Now a Grammy-award winning artist, Olivia Rodrigo was and still is one of the hottest new artists of 2021 and onwards. At only 18 years old, she released the beloved hit “drivers license,” which has blown up Spotify and other streaming platforms since its release. Since “drivers license,” she’s released equally powerful and punk-poppish hits like “deja vu” and “good 4 u,” which brings us to her debut album, “SOUR.” Given Rodrigo’s hit songs leading up to the album release, no one’s surprised at how “SOUR” won Best Pop Vocal Album for this year’s Grammys. However, this article isn’t about the fantasticness of “SOUR”—this article is instead about the recently-released Disney+ documentary “OLIVIA RODRIGO: driving home 2 u,” which follows Rodrigo on a road trip from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Over the course of this documentary, we get to see not only different iterations of the songs from “SOUR,” as well as all of those anxieties and triumphs that came along the way with making one of 2021’s biggest albums of the year.
As someone who doesn’t particularly care for documentaries about contemporary musical artists (the fear of putting someone on a pedestal is just too great), I actually enjoyed “driving home 2 u.” This documentary remains solely focused on Rodrigo’s approach to her songwriting and album-making process, with clips of herself ruminating over certain pieces with her producer Dan Nigro. In one particularly memorable moment, Rodrigo and Nigro band together, five days before the expected album release day, to make the iconic album opener “brutal.” For anyone who’s even remotely aware of an album-making/releasing process, putting together a song and switching up the tracklist order five days before release is a scramble for most. However, Rodrigo’s determination and perfectionism, as well as her absolute creativity in how she jams out with her producer, all come together in a way that can’t help me personally from admiring the way her brain works. It’s simply too easy to see how Rodrigo has a bright career ahead of her already, just from the way she takes her work and herself seriously throughout this process.
Another element of the documentary that I enjoyed was the mini concert-slash-tour. As Rodrigo travels across deserts and mountains, she sings snippets of each of her songs from the album. They’re not exactly the same as they are on the album either—each song is given a slight twist, like “favorite crime” being a hauntingly stripped version of itself in an abandoned church, or the even punkier, heavy-metal take on “jealousy, jealousy.” While each performance is fantastic, my personal favorite is the string arrangement of “good 4 u,” which turns the anger of the song into a chilling ballad. I also absolutely adore the indie-rock take on the closer “hope ur ok,” which ends with Rodrigo running to the ocean with her bandmates in a coming-of-age-movie type ending that perfectly fits the sentimental vibe of the song. In each of these performances, Rodrigo proves herself to be an incredibly masterful vocalist, as well as someone who’s aware of the different genres in which she’s singing in. She’s equal parts spunk, sweet and sophisticated. She’s serious about the kinds of songs she wants to write and sing, and that shines through each one of these performances. These snippets can’t help but make me wonder if Rodrigo might ever explore into the different genres showcased in each of these clips, just because she’s already shown so much versatility in “SOUR” and now again in this documentary. If she does wind up jumping from genre to genre, I can bet she’ll pull it off with a force that the music industry will remember for a while.
In short, “driving home 2 u” was a solid elaboration on Olivia Rodrigo as an artist. The documentary already allows us a sneak peek of what Rodrigo might be working on next, her emphasis mostly on that she wants to write happier songs, a happier album. She has an obvious vision in what she wants to do going forward, and she seems excited to bring all of her listeners along for the ride. Olivia Rodrigo is on a roll, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.