Capri Scarcelli | arts and entertainment editor
She may drive alone past your street, but she’s in good company globally when it comes to bad breakups.
Well known as the lead character “Nini” on Disney+’s High School Musical The Musical: The Series (HSMTMTS), 17-year-old actress and singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo debuted her hit single “Driver’s License,” steering its way to the top of the charts at no. 1 on Billboard Hot 100.
Released Jan. 8, the new pop phenomenon drove records: Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” became the most-streamed song by a female artist at 76.1 million, earning this honor on its very first day.
TikTok helped to popularize Rodrigo’s song by making it a trending sound. Additionally, Taylor Swift gave a shout out to Rodrigo on her Instagram, saying, “that’s my baby and I’m really proud.”
Because it gained so much attention on social media, listeners began to conspire on what the song actually means.
The title of the song is unassuming and innocent, but the lyrics go more in-depth about this coming-of-age experience, involving what is presumed to be Olivia’s love life.
HSMTMTS co-star Joshua Bassett, who was her love interest in the show, is rumored to have had an off-screen relationship with Rodrigo as well. Throughout “Driver’s License,” there are a few allusions to this in the lyrics, as she sings, “‘Cause you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me,” which could be about the HSMTMTS song “Just for a Moment” — one they wrote together.
Likewise, Rodrigo swoons, “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,” which points to Disney actress and singer Sabrina Carpenter, who Bassett has been spotted with a few times since October. Thus, fans of the show and of Rodrigo have speculated over the timeline of Rodrigo and Bassett’s presumed breakup –– and whether or not Carpenter and Bassett are official.
The heartfelt, mature lyricism matched with a feeling of nostalgia truly expanded Rodrigo’s target audience. Pop music, so often rooted in young adult themes, is so rarely relatable to those in their late-teens. Rodrigo, a teenager herself, was a able to craft a ballad that resonates with the emotions of thousands of teenagers in ways that pre-teen pop hasn’t in years.With “Driver’s License,” however, a simple milestone such as getting your license along with a little bit of romance can go a long way in making everyone’s story feel heard.
Rodrigo’s style reflects the ever-changing era of pop. Inspired by artists such as Lorde, Swift and more, Rodrigo pushes her vocals to the limit, all the while perfectly juxtaposing with a simple, yet effective melody that swells into the chorus. The song adds layers quite smoothly throughout, a steady progression that makes one feel as though they are living the experience of the song itself.
After seeing her name break records worldwide, Rodrigo said on Instagram, “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this. Thank [yo]u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”
Though no date has been officially announced, fans can expect a complete EP from Rodrigo as soon as she gets the green light to release.