. “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 fucking love you, babe!” She’s writing this at 18 years old. Who is doing it like her? She’s so good that she gets to curse in her songs, while still under contract with Disney. I don’t know how the rules have changed, but old Disney Channel stars like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez would have never been allowed to use this language. 

Rodrigo’s second song is also explicit, another absolute anthem. Similarly to “driver’s license,” “deja vu” reminisces on a past relationship with bitterness and anger and sorrow. The song starts with anecdotes about how the two used to spend time together. She gets detailed and personal, even name-dropping “Glee” AND Billy Joel in the same song. 

This time, instead of regretting her inability to move on, she’s yelling at the heartbreaker. He’s using all of his best moves on his new girl—the same ones he used on Rodrigo. “So when you gonna tell her that we did that too? She thinks it’s special, but it’s all reused.” Rodrigo calls him out for recycling his actions and affections: “when she’s with you, do you get deja vu?” 

Rodrigo has spoken many times about the influence Taylor Swift has had on her, and it’s never been more clear than in this bridge. Swift likes to pack a punch with her bridge and so does Rodrigo, even pulling from Swift’s bag of tricks to do so. The relatively calm song suddenly turns wild and electric, the production and vocals turning up to 10. Rodrigo is almost screaming her lyrics, all of which call back to earlier verses in the track. “Strawberry ice cream in Malibu, don’t act like we didn’t do that shit too,” she opens the bridge with, a clear reference to the first line of the song. She even brings us back to that iconic Billy Joel mention. “Play her piano, but she doesn’t know that I was the one who taught you Billy Joel!” These sounds, and lyrics, are harsher and angrier and almost rawer, despite the heavy synths. 

On Tuesday, Rodrigo announced her first album: “SOUR.” The album has 11 tracks, including both “driver’s license” and “deja vu.” Yes, I’ve already preordered my signed copy. Olivia Rodrigo likely has a long career ahead of her, and I am (obviously) beyond excited to see what she does next!

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